The etiology of a social epidemic
Pat Crossman, LCSW
IntroductionTheories of medical and psychiatric management based on ignorance or pseudoscience can be dangerous, even in the hands of good people. It is said that George Washington was bled to death by four devoted and honest physicians. Bloodletting and purging were acceptable methods of curing diseases at that time. Those who survived were appreciative and would recommend it to their friends. We donít do this any more, because we now understand the true function of blood. Neither do we condone exorcisms to flush out evil spirits. This is because we now know better.
Ignorance is forgivable. But sometimes, in certain personalities and at certain times, ignorance is accompanied by a terrible arrogance, even charisma, that condones and justifies cruelty as a method for achieving the desired results--which in all such cases is control. Such a person is, in my opinion, Connell Watkins, now serving time in jail for the killing of a ten-year-old girl, and who, throughout her trial, showed no remorse whatsoever, and in fact was proud of her work. Another was Jacqui Schiff, who created a new "therapy" called reparenting based on the flawed theory of Transactional Analysis. In Schiffís therapy, the patient is "regressed" to a psychological state that the therapist assumes resembles that of a small child, and then tortured.
I want to take a look at the work and theories of both these personalities, the structures of bad ideas that support their techniques, and finally the social conditions that make the public vulnerable to quackery.
Attachment TherapyThe last decade has seen a sharp rise in the number of cases of gross child abuse, some resulting in death, by or under the direction of "psychotherapists"--many unlicensed or delicensed, who practice a form of pseudotherapy called Attachment Therapy (AT).
AT is a growing, multi-faceted and as yet underground movement for the treatment of children who pose disciplinary problems to their parents or caregivers, in many cases adoptees or foster children. These children are diagnosed as suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), a failure to attach with the current caregiver due to early trauma.
The only cure (according to AT) is to "reparent" the child, thereby supposedly obtaining the desired attachment and total obedience of the child. Reparenting methods include eye contact on command, physical restraint, the infliction of pain and terror, and the induction of regression.
AT burst on the public scene in 2000 with the news of the death of a ten-year-old girl, Candace Newmaker. Candace was suffocated during a brutal, 70-minute videotaped rebirthing psychodrama in Colorado that was conducted to make the girl more satisfactory to her adoptive mother.
Candace was born Candace Tiara Elmore in North Carolina. She had been removed from her disorganized and poor, but by no means unaffectionate birth family, together with two younger siblings by social services. Eventually she was given in adoption to a wealthy unmarried woman, Jeane Newmaker, a pediatric nurse. Although described by teachers and classmates as a loving, sensitive and serious child, she could or would not attach to her adoptive mother, who apparently wanted more from Candace than the child would give. Candace had a mind and history of her own. At no time during the years Jeane sought help for Candace did anyone suggest that perhaps it was the adoptive mother who should seek counseling for her own unrealistic expectations. Jeane claimed that Candace became a serious behavior problem at home -- though she was well behaved at school.
After taking the child to a round of doctors for four years, Jeane heard about the RAD diagnosis from a placement social worker, possibly from the same agency that placed Candace and her siblings. She suggested that Jeane attend an AT workshop. There Jeane learned more about AT and was directed to the Internet site of ATTACh (Association for Treatment and Training of Attachment with Children) the major organization serving the AT community. She then attended an ATTACh conference in Virginia where she met Bill Goble, a prominent name in the world of AT.
Convinced that Gobleís description of AD kids fit Candace to a tee, Jeane approached him for help. He gave her a copy of a RAD checklist, a 30-item questionnaire prepared by a staff member of the Attachment Center in Evergreen (ACE) in Colorado.
Here are some questions from that checklist, called the RADQ, ("Randolph Attachment Disorder Questionnaire") which Jeane was required to answer with "never" "moderate" or "severe":
Jeane did fill out the checklist later and faxed it to Goble. From the questionnaire, Goble "diagnosed" Candace, sight unseen, with a severe case of RAD. He referred Candace to the most well known AT therapist -- Connell Watkins -- for intensive AT. The price -- seven thousand dollars. The time -- two weeks. The place -- Evergreen, CO. The cost -- a childís life.
After arriving in Evergreen from North Carolina for Watkinsí "two-week intensive," Candace was housed in a "therapeutic foster home" run by Brita St. Clair, and her boyfriend Jack McDaniel who assisted in the "intensive."
The intensive consisted of daily holding therapy (rage-reduction), "strong sitting" (long periods of sitting motionless), obedience training, and more. At one time Jeane, a large and heavy woman, lay on top of Candace for an hour and forty-five minutes, licking her face and grabbing and shaking her head and threatening her with abandonment. In another session, Candaceís long hair was hacked short, and she was threatened with a shave and a tattoo if she did not shape up.
The intensive took place in Connell Watkinsí home. The entire process was videotaped, which is how we know that, on the morning of the rebirthing psychodrama, Candace complained that she had not slept well that night and had had a dream of being murdered. She was assured that this would not happen. Also, she wondered, would she have enough air to breath? She was assured, "Yes." She was laid in a fetal position, wrapped tightly in a flannel sheet that was secured above the head in a loose knot, to represent a womb. Four large sofa cushions and nine pillows were placed around her while two "therapists" and two assistants lay across her, a combined weight of 670 pounds on the body of a 68-pound child. Candace was expected to make her way out of the sheet headfirst. This she could not do, although a sizable tear in the sheet near her feet showed how frantically she struggled. Her requests for information, pleas for help, and complaints that she could not breathe, were met with jeers and insults. "But you promised to give me oxygen." She was told to "go ahead and die." And when the child asked, "Die, like go to heaven die?" The response was "Yes." Candace cried out in fear. The pressure on her body was then increased. Candace then tried to bargain her way out. When the child said that she was going to poop and throw up, she was told to "lie there in your poop and vomit."
Meanwhile, Jeane Newmaker had been squatting a few feet away from Candaceís head, occasionally speaking of Candace as her newborn. However, after about 40 minutes, Jeane grew weary and asked Candace, "Honey, do you want to be reborn?" to which Candace replied faintly, but firmly, "No." This was her last word.
Candace died soon after, suffocating and choking on her own vomit. Jeane, sensing the childís last response as a rejection of her, left the room weeping, while the two lead therapists lay across the body of the dying child, laughing and joking about Candace, and chit-chatting about real estate.
The participants were all so entrapped in their collective psychodrama that they could not recognize obvious signs of distress. And Jeane was an experienced pediatric nurse!
At the trial that followed a year later the two lead therapists, Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder were each sentenced to the minimum of sixteen years in prison for reckless child abuse resulting in death. Neither showed any remorse during the trial. Nor did the assistants, who claimed they were just following orders.
Nor did the mother. When Candaceís catechism teacher asked for Jeaneís support for a bill outlawing rebirthing, to be named "Candaceís Law" in memory of Candace, she is said to have responded, "No. That would make her too important."
Against this background of inhumanity Candace herself stands out for her honesty, courage and personal integrity. During the intensive, she did everything she was told; though she did not give up control or abreact, as her tormentors wanted. When asked by Watkins at one point why she had been brought to Evergreen, she replied simply, "To be tortured." When asked why, she replied, "Because you like to torture people." The catechism teacher regarded her as an angel with a mind of her own. He had taught her to be true to herself. Maybe this enabled her to endure her ordeal without giving in, and perhaps this is what got her killed.
Connell Watkins began to work in Evergreen in the late 1970s under the supervision of Foster Cline, MD. She was an unlicensed therapist with a masterís degree in social work. Current Colorado law permits unlicensed therapists to work independently provided that they register with the state each year and pay a small fee. Cline was a Colorado physician who had started the AT movement and what would become the Attachment Center at Evergreen (ACE) in the mid-1970s, and Cline is referred to as the father of Attachment Therapy. Among the "therapists" at ACE, Connell Watkins -- who rose to become Clinical Director -- was universally admired for her rough, tough manner.
The Evergreen community grew and prospered due to the influx of orphan adoptees from Russia and Rumania during the eighties and nineties. The movement got a big boost by the inclusion in the American Psychiatric Associationís Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), of a new childhood disorder -- Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). While Evergreen remained the center of the growing AT world, other AT centers were set up across the country, sometimes providing temporary havens for delicensed practitioners.
However, in 1996 there was a bump in the road, and Watkins was in trouble. Cline had been charged with breach of professional conduct related to his supervision of Watkins and a colleague who had been performing a rage reduction method called "The Z-Process" on a boy of eleven. The badly bruised boy had run away and called the police. The session had been videotaped, and it was on this evidence that the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners decided to pursue sanctions. Cline gave up his license and left the state rather than agree never to treat or supervise anyone using aversive physical stimulation or verbal abuse.
Watkins moved next door and set up Connell Watkins and Associates, in her own home, where she continued to use the Z-Process (or rage reduction). The Z-Process had been devised by Robert Zaslow, a psychologist from San Jose State College, who had visited Cline in 1972, and was the "godfather" of Attachment Therapy. One of Watkinsís "associates" was Neil Feinberg, LCSW, who remained on the staff of ACE. She used his license number when billing insurance companies.
In 1999, Connell was joined by Julie Ponder, a newly licensed marriage and family counselor from California. Ponder claimed to be an art therapist and, except for teen wilderness therapy, had very little therapeutic experience. But she had, or so she said at trial, been rebirthed four times -- and it was wonderful! She must have shared these experiences with Watkins, now her colleague and friend.
Then, for two weeks in the fall of 1999, Watkins shared AT techniques with rebirther Douglas Gosney, another licensed MFT from California, indeed, the past president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. He was a highly esteemed board member of the American Association of Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health (AAPPPH). Gosney had adapted rebirthing techniques to AT. His techniques were synthesized from his work with Arthur Janov, the inventor of Primal Scream Therapy, and he had also spent five years working with William Emerson, a psychologist from Northern California, and a fellow board member of AAPPPH.
Emerson was recognized by the AAPPPH as a pioneer in the field of "birth trauma," having done "repatterning" of birth trauma for over ten years. His popularity didnít suffer when he was forced in 1994 to surrender his psychology license in California. In 1997 Gosney and Emerson had presented a paper at the 8th Congress of AAPPPH: "Birth, Love and Relationship". In addition Gosney claimed to have done over 300 rebirthings, and to have undergone a number of regressions himself at Lali Mitchellís Sky Mountain Institute for Expressive Arts Therapy. (The Sky Mountain Institute may well be where Ponder had her own rebirthings.) Gosney taught his rebirthing techniques to Watkins and Ponder, who ran four to five "successful" rebirthings before Candace. Videos of these other rebirthings showed the children emerging shaken but docile after only a few minutes.
