Recovery memory therapy and false memories

From: http://www.skeptic.com/02.3.hochman-fms.html

Generating False Memories

Unlike courts of law which obtain objective evidence where allegations of evil-doing are made, RMT (Recovery memory therapy) solely directs the patient to attend toward her inner world for "proof" she was sexually abused. Such RMT techniques may include:
Meditation on fantasy production, such as pictures drawn in "art therapy," dreams, or stream of consciousness journal writing.
Hearing or reading about the "recovered memories" of other women which can serve as inspirations.
Amytal interviews ("truth serum") and/or hypnosis (including "age regression" where the patient is told she is temporarily being transformed into the way she was when she was five years old).
Telling the patient to review family albums; if she looks sad in some of her childhood photos, she is told this is further confirmation that abuse occurred.

The Dark Side of "Recovery"

Patients start out RMT with the hope that things will be better once they recover their repressed memories. But usually life becomes far more complicated.
The FMS patient will often become estranged from the "perpetrator" (most often her father). If the patient has small children, they will be off limits to "perpetrators" as well. Relationships with other family members becomes contingent on their not challenging the patient's beliefs.

Therapists may urge parents to come for a "family conference" in order to allow the patient to surprise the "perpetrator" with a rehearsed confrontation. Family members are usually too shocked and disorganized to coherently respond to accusations. The rationale for this scenario is that since "survivors" feel powerless, they need "empowerment."

FMS patients may file belated crime reports with local law enforcement agencies and may go on to sue "perpetrators." Such lawsuits demand compensation for bills from psychotherapists and possibly other doctors who treated adult medical problems that therapists somehow link to childhood traumas. Of course, there may be demands for "punitive damages." Spouses of "perpetrators" (usually the patient's mother) may be sued as well for being negligent, thus making householder's insurance into a courtroom piggy bank. Since FMS patients sincerely believe they have been victimized, more than a few juries have given verdicts sympathetic to them.

Preoccupied with the continuing chores of "memory recovery," the FMS patient may come to ignore more pressing problems with her marriage, family, schooling, or career. Often the time demands and expense of the therapy itself become a major life disruption.

Some patients during the course of RMT develop "multiple personality disorder" (MPD). RMT therapists have claimed that they need to not only recover repressed memories, but also to uncover repressed personality fragments; some women come to believe they are repositories of dozens of hidden personalities ("alters"). "Alters" have their own names and characteristics, and may identify themselves as men or even animals. An increasing number of psychiatrists and psychologists are coming to view MPD as a product of environmental suggestion and reinforcement, since the diagnosis was hardly made prior to ten years ago. One area where there is no controversy: once MPD is diagnosed, therapy bills become astronomical.

Some FMS patients become convinced that their abuse was actually "satanic ritual abuse" (SRA), due to participation by relatives in a secret satanic cult. Some therapists believe SRA is the work of a vast underground cult network in these United States. No evidence beyond "recovered memories" has ever been offered as proof that satanic cults exist at this claimed level of frequency. Therapists who lecture on the topic have explained away the lack of evidence that such cults exist by claiming that no defectors speak out due to iron-clad secrecy via brainwashing and terror.

The Care and Maintenance of False Memories

FMS involves a combination of mistaken perceptions and false beliefs. The fledgling FMS patient is encouraged to "connect" with an environment that will reinforce the FMS state, and is encouraged to "disconnect" from people or information that might lead her to question the results of RMT.
The FMS subculture is victim-oriented. Even though they have not undergone anticancer chemotherapy or walked away from airplane crashes, FMS patients are told they too are "survivors." This becomes a kind of new identity, giving FMS patients the feeling of a strong bond with other "survivors" of abuse. Patients will often start attending "survivor" support groups, subscribe to "survivor" newsletters, or even attend "survivor" conventions (sometimes with their therapists).

They will read books found in "recovery" sections of bookstores. The best known book, The Courage to Heal, is weighty, literate, and thus appears authoritative. Authors Laura Davis and Ellen Bass have no formal training in psychology, psychiatry, or memory. This paperback, modestly priced at $20, has sold over 700,000 copies.

Patients are told to shy away from dialogue with skeptical friends or relatives, since this will hinder their "recovery." "Perpetrators" who proclaim their innocence cannot be taken seriously since they are "in denial" and incapable of telling the truth.

Aside from these social influences, people by nature often resist seeing themselves as being in error. It can be terribly painful to acknowledge having made a big mistake, particularly when harmful consequences have resulted.

RMT exploits the tendency within each of us to blame others for our problems, and to latch onto simple answers for life's complicated problems. RMT therapists suggest that aside from entirely ruining childhoods, childhood sexual abuse can explain anything and everything that goes wrong during adulthood. RMT becomes the ultimate crybaby therapy.