FALSE MEMORIES OR HARD TRUTHS?
Virginia S. Wood, M.A. is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. This document is a transcript of a talk she gave to a luncheon group on the issues surrounding False Memory Syndrome, and is reproduced here with permission.
No therapist can remain aloof from the controversy over false memories. The False Memory Syndrome Foundation sharply criticizes the concept of repressed memories and the techniques used to retrieve them. Using research on memory and the reliability of adults' eyewitness testimony, the Foundation has carried the debate from the media to licensing boards and civil courtrooms across the country. Therapists need to be aware of the potential for malpractice in recovered memory therapy: A responsible practice is firmly grounded in the empirical literature and takes steps to reduce unnecessary risk to clients and client families. This presentation looks briefly at the history of the controversy, reviews some of the relevant research, and included recommendations for practice.
False Memories or Hard Truths?
According to Molly Ivins, Speaker Gib Lewis once opened a session of the Texas legislature by announcing that he was "filled with humidity." I think I know exactly what he meant.
A Family Fight
I first got interested in this topic last year when a client brought in a packet of materials her parents had obtained from the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. Certain claims they made immediately struck me as false, while others made me wonder if I were practicing responsibly. So I began reading everything I could get my hands on on this subject. As Mary Ellen and Carola can tell you, this has been a virtual obsession for me over the past year. Anyway, I'd like to share with you some of what I've learned about the history of this debate, about some of the key players, about what the research really says, and about how we can practice safely and responsibly and still work with survivors.
Our story begins with Jennifer Freyd, a PhD psychologist from Stanford who is tenured faculty at the University of Oregon, where, interestingly enough, she does research on memory (Bull & Marten, 1994). Three years ago, Dr. Freyd confronted her father with sexually abusing her, resulting in a cut-off of all communication (Wiscombe, 1994).
The False Memory Syndrome (FMS) Foundation was formed the following Spring by Dr. Freyd's parents (Taylor, 1992a; Wiscombe, 1994). An association for parents falsely accused by their children of sexual abuse, the Foundation has also functioned quite nicely as "a sophisticated public attack to intimidate [Dr. Freyd]" (Ryan, 1993a, p.13). A major concern, repeatedly voiced by the Foundation's critics -- who are legion, by the way -- is that it may function as a hiding place for child abusers (Ryan, 1993a). Indeed, two of the original professional advisory board, Ralph Underwager and Holida Wakefield, publicly describe pedophilia as a positive lifestyle choice (Bull & Marten, 1994; Ryan, 1993b). At best, according to others of its critics, the Foundation may simply represent "our wish to find other explanations for these terrible stories and a need to locate the problem outside of ourselves and our families" (Olio, 1994; p. 442). And so the battle was joined, a battle which is now being refought for the fourth time in a hundred years (Herman, 1992).
Why Do We Care?
OK, so the Freyds want to take their family spat public. Why should we care? One, because there's a lot of bad publicity for the profession in this (Jaroff, 1993), and two, because if you work with survivors, you and your clients are coming under direct attack (Horn, 1993; Loftus, 1994). These attacks have the potential to run you completely out of practice (Dorgan, 1994b); for example, last year thirty families went before the Ohio State Board of Psychology to ask for an investigation of therapists working with survivors (Hundley, 1993). Third, the Foundation has raised some legitimate issues here.
Therapists working with incest victims will regularly be confronted with media reports on False Memory Syndrome, as your clients are exposed to it and will bring it up for discussion. Victims often find this material disturbing, and you need to be familiar with it in order to deal with it appropriately in session. Further, perpetrators and non-abusing family members (and their attorneys) are very much aware of these reports, and will also bring them up with you.
Articles in reputable publications (Bower, 1993a, 1993b; Goleman, 1992; Horn, 1993; Toufexis, 1991; Wielawski, 1991) are generally balanced and fair, as are a few articles from teeny papers like the Sacramento Bee (Cooper, 1993). Even the good ones, though, include quotes from interviews which may be highly slanted.
Others (Jaroff, 1993; Sifford 1992b) are blatantly biased, decrying childhood abuse as a fad (Taylor, 1992a), a witchhunt (Shapiro, 1993), and an excuse for personal failures (Sifford, 1991); survivors as whiners (Sifford, 1992a), and their therapists as incompetent or worse (Herndon, 1992; Taylor, 1992b). Some writers (Okerbloom, 1992) focus on the supposed overdiagnosis of multiple personality, now Dissociative Identity Disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), and ritual abuse. Still others profile specific therapists whose practices do indeed appear to be way beyond the pale (Taylor, 1992c; Whitley, 1992). If you aren't familiar with the facts then you won't be able to address these issues either with your clients or with members of the public who, I fear, are getting a very distorted picture of who we are and what we do.