So why did Watkins decide to use rebirthing the day Candace died? After all, her specialty had been "rage reduction." Candace was not defiant; she followed orders obediently. When told to shout she shouted. The day before her death, following the one hour and forty-five minutes of compression therapy under her large mother, she had permitted Jeane to take her on her lap and passively accepting bits of sweet roll that Jeane put in her mouth. After the compression therapy Watkins had noticed that Candaceís face looked blank, "like nobody was home," what psychologists would perhaps call dissociation?
Watkins decided to forego the usual rage reduction for an "easy day" of rebirthing for both Jeane and Candace. But there was no rebirth -- only death.
Candace was not the only one to dieIn 1996, David Polreis, a Russian adoptee also being treated for RAD by attachment therapists in Colorado, was beaten to death by his mother with a wooden spoon. Originally she said she beat the two-year-old in self-defense, but later she claimed that the "terrible bruising found on his buttocks, genitals, and belly" were self-inflicted.
A year before that, three-year-old Krystal Tibbits was killed by her adoptive father, a nurse. Krystal was undergoing Attachment Therapy, which had been stipulated as a condition of her adoption by a Utah court. The AT therapist had instructed her father how to do AT at home -- lying on top of the child, pressing his fist into the stomach and putting pressure on the chest to induce belly breathing all measures expected to release her repressed rage. Instead the child stopped breathing, her ribs crushed.
Two years after Candace died, four-year-old Cassandra Killpack, also undergoing attachment therapy for RAD, died from water intoxication after she had stolen a soda from her sister. Her adoptive parents tied her hands and poured half a gallon of water down her throat as a "paradoxical intervention", taught to them by the same Utah therapists who treated Krystal Tibbets. And there are others!
According to AT philosophy, the purpose of a child would seem to be to make the parents happy by total compliance to the will and authority of the caregiver. Therefore, according to AT philosophy, any child who fails to do this can be diagnosed with RAD. As an authentic diagnosis found in the DSM-IV, RAD is useful for insurance billing. But AT means something different by the term than does the DSM. The DSMís RAD diagnosis actually refers to a very small specific population of children. It is a name given to a syndrome first observed in the 1980s among some Romanian orphans who had been adopted in the West and who had experienced severe emotional deprivation. These children have difficulty or are unable to form attachments in early life. The disorder manifests itself through indiscriminate attachment, overfriendliness or withdrawal from others. In other words, they have no working model of stable attachment. However, RAD, as described by AT therapists, has many characteristics that DMS-IV omits and is made to cover a broad range of childhood disorders, such as attention deficit disorder, autism, conduct disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and others.
AT practitioners claim that RAD children are potential mass murderers like Ted Bundy. They also claim that most or all of adopted children suffer from RAD. The "primal wound" of the adoptee is separation from and rage at the natural mother, even during birth. And the primal wound can go back even further to prebirth in the womb, the experiences being retained in cellular memory. RAD children also can have superhuman strength because of their repressed rage, and have an inability to feel pain.
Under standard AT Therapy (also called Holding Therapy), the child is coerced into making a therapeutic agreement (or "alliance"), promising to endure whatever the therapist does to her. Then the child is restrained, sometimes by a number of adults, and tortured with painful poking and tickling, screamed at, threatened and goaded until the child explodes in rage or more likely fear. This is followed by a tearful collapse and submission into infantile behavior. The child is sometimes given a bottle, addressed in baby talk and finger fed sweet food for "bonding." She must engage in prolonged "loving" eye contact with the caregiver. If the child doesnít give in, the holding can last for hours and hours. Total compliance is demanded. And these methods are taught to parents to practice at home.
Between holding sessions the child may be required to live in a therapeutic foster home, such as the one run by Brita St. Clair . Foster homes function like boot camps. Frequently, children do not go to public school. The child has no privacy and is under constant supervision. Affection cannot be shown by the therapeutic foster parent on the assumption that this would disrupt the bond with the mother. However, if the therapeutic foster mother feels it necessary, there may be "cuddle time," when the child is held like a baby and once she stops struggling, she is given sweets. Punishments can include strenuous physical activity and the withholding of food. "Paradoxical interventions" are also used, whereby the child is forced to repeat a disobedient act over and over again.
Parents are especially advised not to "feel sorry" for the child. Such advice has the potential for encouraging and validating parental rage against the child, rage that may previously have been tempered and put in check by compassion.
AT practitioners validate their theories by anecdotal evidence and make their diagnoses by the use of checklists. AT has never been reviewed by an independent professional body.
The chief factor contributing to the AT epidemic is the existence of a target population of adoptive parents. This population includes frightened parents, who want to hear that the problems they have with their adopted children lie totally with the child and not with them, and that there is a miracle cure to make their financial and emotional investment pay off. If they have access to the Internet there are multitudes of AT web sites, including ATTACh, the Association for the Treatment and Training of Attachment in Children. ATTACh publishes articles and letters and provides general information. There are many support groups in the AT community, in fact, a growing "RADneck" community, and since the children are referred to as "RADishes." When a casualty occurs during therapy, the parents will rally round the adoptive parents.
There are at least five hundred AT practitioners nationwide. A significant number have lost professional licenses, have no advanced degrees from recognized universities, and some have bought their degrees. Others do door-to-door therapy without any professional oversight. There are many videos for sale depicting AT at work. Nancy Thomas, a prominent AT "co-therapists" and self-proclaimed "therapeutic parenting specialist." was recently featured by Focus on the Family on one of its radio talk shows. She sounded like Mother Theresa!
A second major factor adding to the AT problem is the fact that social workers and adoption agency personnel are poorly trained and overworked. Many have already been influenced by AT propaganda.
There is a big push to go mainstream, where AT will achieve credibility. AT practitioners have appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show. AT books have been published by recognized publishing houses.
What is most disturbing is that AT Practitioners have been receiving money, directly and indirectly, from the Federal Government. The money comes through Title IV-E, the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. The AACWA amended the Social Security Act to provide federal subsidies to states giving financial assistance for "special needs" adoptions. Adopt a child with a severe, recognized problem -- or even a child "at risk" for having one -- and you get money! The North American Council on Adoptable Children has several AT activists on board, and endorses and sells at least one book promoting AT. The Council has received an Adoption Opportunities grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services to train local social workers to "educate" parents with respect to Title IV-E.
In several cases, AT advocates have presented workshops that were approved for continuing education credit, which is required for licensed social workers and psychologists to renew their licenses. AT workshops have been sponsored by groups such as the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychological Association, and Northern California Association for Play Therapy. State licensing organizations do not monitor the quality of continuing education, delegating responsibility to approved providers. , This process does not necessarily mean approval or awareness of the content.
In 2000, as a direct result of the death of Candace, the American Psychiatric Association issued a policy statement rejecting treatments that involve coercive restraint of children suffering from RAD. However, AT practitioners have another diagnosis -- Attachment Disorder (AD). It is an unrecognized diagnosis supposedly even worse than RAD; it is RAD without some of the diagnostic limitations, and adding signs of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and just about everything else! AT therapists tell parents their children suffer from AD (to really scare them), but they diagnose and bill for RAD, since AD is unrecognized by the government or insurance companies.
In 2002 the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children condemned Attachment Therapy as an abusive practice without sound theoretical basis, and especially having no connection with the highly regarded Attachment Theory of John Bowlby.
In 2001 Candaceís Law, was passed in Colorado. It prohibits the use of rebirthing as a therapeutic treatment. A similar law, spearheaded by Candaceís grandparents, passed recently in North Carolina. They are only a beginning. The AT practitioner can always say, "But we donít do rebirthing anymore, " while still advocating Holding Therapy, which has also resulted in deaths. And the issue of coercive restraint in therapy has not yet been consistently addressed by lawmakers and professionals at the state level.
This is but a brief introduction to AT. For further information, I highly recommend a book covering these issues in depth, published last year by Praeger Press. It is called Attachment Therapy on Trial: the Torture and Death of Candace Newmaker, by Jean Mercer, Larry Sarner and Linda Rosa. Jean Mercer is Professor of Developmental Psychology at Richard Stockton College and one of the first critics of Attachment Therapy. Larry Sarner is an official with the American Association for the Humane Treatment of Children, and Linda Rosa is a researcher with the National Council Against Health Fraud.
They have set up a web site, www.childrenintherapy.org , where up-to-date information is posted concerning current and proposed legislation, as well as a sadly growing list of victims. (1)
Cathexis and Transactional AnalysisIn many ways, AT resembles Transactional Analysis (TA), a theory of personality that was originated by Eric Berne, author of Games People Play. Specifically, I am speaking of the Cathexis School of TA. "Reparenting," a movement started by a social worker named Jacqui Schiff for the alleged treatment of schizophrenia in the late 1960s, grew in size and influence during the 70s. But the Cathexis patient is not a real child, but an adult "regressed" in imagination to the age of a child. The methods of control, punishment and intimidation are the same as we have seen in AT and have been responsible for at least one death and unnumbered suicides. In 1970 Jacqui Schiff wrote All My Children, a book which I call a "cookbook of child abuse." This book is recommended on the ATTACh website.
During the last few years, TA has lost much of its market in the USA and moved abroad, leaving a legacy of human damage. But AT is here and growing.
It is my contention that both AT & TA are dangerous, have no basis in contemporary science, and in fact, encourage a return to magical medicine and the rites of primitive exorcism.
A look back at the historical antecedents of this pseudoscientific mentality is in order at this point.
Throughout history, before the advent of modern science, exorcism rites have been used by "healers" to cure sickness and heal people whose behavior was deemed socially deviant. This deviant behavior/unhappiness was assumed to be the product of some supernatural agent. The victim was assumed to have been bewitched or possessed. The evil agent or pathogen was inside, alive and dangerous. It could only be brought out by the personal power of the healer, the initial consent of the afflicted, and the invocation and intervention of a superior, supernatural power. This involved a battle between the evicted spirit and the healer. The spirit would manifest itself in the form of a crisis in the patient, producing convulsions and screaming. The crisis continued until the patient was restored. Traditionally, exorcism would be performed by trained shamans, who acted with social approval and caution.
During the Inquisition and in fact, up until the early 18th century, exorcisms were performed and abused by the Roman Catholic Church. But by the late 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment and sound reasoning, witchcraft was more a thing of the past. The Vatican still permitted exorcisms, but under strict guidelines; forcible restraint, even touching, was not allowed.
Such an exorcist was Johannes Gassner, a parish priest in a small town in Switzerland. After experiencing a crisis of his own he discovered that he was able to cure certain illnesses among his parishioners. Illnesses then were of two kinds, natural and preternatural. He specialized in the preternatural, of which there were three categories. "Obsessio," the effects of sorcery; "possessio," overt diabolical possession; and "circumsessio," imitation of a natural illness.
There were two prerequisites--faith and consent on the part of the sufferer--for the use of "probatives," meaning trial exorcism. The entrenched demon was called out, and if a "crisis" followed, it was evidence that the disease was caused by the devil. The exorcism would continue until the demon was expelled. If no symptoms appeared, if no crisis occurred after a reasonable time, Father Gassner would send the patient to a local doctor, (who would probably prescribe purgatives, bleeding, and in the case of syphilis, mercury).
Gassner had some success, treating cases of what would now be called conversion hysteria. He was a humble man, taking no money and keeping records. He must have felt himself unimpeachable from the point of view of both Catholic orthodoxy and medicine.
But Gassner became too famous, a celebrity in fact. He traveled, which was not a good idea. People came flocking to see him and young women became hysterical. There were murmurs from a concerned Vatican. It was the prelude to a psychic epidemic!
An ambitious young doctor, Anton Mesmer, observed Gassnerís work. When a commission of inquiry was appointed in 1775 to investigate Gassnerís claims, it was Anton Mesmer, representing himself as a "scientist," who claimed that he too could perform cures, but by science rather than by faith. Gassner, he said, was honest, but he had been using Mesmerís method all along without knowing it. The commission agreed, and Gassner was moved aside. In addition, he got a letter of censure from the Vatican and died shortly afterwards.
Mesmer claimed to have discovered a mysterious universal fluid that flowed between people. Health or sickness depended on the proper balance of this fluid. All fluid being equal, his was more equal than others. Mesmer possessed superior and magnetic power, which he could project by "animal magnetism" through his eyes or touch. This would produce mesmeric sleep, later called hypnosis, and would be followed by a crisis, simultaneously serving as evidence of the disease and also as the means to its cure. Mesmer performed magnetism before crowds and in group settings, where crisis rooms were thoughtfully provided. Young women would become hysterical during these performances.
Mesmer made a fortune.
He was finally unmasked during one of his performances by the appearance of a young blind musician. Mesmer had been paid a high fee by her family to cure her blindness several years before!
In 1784, the King of France called a commission of the foremost scientists of that time: the astronomer Bailey, the chemist Lavoisier, and the American ambassador, Benjamin Franklin.
They concluded that his claim to have discovered a new physical fluid was unfounded. There was no empirical evidence of magnetic fluid. It didnít exist. The possible therapeutic effects were ascribed to "imagination." They also warned against the erotic attraction of the magnetized female to the magnetizer.
But that was not the end of magnetism. Mesmer was pushed aside as he had pushed aside Gassner, and his place taken by other aspiring magnetizers. Mesmeric sleep was renamed hypnotism. Apart from the paraphernalia of swinging pendulums to induce mesmeric sleep or hypnosis, a popular method of inducing hypnosis was fixed eye contact. It was called "fascination." (2)
But the epidemic calmed down and became partly absorbed by the "spiritist movement" that swept Europe during the 1850s. In fact, by 1860 hypnotism was in disrepute with physicians, including Pierre Janet, who on one occasion caused a disturbance in a theatre when a stage hypnotist by the name of Donato was humiliating an elderly professor on stage. Janet set about him with his walking stick and the police were called.
The 1880s saw the rise of another "magician"--Jean Martin Charcot. Charcot, head of the SalpŤtriere Hospital in Paris and reputed to be the greatest neurologist of his time, now turned to hypnosis. He was a highly authoritarian man with a powerful presence. At the Salpetriere he had a ward of "hysterical" young women (some of them exotic dancers at the Moulin Rouge), whom he would use as subjects for clinical demonstrations before audiences of fascinated medical students. He would induce trance states and then the women would present with convulsions or paralyzed limbs on demand. His reputation was damaged when his star subject, a young woman called Blanche Wittman, sick of the abuse, ran away from Charcot and told her story to Janet, a resident at the SalpŤtriere. She had been acting all the time, she said. Recognizing her intelligence, he directed her to the hospitalís new Department of Radiology, where Blanche became a radiology technician. Sadly, she died of radiation sickness at the age of thirty-five, but without a trace of hysteria.
As Charcotís influence began to wane, the fortunes of an ambitious young neurologist from Vienna rose. He had attended Charcotís lectures, seen his demonstrations, and had even been invited to his sumptuous home. This was Sigmund Freud, very poor at the time, and engaged to be married as soon as he could make some money.
In 1911, a physician named Dr. Hoche gave a memorable speech at a meeting of psychiatrists and neurologists in Baden-Baden. In a presentation entitled, "A Psychic Epidemic Among Physicians," Dr. Hoche referred to a phenomenon rapidly gaining visibility.
Hoche defined a psychic epidemic as "the transmission of specific representations of a compelling power in a great number of heads, resulting in the loss of judgment and lucidity." He spoke of a sect, rather than a school,
"that does not bring forth verifiable facts, but articles of faith, fanatical convictions of being superior to others, jargon, intolerance of other beliefs, high veneration for the Master, fantastic over-evaluation of what has already been accomplished and can be accomplished by adherents of the sect." By way of explanation he suggested "a lack of historical sense and philosophical education and the thanklessness of curing nervous illnesses." The therapeutic successes resulted, he said, from the patient attention given by the physicians to their patients. He concluded that this movement was "a return in modernized form of Magical Medicine, a kind of secret teaching." (3)
Hoche was, in fact, referring to Sigmund Freud and the disruptive and downright rude conduct of several of Freudís disciples at a recent conference on dreams. Psychoanalysis was soon to emerge as the secular religion of the twentieth century. In fact, it was all there was for many of us in the field of mental health and has only in recent years been exposed and exploded. Sure, it contained some self-evident truths, such as the phenomenon of projection and introjection. (I believe this may have been originally Janetís observation). But it claimed to explain everything-- all the complexities of human existence, lifeís problems great and small, even the nature of theology--by creating a framework of beliefs that was declared to be a solid structure based on scientific principles.
Freud, as you know, divided the personality into three parts--which may have originally been Albert Mollís idea--the Ego, the Super Ego, and the Id. The Id, consisting of basic biological drives and impulses, was characterized as "amoral," and therefore dangerous, and banished to the "unconscious" where it was kept under lock and key by something called "repression." The job of the Ego, or self, was to mediate between the urges of the Id and the moral demands of the Superego, aided by conscience, which the child develops over time in response to Superego demands. So with all these parts developing in toddlerhood, where does this leave a newborn baby? All Id?
Melanie Klein, an Austrian psychoanalyst who was a member of the psychoanalytic group in London during the 1940s, was convinced that the baby, in the first weeks and months of life, was a cauldron of unconscious hate impulses, born with and fighting against a death instinct. Talk about original sin! She became convinced of this in the 1940s after observing children playing with sand trays. It is possible that her own unhappy childhood with a brutal father had something to do with her interpretation. It was a clear case of "projection." She was greatly disliked by Anna Freud. I have read that this feud between these two austere ladies preoccupied the entire London-based psychoanalytic community during the 1940s, even as the bombs rained down. Anna Freud went on to create the Child Guidance Clinic Movement and family-oriented philosophy.
How did psychoanalysis spread so quickly? Freudís real genius lay in his skill as a writer. In 1900 he had already published The Interpretation of Dreams. This book became a bestseller with the layman and set the whole movement rolling. The real meaning of dreams lay in their hidden content rather than their overt content. And people started doubting themselves. It was also a time of relative affluence. Here was a huge population of the "worried well" who would pay equally well! Freudís book starts with the phrase, "If I cannot rouse heaven then I will raise hell. " And metaphorically speaking that is what he did. He also had disciples, like Paul Federn and Ernst Jones, ready to spread his "Gospel."
In fact, by the mid-twentieth century the psychoanalytic movement had taken over the field. Psychiatrists who wanted a good job or referral base would be obliged to enter analysis. The same was true for the newly created, and mostly female, profession of Psychiatric Social Workers.
Freud had created a Procrustes Bed whereby evidence was made to fit his theories, rather than the other way round. Likewise, if the desired outcome didnít come to pass, it was because the patient had failed the therapy, rather than the therapy failing the patient. Freudís theory and method of psychotherapy was by its very nature iatrogenic. In other words, it creates the illness which it purports to cure, and does this with pride!
Dr. Hoche was right. The psychoanalytic movement became a closed system, unable to monitor itself. It was authoritarian, exclusive, had its own language and strict initiation rites, and doled out punishment for any perceived deviation from dogma. It was fraught with internal rivalries, personal dislikes, and two major factions. In 1913, Carl Jung was banished by Freud on the orders of Ernest Jones and Paul Federn. Jung went on to develop his own mystical movement.
Then, in 1924, Otto Rank published The Trauma of Birth. He was a lay analyst, a philosopher without medical training, and an aspiring though talentless artist. His book was dedicated to Freud and purported to be a further development of psychoanalysis based on analytic work with his patients.
Freud had suggested that the anxiety of the infant during the process of birth might be the prototype of later anxiety. Rank took it one stage further. Birth itself was the trauma from which all other disorders and human unhappiness arose. This primal pain and fear had to be uncovered in analysis. Transference to the analyst, he said, was a reenactment of the earliest fixation on the mother. The analyst must therefore be on the lookout for small signs of hostility on the part of the patient. Here was a new interpretation of everything--normal and abnormal sexual life, neuroses, psychoses, and cultural life as a whole.
Rankís book caught on. Analysts rapidly began discovering birth dreams and birth trauma in their patients. (4) Rank wrote the ominous statement that the average man who has solved the problems of birth separation through a simple, unreflecting identification with the conventions of his society has no value in himself. The ideal man was the liberated artist! Freud was dismayed. If birth trauma was the root cause of everything, then what about the Oedipus Complex?! And so Otto Rank was banished too. But while traditional analysts disdained Rank, he was not forgotten. His theories were accepted with enthusiasm by many female psychiatric social workers.
Now, psychoanalysis as a practice is verbally based. For it to work, the patient must be willing to discuss his problems. But what if the patient is not willing; or, what if the patient canít even talk?
Such a population was uncovered in 1946. These were autistic children. Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder, characterized by lack of speech and eye contact, disinterest in the human face, obsessive and repetitive body movement and the inability to process verbal information. The child, thus trapped in its own world and unable to communicate to the outside, may have frequent tantrums and may cover his ears.
This was a new area of research, open for both "honest investigation and/or devilish curiosity," to quote Charles Darwin.