Attacks on Therapists and Clients
The FMS Foundation Newsletter issues appeals to direct action, detailing such tactics for accused parents as how to hire private detectives to investigate therapists, picket therapists' offices (What can families do, 1992), or infiltrate a survivors' group (Become informed, 1992). I am not making this up. In fact, I brought some samples for you to see.
The Foundation also distributes a three-page handout (Legal aspects, 1992) on parents' legal options -- and they report that requests for it have increased since the Ramona trial began (Dorgan, 1994b). This handout includes perfectly reasonable and fair legal information, but also suggests that parents might wish to seek custody of their incompetent adult offspring or an injunction to stop the therapist treating their grown child (p.,3)! I am not making this up.
The Foundation repeatedly challenges therapists to provide empirical support from their theories and practices, and it is quick to point out areas where this is lacking. They also function to remind us of what devastating consequences a false accusation can have. And, they remind us, our actions in therapy can and do have real-world legal consequences.
And In This Corner...
How are we as clinicians to understand this controversy? On the one hand are therapists who work with survivors of child sexual abuse every day, who say that traumatic memories can be repressed or dissociated and later brought to consciousness. And on the other hand are the FMS Foundation and the professionals carrying its banner, who believe that most, if not all, delayed accusations are false (Daves, 1991). They criticize therapy, therapists, self-help literature (Ofshe & Watters, 1993), and even radical feminism (Horn, 1993). Who we believe is to some degree more a matter of our personal politics than of science (Berliner & Loftus, 1992); whether we stick to our beliefs is largely a question of politics as well (Herman, 1992).
First, let's look at who the players are. We'll divide them into extremists and moderates.
Among the extremists is erstwhile divorce and custody expert Richard Gardner, who describes the women making delayed allegations as "angry paranoids, as are their therapists, who are, in addition, incompetent fanatics" (Wylie, 1993, p.23). Gardner believes that such women are projecting Oedipal fantasies onto their fathers, that their therapists encourage this because the therapists themselves are abuse survivors enraged at all men, and that, in any event, incest is not harmful Rather, he decries the cultural taboos against it (Wylie, 1993, p.23).
Richard Ofshe, (& Watters, 1993), a sociologist from the University of California at Berkeley (Horn, 1993) says that the concept of repression, itself based on untested assumptions, is being mis- and over-used. He calls into question such techniques as hypnosis, guided fantasy, automatic writing, bibliotherapy, and group therapy, and argues that most retrieved memories are confabulated accounts resulting from "experimenter effects" (Ofshe & Watters, 1993, p.8). As support for his case he rightly points out that some of the memories being recovered are just plain silly. I list him as an extremist because of his vitriolic tone and because he is frankly anti-therapy, period (Ofshe & Watters, 1993).
Speaking of radical feminists
Our roster of extremists would not be complete without social psychologist Carol Tavris (1993), who raises legitimate concerns about the disempowerment of adult women redefined as child victims. She sees their turning inward, attempting to locate the causes of their problems inside themselves and in their individual pasts, as diverting vital female energy away from social change. What is extreme to me about her view is her sense that the survivor movement is some sort of plot or backlash against women.
The moderate position
Typical of the moderates is George Ganaway (1989), who is on the Foundation's advisory board. George believes that there is a continuum of believability, with some memories stemming from intrapsychic/adaptive needs of the patient and not from external trauma, for example, to fill gaps in memory or for secondary gains. This, he says, may occur even in the wake of genuine trauma.
Elizabeth Loftus, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Washington, is one of the most prolific researchers in the area of fallibility of memories. She is also much in demand as an expert witness (Loftus & Ketcham, 1991). Her work is often cited by the Foundation in support of their claims of false memories, and she too is a member of their Advisory board.
She points out that the research in childhood amnesia consistently demonstrates that, beyond the age of about 10, few people remember anything that happened to them before they were 4 (Loftus, 1993a). Earlier apparent memories, therefore, if not based on educated guesses or historical accounts are bound to be false. She (1993b) notes that the theory of repression has largely case study and survey support (see also Loftus, 1994; Loftus & Loftus, 1980). If a memory can't be repressed, then it can't be retrieved. Even if a memory could be repressed, she says, there is no evidence that the de-repressed version would be accurate (Loftus, 1994). Nevertheless, therapists continue to pursue such memories aggressively (Loftus, 1993b, 1994), even when patients deny abuse at intake (Loftus, 1994).
Besides therapists suggesting abuse by their very pursuit of it, Loftus also believes that popular writings contribute to false memory syndrome (Loftus, 1993a). Worse, she believes that once a memory has become distorted, it is extremely difficult to restore it to its original pristine condition (Loftus & Loftus, 1980).