Rene Spitz demonstrated in 1945 that babies left untouched in a hospital failed to thrive. Robert Harlow in 1959 found that baby rhesus monkeys would often prefer to snuggle with a comfortable cloth "mom" than drink a bottle from a wire mom. The same year John Bowlby published Child Care and the Growth of Love, demonstrating that when young babies are separated from their mothers for long periods of time they experience grief and depression. He also assumed that this led to rage.
The focus was on Mom. It was all her fault. The caricature of the "refrigerator mother" was created. She was the one responsible for schizophrenia in her offspring and also, of course, autism. A theory of maternal deprivation would account for everything. But how to put it right?
Bruno Bettelheim, a psychoanalytically oriented psychologist, ran a school for emotionally disturbed children in Chicago. He blamed autism on the cold unfeeling mother. So the child was taken away and the mother forbidden to visit, and the children regrown in a kind of therapeutic community. A reprint of his book Love Is Not Enough was published in 1967, advertising itself as essential for parents of children of all ages. Subsequent exposťs have revealed that conditions in Bettelheimís school were less than ideal.
Other therapists of autistic children took the reductionist Skinnerian approach and tried cattle prods. Others claimed that autistic children were over-stimulated and locked them in padded cells.
What is unsettling is that a psychoanalytically oriented psychologist, William Lemmon, was conducting similar experiments on chimpanzees at the Institute for Primate Research in Oklahoma. Lemmon, head of primate research, was a very cruel, power-driven man. His particular interest was studying young animals that had been isolated from their mothers. Some died. Many of Lemmonís graduate students joined Lemmon on the psychology faculty at the University of Oklahoma and remained his longtime patients. Others took on positions of influence in the state agencies for mental health, prisons, and family services. Lemmon was by all accounts the most influential psychotherapist in the state, and had encouraged--or perhaps, bullied--some of his female patients into adopting newborn baby chimpanzees in order to learn "mothering skills." This experiment was a disaster, and only one of the disturbing revelations that ended Lemmonís career in 1975. (5) Roger Fouts, a psychologist, hypothesized that if autistic children could not process verbal information, they could perhaps learn a visual language based on gestures. He was indeed successful in teaching American Sign Language to a couple of autistic children in the hospital.
All this time, an ambitious young psychologist named Robert Zaslow had been watching. He was Assistant Professor of Psychology at San Jose State College and had a team of dedicated graduate students. After conducting the appropriate experiments, Zaslow, with all the arrogance of a James Watson, came up with the ultimate solution to the problem of autism. It was all about rage. The child is autistic because he is mad at this mother for having abandoned him -- even for as little as a few days. However, the child has repressed the rage. Therefore we need a foolproof method for accessing that rage and releasing it. This became the Z-Process that was still being used by Connell Watkins in 2000.
In 1969, Zaslow published his findings in the Journal of Clinical-Cognitive Psychology under the title, "A Theory and Treatment of Autism." Zaslow assumes the child is filled with rage and hatred. (Thanks, Melanie Klein!) This rage can only be released by direct manipulation of the childís body. The child is tightly restrained by one or more therapists and if he responds with "self-induced" rage the session continues until the child is exhausted, docile and able to maintain eye contact with the therapist. If, however, the child is passive and inert, the rage must be induced by other means. If a child cries excessively, it is not interpreted as a signal of distress, but rather an expression of rage. If a child does not respond to a command, he is always being defiant-it is never the case that he is simply unable to understand the command. If a child covers his ears he is attempting to shut out the "womb murmurs," rather than shutting out auditory information which he cannot process and understand. Most important, the therapist must establish dominance for the process to succeed, but also be cautious to "relax his counter pressure as soon as dominance is established."
Zaslow triumphantly proves his point by referring to the movie, The Miracle Worker, which (inaccurately) dramatizes the education of Helen Keller by Anne Sullivan, as "illustrating both our theory and the rage reduction method." It all came down to stimulus and response. The child had become a "thing".
Zaslow also recommended his treatment for a variety of other childhood disorders, and claimed later that the Z-Method could cure eczema, acne and even blindness. In the early 70s, working in Colorado at the Institute for the Blind in Denver with some grad students in tow, Zaslow supposedly cured a blind girl. (Hello Mesmer!) (6)
But in 1973 disaster struck. Zaslow lost his license to practice psychology in the State of California. He and up to ten of his unlicensed "assistants" had restrained a woman on her back for 10-12 consecutive hours. They brutalized her, placing their fingers in her mouth and compressing her tongue, and choking her by poring water into her mouth when she screamed. Zaslow refused to stop the treatment when she begged him to.
This sounds eerily like what was going on in Alamo, California in 1972. A schizophrenic sixteen-year-old had been beaten up and then hog-tied and placed in a bathtub of scalding water. He died. Oh, but it was just an accident! He was being "reparented" at the Cathexis Institute. The Cathexis Institute was originally a therapeutic community for troubled teens run by Jacqui Schiff, a social worker who claimed she could cure schizophrenia, extending the diagnosis to cover a wide range of disorders.
It is interesting to speculate whether Zaslow and Schiff ever met, since their methods were so similar. Both used enforced eye contact as a method of intimidation and control. (7) In addition, both shared a common developmental theory, stressing the necessity of re-doing developmental stages. Schiff had published All My Children in 1970 and was a famous "miracle worker" with a "tough love" approach.
San Jose had a large Transactional Analysis (TA) community at the time, since TA was the latest fad in pop psychology, and TAís founder, Eric Berne, lectured at San Jose State. There is no record that Zaslow and Schiff ever met, but then I would be surprised if they didnít.
While in Colorado, Zaslow consulted with Foster Cline, the physician who began the Attachment Center in Evergreen, originally called the Youth Behavior Program, where troubled teens were exposed to "outward bound" wilderness experiences, scary and potentially dangerous. Here Cline had discovered the effectiveness of trauma bonding. A child left dangling at the end of a rope for a period of time would readily form a therapeutic attachment or alliance with the leader. Zaslow and Cline got along very well, and Zaslow refined his Z-Process, which is now known as Holding Therapy or Attachment Therapy. And thatís how Robert Zaslow became the Godfather of AT, and how Evergreen became the center of the AT world, spawning clones across the country.
Both AT and TA grew in part out of the social chaos of the late 60s and 70s, a time of racial unrest, student protests, and an unpopular war. It was also the time of the "transformation" craze, which started down in Big Sur in the early 60s with the Esalen Institute. The Esalen Institute promoted the Human Potential Movement (HPM). The HPM promised experiential "transformation," resulting in "growth." Human potential was assumed to be almost limitless. (8)
But in order to grow, a person needed to change. By recalling trauma assumed to be responsible for a personís inability to change and by abreacting, or "catharting" the emotions associated with that trauma, a person would a better person there and then-- redemption through pain. The methods used by the HPM to achieve this transformation varied from nonviolent "rebirthing" in hot tubs, painful bodywork, gestalt psychodrama, primal screaming, to transactional analysis. The "work" was done in a group setting, with "crisis rooms" being provided! (Recall Mesmer.) Here the affluent "worried well" came for excitement. Also, many therapists came to learn the latest techniques to take home to enhance their private practice or share with their agencies. A lot of people had fun but a lot of unnecessary damage was also done. Stanislav Grof and Timothy Leary promoted LSD as a liberating agent and possible cure for schizophrenia. Grof even insisted on his nurses taking LSD to make them more empathetic with their dying patients!
Transformation was also promised through a variety of pyramid rackets. Institutes were set up to offer expensive training to graduates, who in turn set up their own institutes, promising quick fixes to complex life issues. It was like so many fast therapy franchises! One such pyramid was TA. And then there was Scientology and the Moonies.
Werner Erhart set up his own empire with his own nihilistic philosophy: "We all create our own reality!" From here he deduced that we also create our own misfortunes, and that we deserve no pity and on and on until reality slips away.
The forerunner of this idea originated in the eighteenth century and was called "solipsism." It was proposed by Bishop Berkeley, an English cleric, amateur botanist, and "experimental psychologist." He had discovered experimentally that we canít always trust our senses to give an accurate representation of "reality," and therefore in a way we create our own reality through our sense data. But the Bishopís ideas got blown out of proportion. For a while it was the talk of the salons and coffeehouses of London, but was refuted by Dr. Samuel Johnson, who, upon hearing about it on a trip to Scotland, angrily kicked a stone, saying, "Matter is real Sir, and thereís an end Ďont."
And then there was Synannon, the alcohol and drug rehabilitation program with the "game" of hot seat confrontation. It seemed to start out so well, but devolved into a destructive cult when the "game" took over; people could not stop playing it and kids got hurt. After an exposť, the Synannon movement gradually drifted over to Europe, under the leadership of an ex-junkie from the Phoenix House in New York. His name was Denny Yuson, and he was to become Swami Varesh, right-hand man to the crazy Indian con man known as Bhagwan Rajneesh.
The human potential movement, or growth movement, also spread to Europe. Esalen-type institutes were created in England, Holland, Germany and Spain, appealing to a jaded population of affluent middle-class professionals in pursuit of an imaginary state of awareness called "enlightenment," achieved by pain and abreaction. The level of violence spun out of control and people got hurt.
The human potential movement devolved into a "growth enforcement industry" and attracted a circus of American growth gurus hawking their latest and most painful methods. By the late 1970s these growth centers--Quasitor in London, Stitching Center in Amsterdam, and Zist outside of Munich--were infiltrated and influenced by disciples of the Bhagwan Rajneesh. The Bhagwan, in turn, financed in part by the Synannon movement, set up his own enterprise.
Synannon attack groups, now called "enlightenment intensives," were promoted as "encounter groups" through the growth centers. Many who signed on were destabilized.
From 1975 through 1979 Bhagwan orchestrated a self-indulgent reign of terror and obscenity in his ashram in Poona, India. Nevertheless, many American mental health practitioners flocked to him. Core regressions (see below) were standard, together with group violence followed by indiscriminate sex. There were many casualties, including a young father called Welf, who was killed in 1979. (9) He was the Prince of Hanover and cousin to Prince Charles. Although his death was given wide coverage in the European press, this news never reached the US. So, after income tax trouble in India, Bhagwan was had to move and ended up in Oregon, where his followers took over the town of Antelope. Many practitioners of alternative medicine (including two who are part of the AT movement at the present), got their start in this milieu, chief among them being James Gordon, MD, whose book, The Golden Guru, describes his experiences in Poona, including a core regression. Gordon, who has nothing but praise for Bhagwan, is now the Chairman of the recently appointed Federal Commission on Alternative Medicine!
Pseudoscientific ModelsAny philosophy or method of treatment that is based on pseudoscientific models about the nature of the real world and human mind, if followed obediently, logically and deductively, can only end in damage to the patient and/or a descent into mysticism. Here are just a few:
The hydraulic, or energy model. In the nineteenth century heat was assumed to be a substance that flowed between things making them hot. A physical substance was invented or posited to account for a set of properties. This erroneous model, applied to psychology, suggests that human beings run on psychic energy. It was used originally by Freud and is derived from the nineteenth century preoccupation with steam engines. Much of the European economy depended on steam energy; controlling it was a challenge for engineers, and explosions were a real hazard and a source of insurance claims.
As interpreted by AT and TA, psychic energy operates in the same manner as steam or water. An invisible liquid-like substance inside a person gets damned up and repressed behind a trauma occurring at a particular stage of childhood, as far back as birth or pre-birth. This trauma blocks future development much as constipation blocks healthy elimination! The blocked energy accumulates and becomes toxic and dangerous, and must be released by catharsis induced by a variety of methods, thus releasing the energy. But how do we get back there to the incidence of trauma?
Recapitulation. According to this model, the biological clock can be reversed and a patient returned to the way they really were, to that "developmental" stage just prior to the trauma. The trauma is re-experienced, and the patient then regrown and in some cases "reborn." How is this done? (10)
Regression. Regression implies a return to an earlier or infantile state of being. It is induced by hypnosis (a common trick of the stage magician), guided imagery, prolonged and enforced eye contact, exhaustion, terror, or humiliation, whereby the patient is persuaded to simulate and assume the posture and affect of a small child or a baby. According to my knowledge, no study of hypnotic age regressions has produced any confirmation that a genuine regression to an infantile psychological state has ever been achieved. A friend of mine, Marian Hallet, said that while in Schiffís program in Fredericksburg, Virginia, she simulated regression to avoid punishment and possible death. She knew all along that she was acting. With the help of the police she finally managed to escape, although she was severely scarred. (11) The other "kids" simulated too in order to win approval or avoid punishment. But they stayed because they had nowhere else to go. Some no longer had any way of relating to the world outside the Schiff-induced "structure." In the act of simulation the victim gave up normal defenses, as well as adult language and critical thinking. He can and often does become entrapped in the psychodrama, forced to continue with the charade to the end.
A lawyer who handled four Kansas City cases involving reparenting and regression said, "My lawsuits have shown that it takes about six reparenting sessions to begin to bring about profound and pervasive changes in self-image, affect, cognition, and behavior." (12) This is not regression; this is the beginning of illness.
The Videotape Model. According to this model, every memory (including pre-birth experiences) is recorded and stored somewhere in the brain, or in other cells of the body as "cellular memory." To my knowledge, this model first made its infamous appearance in 1968 with the publication of the Transactional Analysis bestseller Iím OK--Youíre OK by Tom Harris. Harris proclaimed that experiments conducted by neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield in the 1950s had revealed that "everything which has been in our conscious awareness in recorded in detail and stored in the brain and is capable of being played back in the present." (13)
Now, who was Penfield? Wilder Penfield was a Canadian neurosurgeon who sought to alleviate grand mal seizures in epileptic subjects by applying an electrical probe to the temporal lobe of the neocortex, where the "storm centers" were assumed to be. He noticed that in some cases people during the electrical stimulation would report seeing and hearing and being in an environment that felt familiar, which he assumed at that time were real memories and that memories were therefore stored somewhere in the brain. He reported that in some cases the memories were described as dreamlike and were of no particular significance.
In 1952, Penfield gave a symposium on "Memory Mechanisms." (14) It was well attended and included three neurologists and one psychoanalyst, Lawrence Kubie, protege' of Paul Federn (Freudís disciple) and, notably, a friend of Eric Berne.
The discussants responded with enthusiasm, but not without questions. Why was no smell remembered, why didnít the patient hear himself speaking? Maybe we should find out more about how the brain works before jumping to conclusions.
Notwithstanding the reservations of other discussants, Kubie was enthralled. He accepted without question that Penfield had proved that memories were real and could be accessed from a physical location. Without further experimentation, Kubie created an all-encompassing theory of psychotherapy-that some memories were hidden and therefore repressed. Said Kubie, "It has kept me in a state of ferment watching the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fall into place when we realize that almost everything we know about the neurotic process, its etiology, its therapy and its prevention, is related to the fate of hidden memories."
It was goodbye to all those years on the couch in psychoanalysis, with its dependence on words to recapture memories in the pursuit of therapeutic insight. Now the vision was a quick fix-Kubie even made a crack about Marcel Proust on the operating table. Yes, just put the patient on the operating table, get those memories, and analyze them later, or "make preoperative studies of what could be released under the influence of various narcotics and other dissociative agents." (15)
Kubie reported his revelations to an enthusiastic Berne. This is what Berne had been waiting for to provide "scientific" proof for his hypothesis of the historical reality of the three alter ego states, Parent, Adult and Child. Goodbye to Superego, Ego and Id! This was the "poor-manís psychoanalysis," a Model T Ford to carry the common folk and their children to mental health and "OK-ness"! The TA movement was rolling, and out of that rolled the infamous "reparenter," Jacqui Schiff.
Claude Steiner, prominent member and scientific advisor to the ITAA, wrote recently in an issue of the TA bulletin:
On the neuroscience end Berne frequently referred to Penfieldís findings in which stimulation of certain parts of the brain of waking subjects, presumably in an Adult Ego State, aroused vivid childhood memories. Based on this information, Berne assumed that the two ego states, adult and child, and later a third that he called the Parent, had specific anatomical representations within the brain." (16)I understand that Dr Steiner is still searching the neural networks for the two missing ego states!
However, subsequent research has proven that Penfield was wrong. These reported flashbacks were really more like waking dreams. Out of 520 patients, only 40 produced "experiential responses," and subsequent studies have shown that such "experiential responses" occur only when limbic structures, believed to be essential for emotional experiences, are activated, thus filling out the experience with a sense of emotional "remembered" familiarity. (17) Dr. Margaret Singer, who had observed Penfieldís experiments while she was in graduate school, told me in a personal conversation, "None of us (graduate students) thought that these effects were anything but hallucinations." Memory is fluid, and like personality undergoes continual change. It can metamorphose moment by moment, depending on circumstances. This Marcel Proust understood better than Lawrence Kubie!
Catharsis. AT practitioners believe that expressing rage and pent-up anger through catharsis will result in a psychic cleansing. Freud claimed the first "cathartic cure." It was the case of Anna O, who was "cured" by his benefactor and friend Joseph Breuer. Anna became the poster girl of psychoanalysis and was featured in Studies in Hysteria (1895), a book Freud wrote with a most reluctant Dr. Breuer.
Why was Breuer reluctant? Because, in fact, Anna O was not cured of her ailments, which most probably stemmed from frustration at the rigid upbringing and lack of opportunity for upper-class Jewish Viennese girls, exhaustion from caring for her dying and authoritarian father, and dismay at not being told about his death until six weeks afterwards, on the advise of her doctor!
After a year of getting nowhere, the exasperated Breuer dumped the miserable Anna O in a local hospital, still experiencing the painful facial neuralgia she presented with, and now, in addition, enduring morphine addiction. Anna Oís real name was Bertha Pappenheim, and having cured herself sometime later, she became a highly esteemed social reformer and humanitarian. She led a rich and rewarding life, making dangerous trips to the Balkans to rescue orphaned children. She translated ancient Jewish texts, and is said to have observed that in a more rational world the men would bear the children and the women write the laws! She was well known for her humor, her parties and dinners where only one subject was verboten. That was psychoanalysis! (18)
Catharsis was in fact another a late nineteenth century fad. A popular book was published in the 1870s reviving the old mesmeric method. It suggested discovering the original trauma by the use of narcotics and eliminating it by abreaction! In fact, it resembles the rites of purging and bleeding!
Now in defense of the Greeks who have been blamed for the idea of "catharsis," it must be said that this is not what Aristotle meant when he used the word. For Aristotle, "catharsis" described the response of an audience to the dramas of ancient Greece. It signified the humanizing effect on the audience through the emotions of pity, fear and finally resolution, through identification with the protagonist. It is hard to imagine an audience of Greek men sitting through a production of Sophoclesí Oedipus at Colonus, with anything but rapt attention and reverence. No scenes of violence were permitted on stage. This was sacred space. Catharsis has as little to do with ancient Greece as Freudís character Oedipus has to do with the man of Sophoclesí great story, which is more about an abandoned baby--and road rage! The bloody displays of violence in the gladiator shows of the Romans produced a reactive discharge, but no resolution. They just wanted more and more blood. And as psychologist Carol Tavris had observed, excessive displays of rage do not decrease the rage, but in fact increase their propensity. (19)
Multiple personalities. This model states that several alter egos or entities can inhabit a human body, remaining distinct and ignorant of one another. In May-June, 1998 the Skeptical Inquirer ran a long and very well researched article on the subject, which is now referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder written by a psychiatrist, August Piper Jr. He writes, "An epidemic of psychiatric illness is sweeping through North America. Before 1980 a total of no more than about two hundred cases had ever been found throughout the entire recorded history of psychiatry. Yet today some proponents of the condition claim that it afflicts a tenth of all Americans." (20) Multiple personality disorder was a late nineteenth century fad (another psychic epidemic) that emerged from hypnotism. Some sensational cures were claimed, for instance the case of Elizabeth Beauchamp, who was "cured" by Walter Franklin Prince. [Dr. Crossman is referring to the case of Doris Fischer which was presented by Dr. Prince in Volume 9 of the Journal of the Society for Psychic Research. Sally Beauchamp was a patient of Dr. Morton Prince, author of Dissociation of a Personality. - Astraea]
These cures caught the imagination of novelists and playwrights. It was also used as a defense in some criminal cases. However, according to Henri Ellenberger, there was a reaction against the concept of multiple personality. It was alleged that the investigators had been duped by mythomaniac patients and that they had involuntarily shaped the manifestations they were observing. (21)
[Don't worry, we'll be in touch with Ms. Crossman about this. - Astraea]
The demonization of the victim. Evil is in the child, whether in the form of hate-laden fantasies of the first early weeks of life, as suggested by Madeleine Klein, or as repressed explosive rage, which the AT practitioners would have us believe, or the negative injunctions of the "witch mother" of the TA school. The child is, in other words, possessed, and thus has superhuman strength and is very dangerous, with no human characteristics except hate and rage. He/she has no empathy nor conscience. All raging Id! All RAD kids are therefore considered potential mass murderers. A woman convicted of beating her two-year-old adopted son to death claimed at first that it was self-defense. Resistance is assumed to be a deliberate and forceful effort on the part of the patient not to get better, thus requiring an escalation in the level of intervention, until the victim breaks, submits, or dies. And since RAD kids, like Jacqui Schiffís hebephrenics, are claimed to be insensitive to pain, more pain must be applied.
A degenerate and recently delicensed AT "expert," Dr. John Dicke, former clinical director of the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Institute of Colorado, stated the following in a letter to a local paper on the occasion of the death of Candace and the trial of the therapists responsible:
"In many ways Candace was "the devil" that we are afraid of in all of us. She was destined to a life of misery and perhaps drug abuse, living on the street or in prison. Instead of homicide maybe they (Watkins and Ponder) should have been charged with defiling a corpse, for Candace Newmakerí soul died the day her unable mother cast her aside.(22)"I attended a two-day workshop in the fall of 2000, a few months after the death of Candace Newmaker. It was approved by the California Board of Behavioral Science Examiners, the California licensing board, and sponsored by the California Association For Play Therapy. It was advertised as "Attachment and Play Therapy."
The workshop cost $250 and provided thirteen units of continuing education. It was in fact a showcase for the Attachment Center at Evergreen and featured Neil Feinberg, LCSW, therapist at Evergreen for the last seventeen years and colleague of Connell Watkins. The whole event was highly staged. Participants passed through a room with stacks of "nature company" type toys and tables of books about play therapy, sand tray work, and "theraplay," which is another name for Holding Therapy. Once inside participants were seated at round tables. The tables were piled high with candy; candy (like lactose in motherís milk) is assumed to be a bonding agent. One table had been set up like a sand tray and participants were asked to place "healing stones" on this virtual altar. Overall, the event had a mystical overtone.
Then Feinberg began. The title of his lecture was "Parenting Attachment Disordered Children through ĎTheraplayí." Evergreen, he said, had treated adoptees from all over the world, all of whom suffered from Reactive Attachment Disorder, Attachment Disorder, (RAD plus ODD, etc.), and Bipolar Disorder. The three categories could be distinguished by the childís reaction to the drugs Risperdol and Zyprexa (though not Prozac). His presentation was fast and rehearsed, like a stage comedian, and several people readily found humor in what he said about his child-patients. His jokes were always at the expense of the child! He then demonstrated techniques of effective parenting, that is, the establishment of total control over the child, including "permission to breath." More than anything else he stressed the criminal nature of all RAD children and recounted horror stories. A token "grateful family" was present, minus the child, to add their experiences.
We were then shown three videos, the first of babies and toddlers in a Russian orphanage, looking morose. Then came two videos of theraplay at work. The videos were highly disturbing. In one, a small and clearly terrified Asian child of about seven was restrained by Feinberg, who rubbed his knuckles over the boyís ribs and tickled him relentlessly in order to "activate" him. Then the boy was passed around a circle of assistants, who proceeded to act out a psychodrama by shouting about his being given away by his birth mother. He was ordered to shout, "How could you give me away?" to his imaginary birth mother.
Another video showed a girl of about five being subjected to "Line of Sight Supervision." She was followed everywhere with a video camera, which was clearly distressing to the child, who ends up huddling and weeping and hiding her head, while her mother continued videotaping. When I asked what had happened to these children, Feinberg shrugged and continued with his presentation. When I asked him about the death of Candace, his only comment was "Terrible that it should happen to her!" Presumably he was referring to the rebirthing of Candace. But he was talking about Watkins, not Candace! He said he had worked with Watkins and she was an excellent therapist. He had also trained with Jacqui Schiff. When I asked him if he knew her book, All My Children, he said, "Great book, but we donít take them that far back."
The second day was "experiential" and dealt with rebirthing. The instructor was Lali Mitchell, MFCC, who runs a training program in Expressive Arts Therapy at the Sky Mountain Institute in Escondido, California. (It was here that Douglas Gosney did his 300 rebirthings!) Mitchell teaches "higher consciousness" and has a "Masters" in Neurolinguistic Programming. Although this was only a few months after the death of Candace, she claimed, when asked, that she knew nothing about it. "How sad! Rebirthing is not so scary," she said, and we were shown a couple of videos of "play" rebirthing, a child crawling through a canvas tube, or putting itself into a bag and then jumping out. Real birth, she said, was the problem. The baby is conscious during birth, and this trauma sets up a template for all future trauma. A Caesarean baby, for example, will grow up to lack initiative. (Like Julius Caesar, perhaps?) A breach baby will grow up to be impulsive. The cord around the neck eventually can lead to suicide. Then we saw a video of a four-year-old playing with a sand tray and some toy animals. We were told that he was in fact describing his life in a toxic womb. The womb itself can be a dangerous place. The only solution is to redo the whole trauma and as soon as possible. Manipulative "kiddie primals" are being performed on neonates by her colleague, Dr. William Emerson, the expert on "birth trauma."
Following this, participants were asked to shut their eyes while Mitchell described the plight of the baby trapped in a toxic womb. After that, we were softly asked to visualize and experience our own births, or--clearly targeting those women who had had abortions--the anguish of the fetus who knows he is about to die! Participants were asked to mold shapes from lumps of cold, clammy clay as they visualized. The room was cold and melancholy; nondescript music was piped in. Some people were quietly sobbing. Then the lights went up, more candy was brought in and we were asked to share our experiences as we munched. Even I, understanding how manipulative the presenter was, felt myself become weepy. Facilitators were on hand to comfort the distressed; names and e-mail addresses were exchanged. And it was over.
What was actually shocking to me was that only one person, other than myself, protested at what had transpired. Most appeared moved and grateful! There were about 100 participants--mostly female--marriage and family counselors, with a few LCSWs and some still in training and under supervision, who were there on the recommendation of their supervisors. Most were working in connection with State childrenís services or adoption agencies. Their responses to the seminar were disturbing.
These were mental health professionals. Yet there appeared to be no awareness of the blatant emotional manipulation that was going on. More disturbing, they appeared to be unaffected by the cruelty shown on the videos of the previous day, although some had clearly been moved by the video of the Russian orphanage. Perhaps this was because they had already demonized the RAD child as they had been instructed.
Curious about the "rebirthing" of babies, I decided to attend a workshop on infant rebirthing, this one sponsored and approved by the Association for Prenatal and Parental Psychology and Health, for five more credits. The workshop was in the Cathedral Hill Hotel in downtown San Francisco, where a conference of midwives was going on. Our group had a separate detached room. It was round and "womblike"--at least that is what participants were saying. The presenter was psychologist William Emerson, a highly esteemed board member of APPPH. Emerson runs an institute in Petaluma offering "Emerson Training Seminars," in many hotels across the country. His training includes "infant, child and adult regressions, also shadow and spiritual work." He works with North Carolina obstetrician Bob Oliver, also on the board of directors of AAPPPH. Emerson, like Zaslow, who also studied psychology at San Jose State in the 60s and believes that all human unhappiness is the result of unresolved birth trauma. These unacknowledged, i.e. repressed, traumas produce a "shadow" that dooms a person for life. (The word "shadow" was filched from Carl Jung.) Therefore, the best thing is to start therapy as early as possible with babies and even neonates. So Emerson trains his students to resolve birth trauma in babies, hands on and under his supervision. However, in order to be able to communicate and empathize with the infant undergoing this ordeal, the trainee must first go through his or her own series of regressions, the "core regression" being back to the ultimate and prebirth condition, and hopefully spelling the end of the doom saying shadow.
Emersonís workshop had more of such mystical trimmings, and in some ways reminded me of a s√©ance, a kind of secret gathering. There were about 35 people present--midwives, doulas, a couple of chiropractors, one past-life regressionist, and some of Emersonís graduate students. There was talk about "thought fields." All participants seemed true believers in Emerson and his process. They even credited him with psychic powers. Emerson himself is superficially engaging, quite charming, and clearly a true believer in what he does. Several participants had already undergone regressions with him or under his supervision. I spoke with one anxious elderly man who had already undergone four regressions but was not yet done eliminating his shadow. He looked forward to his next and maybe last regression, after which he would be able to begin working with babies himself. He spoke with enthusiasm about observing a five-month-old baby, who screamed and kicked for half an hour, while undergoing "treatment."
The presentation continued with Emersonís associate Bob Oliver, an affable obstetrician who claims to be able to talk to newborn babies and diagnose their birth traumas from what they tell him. Since babies canít talk, that can only mean -- telepathy! Birth traumas are put right immediately by recreating the birth canal trauma with painful manual manipulation ("kiddie primals"). The baby screams and struggles. Once over, the ordeal is followed by up to ten minutes of forced eye contact. At the end of all this, the baby has mastered only one trauma. There may be others, and therefore, more sessions. There are videos of these procedures, along with the testimony of grateful parents. One young mother said she feared that her baby was possessed, because she cried so much! In one case of toxic womb, where a mother had smoked cigarettes while pregnant, both Emerson and Oliver recommended what they called a homeopathic solution--placing a piece of gauze soaked in nicotine over the umbilical wound of the newborn!
All this is done to produce a new spiritual being! In fact, babies undergoing this therapy are described as pioneers in the spiritual quest to produce a trauma-free child-- obedient, unaggressive, and maybe with the ability to create beautiful water colors from inner images in shades of indigo. Goodbye science, this is a new religion!
Maybe this is the descent into the tide of black mud predicted by Freud, a descent into the heart of darkness.
Since questions were encouraged, I asked about the death of Candace. Emerson said that Watkins had gone too far; otherwise she was an excellent therapist. Someone then said that Candace had not been killed--she had just decided to leave her body. There was general agreement on this. Emerson said that he was given his spiritual task, i.e., healing birth trauma, by his spiritual guru, Swami Mukdananda, who was introduced to the US during the 70s by Werner Erhart and had an ashram in Oakland, California. (About ten years ago the Swami decided to leave his body after being charged with child molestation)
After the workshop was all over I had a chance to talk with Emerson and Oliver over a social drink. Both had been impressed by my old friend Eric Berne. Emerson also knew of Jacqui Schiff. However, he seemed more impressed by the work of her disciple, Pam Levin, a nurse and teaching member of the International Transactional Analysis Association who offers "soft core" regressions in Ukiah, California. John Bradshaw of TV fame spent time up there and in fact recommends Levinís work in one of his books. Bob Oliver spent time in Poona, India, in the late 70s with Bhagwan Rajneesh, for whom he expressed the greatest admiration.
Death the TA WayIn 1966, following a favorable newspaper review, a book written by psychiatrist Eric Berne captured the public imagination. It bore the intriguing title, Games People Play: the Psychology of Human Relationships. The book introduced Transactional Analysis, a systematic theory of personality and communication. It became a runaway best seller and a coffee table necessity. It inspired a song and added words like "warm and fuzzy" to the English language. It gave the word "game" a new and somewhat sinister, (and therefore exciting) meaning. It changed the world!
The human personality, Berne said, consisted of three ego states. The parent you once had, the child you once were, and the adult. The parent and child are emotional and fixed in time, the adult is rational and unemotional. These ego states can be represented graphically as a stack of three circles; in fact, that is the logo used even now by the International Transactional Analysis Association. Sometimes these ego states are in conflict. Miscommunication happens when transactions between people are crossed. And indeed this is true, assuming we are using these words as metaphors describing the way people behave in situations where issues of control arise--behaviors that may have a lot to do with family dynamics.
So far so good.
These crossed transactions form the basis for the games people play with one another. While some games are benign, others are deadly because they advance a life script, which ends with tragedy of one kind or another. Berne believed that these scripts were given to us by our parents through a series of negative injunctions, and we have incorporated these injunctions into our parent ego states. Figure out the injunctions, learn TA and every thing will be OK. I should point out that these injunctions covered a wide variety of human problems, from alcoholism to homosexuality (later omitted!).
Following the success of the book Berneís reputation grew. He was no longer considered a maverick; he reluctantly turned into a media star. Membership increased and the International Transactional Analysis Association grew in size and inflation. Institutes were set up across the county, offering "treatment training groups." In other words, for a fee you could get a two-for-one deal: advanced ITAA membership (clinical membership and/or teaching membership). This gave you the right to both practice as a clinician and set up you own institute to teach TA. Plus you got therapy for yourself all at the same time! As you worked on your own problems, you were also setting up your future career.
So what is the validity of the theory causing such frenzied activity?
In the media frenzy and moneymaking that followed the public birth of TA, Berne lost control of his movement and died from a massive heart attack at the age of 60 in July, 1970. A few months later another book was published. This was Jacqui Schiffís All My Children. This infamous book has been referred to as the Reparenterís Bible. Eric Berne never read it. The galley proof arrived in his office a couple of weeks after his death, with a request from the editor for a review.
And TA became dogmatic, with a limiting and at times thought-stopping private language of slick phrases. After 1970 it was downhill all the way as the theory contracted and ossified and pathologised, and being not "OK" was no longer unfortunate, but quite literally NOT OK! The only OK position was IíM OK and YOUíRE OK. In fact, by 1975, TA talk had been reduced to about 400 terms and phrases, mostly with negative connotations For example the phrase "Youíve Got to Listen" becomes "an underworld operation where the inmate of an institution demands the right to make complaints which are often irrelevant." (23)
Who was Eric Berne? Berne was a Canadian-born psychiatrist who had served as an army psychiatrist during the Second World War. In those days to get anywhere near the top layers of the psychiatric world an analysis was necessary. Berne spent years in analysis, which got him nowhere, and in the end he was rejected for membership by the American Psychoanalytic Association. Deeply wounded by his rejection, Eric sought to outdo the APA by creating his own system, which he described as a Model T Ford, a more workable and less costly model for the understanding of human behavior. (24) In 1961 he had published "Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy." A number of people were attracted by the simplicity and cheerful colloquial language, and would attend his Tuesday evening social psychiatry seminars at his home in San Francisco to exchange "bright ideas" and enjoy Eric. He gathered a small band of followers, some from Europe, and in 1964 started the International Transactional Analysis Association. I attended these meeting from 1965 to 1969.
So whatís wrong with TA?Ego states are not real entities with lives of their own. They are metaphors. And there is no such thing as psychic energy (see above). In addition, although sounding simple, ego states are in fact quite complex. TA teaches that each ego state contains its own set of three ego states. In addition the parent ego state is divided into two parts "the nurturing parent" (good) and "the critical parent" (bad). The child ego state is likewise divided into two parts, the "natural child" (good) and the "adapted child" (bad or damaged). Thus, a multitude of sub-personalities is created, all sharing the same energy system. This energy remains constant at all times, according to an imaginary constancy hypothesis. This hypothesis is graphically demonstrated by Jack Dusay, another disciple of Berne, in the form of a bar graph. The energy can be distributed among the ego states, but more often it is in only one ego state at a time. Sometimes it can ooze into another ego state, contaminating it. And since we know for a fact that human unhappiness and mental illness is caused by internalized parental negative injunctions, then why not perform a parent-ectomy, deflating the parent ego state by withdrawing the energy and redirecting it into a more satisfactory child, who is then reparented. Sound logical?
It was decided early on that the real pathogen was an entity called "witch mother," aided and abetted by the "troll father," the internalized mom and dad. For some reason, they both hated their offspring. But witch mother was the really bad one--and dangerous to boot!
The witch mother is described in the TA text, What Do You Say After You Say Hello:
"The witch mother can be described as the demon and is the same as the original concept of the Id. It is an Id impulse experienced as a living voice, the voice of the actual parent, or more precisely, the demon in the parent, the evil child, implanted in the child and activated and brought to life as by an electrode. (25)"So people are unhappy, self-destructive or mentally ill because they are scripted and there is nothing they can do about it unless a trained TA therapist can remove the spell by overpowering the witch mother. (26)
In fact Leonard Campos, colleague of Eric Berne, says
The therapist counteracts the destructive parental injunctions from the child of the parent, just as it was the task of the witch doctor in primitive and medieval times to ward off so-called evil spirits. Once liberated of witchy messages, the client is free to exert his Adult power to further his own autonomous growth." (27)In fact, the topic of witchcraft pervaded the whole TA scene in San Francisco, and in 1969 Claude Steiner introduced the term "Warm and Fuzzy" into the language in the form of a fairy tale (presumably about the origin of evil). It is about a happy town where happy people exchanged "Warm Fuzzies" which were in unlimited supply and everybody was OK. Then one day a wicked witch flew into town. Hating to see people happy, she wrecked the economy, flooding the market with "Cold Pricklies" and everybody became NOT OK! I believe they were saved a TA therapist. (28)
So it all comes down to witchcraft! It was also Jacqui Schiffís belief that schizophrenia was caused by the "crazy" witch mother, the child ego state of the mother, embedded in the parent ego state which the patient had incorporated. This had to be removed by eliminating the parent and adult by regressing the patient and turning him/her back into a baby. However, since this entity could lie dormant and re-emerge as homicidal rage, these regressed kids had to be watched carefully. (29)
The Killing of John HartwellJohn Hartwell was a sixteen-year-old suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. He was killed in 1972. He was undergoing treatment in a new and innovative program, a therapeutic community-it actually attempted to be a family--in Alamo, California. The family was created and dominated by a psychiatric social worker, Jacqui Schiff, a student of Eric Berne. She represented herself as a "Miracle Worker" who could cure schizophrenics, using Transactional Analysis, by regressing them to infants and then reparenting them. In 1970 she had published a book, All My Children, in which she described her work, theory and methods of treatment. Johnís concerned parents had placed him in the program as an alternative to hospitalization and medication.
But John did not improve. His condition worsened. He was having hallucinations and could not follow instructions. He could not or would not regress ("cathect child" as Schiff put it) and take the baby bottle, which was the way Schiff believed schizophrenics should behave.
Although never violent in his own home, according to his mother, he was handcuffed to his bed. On October 23, Carl, one of the other patients, removed the handcuffs and a scuffle ensued. Naturally, John tried to defend himself. He was then taken to the bathroom by Aaron Schiff, a reparented patient whom Jacqui Schiff had adopted, who was the poster boy for Schiffís brand of reparenting. Aaron had been put in charge of the other patients at the time of the incident. In the bathroom, John was stripped, hog-tied, and lowered into a bathtub of scalding water, where he remained for twenty minutes. Aaron returned to the bathroom with a jug and poured more hot water over the exposed parts of Johnís body. John was removed from the bathtub when Carol noticed that the skin on Johnís hands and feet was peeling off. He died in hospital three days later from second and third degree burns over 70% of his body. (30)
Blood and skin were removed from the bathtub by a female patient on the orders of Jacqui Schiff. When the police arrived, the tub was clean. (31)
Jacqui claimed that there had been a problem with the water heater.
As a result of the Grand Jury investigation which followed, Aaron, her adopted son, who had become a therapist at the facility, pled guilty to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter, later reduced to misdemeanor child abuse.
Schiff lost her license to run the facility and Cathexis was shut down.
After that she went underground, that is, she reparented patients in unlicensed "therapeutic" houses and set up the Cathexis Institute in Oakland, California. (32)
She had nothing to worry about. She was already a highly regarded Teaching Member of the International Transactional Analysis Association, and Aaron was already a "clinical member" of the organization. In 1974, just two years after the death of John Hartwell, the ITAA presented Jacqui and Aaron Schiff with its most prestigious award, "The Eric Berne Scientific Memorial Award." Following the death in 1970 of TAís founder, Eric Berne, the ITAA was in need of new leadership and a new cutting edge theory. Schiff had already published a second book in 1975, The Cathexis Reader: Transactional Analysis in the Treatment of Psychosis, which she had written with Aaron and several of her "children."
Schiff developed theories on "passivity" and "discounting" to explain how people fail to solve problems. Her particular theories and methods were incorporated into the corpus of TA dogma -and it is still there today. Schiffís philosophy of treatment and control took over.
Members of the ITAA seeking advanced membership and clinical or teaching membership were required to undergo "treatment training" with Jacqui, including partial regression and reparenting. This ensured a loyal following of supporters who would refer patients to her and build their careers around her teachings. TA was going through a new phase--Schiff-speak was added to the vocabulary--together with a morbid fascination with pathology, models and diagrams.
Schiff was not the only influence on TA. In 1972 the president of the ITAA, a psychiatrist, wrote an article for a psychiatric magazine praising the work of Werner Erhart, the creator of est. Several members of the organization were dabbling with est and its confrontative and authoritarian methods.
Like Foster Cline, Jacqui Schiff, together with her husband Moe, started out with a youth program. They began the Youth Rehabilitation Program in Fredericksburg, Virginia, a therapeutic community in a private home for "troubled teens," in 1965.
One day a disturbed and bearded young man came to Jacqui, curled up on her lap and attempted to suckle, or so the story goes. Jacqui describes the incident in All My Children. She says, "His face was clearly that of a baby of about nine months of age, a nursing infant." Apparently this was a spontaneous regression. The young man was Dennis, adopted and renamed Aaron by Jacqui Schiff-- the person responsible for John Hartwellís death.
After that her "family" grew, as more young adults were referred to her to be reparented this way. All her patients were now labeled as schizophrenic or hebephrenic, and therefore homicidal, regardless of what their original diagnosis had been. Regression techniques were now incorporated into the setting. She referred to these young adults as "our babies"--required that they learn and only use "Schiff-speak" and refer to her as Mom. Contact with the birth parents was strictly forbidden, since they were the cause of the trouble.
She became famous, touring the country with her circus of reparented kids, some of them still "babies." She appeared on television and the New York Times ran an article about her. She was represented as a heroine, bringing troubled and dangerous patients into her home and curing them with loving-kindness. Nothing could be farther from the truth! She managed to get the passive support of Eric Berne, now in poor health and preoccupied with family concerns, and made a presentation at his Tuesday Seminar in 1969.
The same year the Transactional Analysis Bulletin ran a series of articles entitled "Reparenting in Schizophrenics" with a favorable introduction by Eric Berne, whose attitude was that, strange as the process sounded--it worked! He knew nothing about the violence and believed the cures were brought about by "positive stroking" or loving kindness!
At this time little was known about schizophrenia and its treatment. The traditional method of treatment at the time was to provide safety, comfort and meaningful occupation in an asylum, a State Hospital--with whatever medication was available at the time.
Needless to say there was much speculation among the psychoanalytic community as to the etiology of this disease. Since Bowlby, Spitz and Harlow had demonstrated the importance of maternal bonding, it was suggested and then assumed that schizophrenia was the result of defective mothering. The "refrigerator mother" was identified as the source of the problem.
John Rosen, a Freudian and protťgť of Paul Federn, the leading training analyst at the time, claimed that schizophrenics had not been loved in childhood and sought to resolve their psychosis by addressing the Id in the only language it would understand--through a method he called Direct Analysis. This involved "regressing" the patient by yelling insults and terrifying him, sometimes pinning the patient to the floor and yelling, "I can castrate you! I can kill you! I can do whatever I want to you--but Iím not going to." (34) Rosen was highly regarded by the psychiatric community and in 1971 was honored by the American Academy of Psychotherapists as "Man of the Year." However, in 1983 he surrendered his license, having been found guilty of criminal acts against patients and gross medical misconduct. As it turned out, most of his patients were never schizophrenic in the first place.
Marguerite Sechehaya, a Swiss psychoanalyst, practiced a gentler method. She treated a schizophrenic girl for several years in her home, practicing symbolic realization. She treated the girl like a baby and fed her pieces of apple, which symbolized breast milk. Ronald Lang, an English maverick analyst, claimed to have observed one total and spontaneous regression.
So along comes Jacqui Schiff, who also claims that she can turn her patients back into babies.
But what was really going in Fredericksburg? Nothing good. In 1971, the facility was shut down, a patient had brought charges of assault and battery against Jacqui Schiff, saying he had been beaten bloody, tied to a bed and gagged. At the inquiry that followed, Marian Hallet, a former patient, described an atmosphere of terror in which the cardinal sin was failing to call Schiff "Mom." For that, patients could expect a severe beating. She said one patient was forced to drink dishwashing detergent every time he mentioned his natural parents. She said that she had once seen Schiff suckling a male patient and that she too had been offered Schiffís breast with the caveat not to be too disappointed if Mom failed to produce milk. She also said that Schiff had promised not to kill her, unless it was absolutely necessary! (35)
The municipal judge charged Schiff and her reparented and adopted son Eric with assault and battery and the facility was shut down. Jacqui fled, taking some of the family with her and leaving the rest behind, and after having been refused permission to operate in Ohio, she came to California. Initially, she was given a ward at Gladman Hospital in Oakland, a traditional psychiatric hospital, on the basis of her connection with Eric Berne. After six months, having created chaos in an otherwise well-run hospital, she moved on and set up shop in Alamo in a residential home. A few months later John Hartwell was killed.
Mitch Rouzie, who was a patient there, reports:
As a patient at Cathexis Institute I was subject to a twenty-four-hour-a-day regimen of confrontation that lasted several months. The reputed goal was to change passive behavior into active behavior (passivity being a cardinal sin--failure to solve a problem and being exhausted was interpreted as resistance to be broken). Consequences for passive behavior included daily verbal abuse and having to stand in the corner for long periods of time. There were also whippings or spankings. I witnessed and received strangely formalized spankings, some with riding crops, switches, or paddles on bare skin. I became sore and numb and was willing to comply with anything Schiff expected of me. As a Cathexis staff member I allowed, encouraged and engaged in all of the above behavior." (36)Marian Hallet, who was also there at the time but escaped with the help of the Fredericksburg police, says that she was beaten and insulted. Once, when Jacqui was drunk -- she was a heavy drinker -- she was offered Jacquiís breast to suck on. She states that one occasion a regressed patient, Danny C., tried to run away. Jacqui had him tied to the leg of the coffee table and he had to stay under the table for a week. When he tried to crawl out she would kick him. A rope was then attached to his waist and Aaron and the other "big boys" would lead him around like a tethered cow.
Marian said she simulated regression to avoid punishment and is sure that the other kids were also putting on an act, and for the same reason. She has written about her experiences. In a letter sent to ITAA she states: She said Jacqui would demand direct eye contact whenever she chose and any kid who did not respond with direct eye contact would be beaten.
Finally, here are some brief passages from All My Children, described on the book jacket as "the story of sick kids getting well. It is the story of how a remarkable form of therapy was discovered and how that therapy works. It is the story of love and courage that has as many implications for normal child rearing as for the curing of the mentally ill."
"This is how she cured Aaron's castration fears. Dennis, now legally adopted by Jacqui and Moe and renamed Aaron, was stripped naked. "Naked, Aaron was strapped securely in a restraining chair. As I approached him with a large hunting knife, I was sure that he believed I would indeed castrate him. Maybe he really wanted to be castrated. "Then as I laid the edge of the knife against his naked genitals, Aaron's face drained of color.It is amazing that few people paid attention at the time to violence and obscenity of this ghastly book (currently recommended by ATTACH). But then Jacqui had by now diagnosed all her patients as hebephrenic-"hebephrenia being the most regressive of all the schizophrenias--and the most dangerous." (38) Hebephrenics could be seductive and charming, but they were all dangerous and potential killers. (Shades of Candace and RAD!)
What happened to the thirty kids who made up the Schiff family, who were taught to regard one another as siblings? We already know that one was killed. In addition, there have been at least four suicides. (39) Four, including Shea Schiff, Aaron Schiff, and Eric Sigmund Schiff, are all members of the ITAA and hold high rank as teaching members. Two who have survived are friends of minute--the rest have disappeared, since Jacqui Schiff kept no records and could, if she wanted to, expel a patient with no referral to any other agency.
Marian Hallet, who spent seven months in the facility before she escaped, contacted the ITAA appealing for help in stopping the abuse. She was referred to a teaching member who told her she was a bad kid, and no, she would do nothing to help-because Marian was lying!
Erro Kerss, who was with Jacqui in 1968 but escaped in 1972 shortly before the death of John Hartwell, called the ITAA for help, but was referred to a male psychiatrist, also a teaching member, who told him to stop playing the game Ain't It Awful and cathect his nurturing parent. But he took Erro's MediCal sticker anyway, so the State would be sure to reimburse him for Erro's "therapy."
However, by 1978 the Board of Trustees of the ITAA instituted an inquiry into Jacqui's activities. A patient managed to get through to the Ethics Committee. (40) (I have been told that the patient subsequently committed suicide. She may have been the patient who was forced to clean out the tub after John Hartwell's torture.)
Although the ITAA ethical investigation revealed multiple testimonies of shocking abuses, and although the majority of the investigating committee wanted to censure her, she threatened to sue. Instead, she was asked to submit a complete manual of her reparenting techniques for peer approval. Her refusal to do so became her de facto resignation from the ITAA. In the early eighties she ended in Bangalore, India, leaving her entire family behind in California. In Bangalore she founded the School for Spiritual Strength. But rumors of the death of a six-year-old Indian child surfaced, (41) and in 1985 Schiff found herself in England. There she set up a residential Cathexis clinic in Birmingham, causing consternation on the Birmingham City Council. (42)
The Cathexis Institute in Oakland continued her work under the supervision of Shea Schiff, an adopted son, and David Kline, a psychiatrist who lost his license a few years ago for molesting a regressed female patient. The abuse continued, fortunately coming to the attention of the Alameda County Mental Health Association. After that, Cathexis moved to San Diego and changed its name.
Jacqui made yearly visits to the Eric Berne Seminar, where in 1981 she justified the use of violence by the assertion that rats injected with the blood serum of schizophrenics would not respond to positive reinforcement, but only to negative. These so-called experiments are in fact bogus. (43) Nobody attending the Seminar, except myself, asked, "What experiments?" She said she had been working in Bangalore, India with unmedicated patients and said she hoped to win a Nobel prize for isolating the blood serum of catatonia. Her immigration status was that of a missionary! She said she had adopted an Indian baby girl who was three months old and was a homicidal hebephrenic. (44)
In 1994 she attended one ITAA Conference in San Francisco. She arrived unannounced and over one hundred people lined up to pay homage. She died last year in 2003. But her movement is still spreading.
After the alleged expulsion of Jacqui Schiff, business went on as usual. The name "Reparenting" was changed to "Corrective Parenting," which many therapists claimed bore little resemblance from the work of Jacqui Schiff. Thus, they distanced themselves from their erstwhile mentor while retaining her methods. However, a doctoral thesis by Susan Smith, clinical member of the ITAA, built around a survey of 267 therapists known to be doing regressive work noted "twenty-two percent acknowledged spanking some of their regressed clients, eighty-two percent punished clients by standing them in a corner, and seven percent breast-fed their clients." (45)
Post-Schiff reparenting has not been without controversy. From 1984-94 four successful lawsuits were filed against reparenters in the Kansas City area. In 1988 the Kansas City Star ran a long article on the history and controversy surrounding reparenting. (46) In 1995 Changes magazine published an exposť of reparenting called "Call Me Mom." (47) In 1995 Dr. Margaret Singer devoted a chapter of her book Crazy Therapies to the subject. (48) In 1999 Andrew Meacham reviewed the Hartwell case in his book Selling Serenity. (49)
© 2003 - 2010 SkepticReport
Ain't it awful - In Transactional Analysis and other self-improvement scams, most human interactions are insincere, based on a series of scripts or "games". In "ain't it awful", the subject overtly expresses distress, but it is covertly gratified at the prospect of the satisfaction they can wring from their misfortune.
Kids Come First, exposing abusive "coercive holding therapy"
'A Most Dangerous Method' - More on Jacqui Schiff here
Hysteria Beyond Freud: The Image of the Hysteric More on the Victorian hysteria performances in early psychiatry. How people were trained to respond the way the doctors wanted them to.