As you can see, this controversy includes many sub-controversies, each of them easily a speech unto itself. I will be focusing strictly on the issue of adults' recovered memories today, although I will allude to some of the side issues as we go along.
Earl Shinhoster of the NAACP wisely points out that you can't build a chimney from the top down. So let's start with some of the bricks that go at the bottom, and work our way up from there. The first brick, is always going to be your epidemiology. The second brick today, since we're not interested, for our purposes, in etiology of child abuse, will be its sequelae.
How often does sexual abuse happen? Well, an estimated 200,000 new cases are validated every year, and more cases are never reported (Horn, 1993). Diana Russell's by-now-classic study established that approximately one in every three woman may be survivors of child sexual abuse (1986). While most survivors never seek treatment, the proportion of abuse survivors among clinical populations ranges from 40% of all outpatients to 70% of psychiatric emergency room visits (Herman, 1992).
The results of more than a decade of published studies on childhood sexual abuse report strong associations between molestation and poor mental health in adulthood (Briere & Elliott, 1993; Elliott & Briere, 1992; Herman, Russell, & Trocki, 1986/1994). Incest is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, damaging (Alexander, 1992). Studies have found correlations between child sexual abuse and borderline personality disorder (Herman, Perry, & van der Kolk, 1989/1994), rates of revictimization (Wyatt, Guthrie, & Notgrass, 1992), dissociation (Chu & Dill, 1990; Saxe et al., 1993/1994), self-injurious behavior (van der Kolk, Perry, & Herman 1991/1994), and eating disorders (Herzog, Staley, Carmody, Robbins & van der Kolk, 1993). Attempts to establish clear causal relationships have produced somewhat equivocal results (Briere & Elliott, 1993; Nash, Hulsey, Sexton, Harralson, & Lambert, 1993) depending on the subjects, variables selected, definitions of terms, measurements used, statistical procedures, sample sizes, and so on (see Briere, 1992, for an extended discussion of these issues), but overall it appears safe to say that sexual abuse has quantifiable, lasting traumatic effects (Elliott & Briere, 1992).
The Research Literature
Unfortunately for clinicians, even when significant group differences are found, that doesn't always tell us whether or not the person sitting in front of us has been abused. The data may lend credibility to, or, conversely, raise questions about, her claims, but it's not likely to be definitive (see also Olio, 1994).
Nevertheless, I can't stress too much how important it is for you to be completely familiar with the relevant research literature, for three reasons: (a) the research contains extensive direct and indirect implications for responsible clinical practice, (b) you may be called on at any time to defend your practice and must be able to cite relevant theory and research, and (c) a therapy which disregards empirical findings is indefensible (Byrd, 1994; Dorgan, 1994b).
The Foundation's Newsletter contains repeated statements that they have data to support their claims. In fact, despite the presence of a number of psychologists on their advisory board, their data appear to consist of simple, uncontrolled counts of self-selected subjects and questionably relevant variables. For example, the Foundation collects personal stories and victims' correspondence from Foundation members. They have also tabulated the gender, age, and type of therapists accused of creating FMS (What do we know, 1992).
Elizabeth Loftus's work, on the other hand, is exquisite. She does not deal directly with issues of abuse, yet her studies have become central to the false memory debate. Her research on eyewitness testimony is being used to question the reliability of victims' recall of events, especially as regards child sexual abuse, and particularly when decades-old memories are involved. This is so despite concerns about the generalizability of her findings to clinical settings or to allegations of ongoing abuse by known perpetrators (Loftus, 1983a, 1983b, 1991).
We will review her work in three basic areas: Memory for traumatic events, how those memories can be tampered with, and how accuracy can be enhanced.
Memory for traumatic events
An oft-repeated claim of FMS proponents is that real incest survivors never forget. In two series of experiments, Dr. Loftus (Christianson & Loftus, 1987, 1991) tested that theory, that people are more likely to remember than to repress a traumatic event. She found that memory is enhanced for the central details, but decreased for peripheral details, which might indeed lead us to expect that a survivor would be more likely to have always remembered at least the central details of her worst experiences.
In discussing the results, however, Dr. Loftus (Christianson & Loftus, 1987, 1991) paid little attention to the rather large amount of forgetting that did occur under the traumatic experimental condition -- 23% of their subjects forgot peripheral details after a short interval, 54% could not even recall the essence of the event six months later, even with cues. Such large-scale forgetting could just as easily lead us to expect that massive repression or dissociation of traumatic memories may be as common as mud.
In another series of experiments, Dr. Loftus (Loftus & Burns, 1982) demonstrated that an emotional shock will also significantly reduce recall of details of events immediately preceding an upsetting occurrence. However, the results suggested, as she (1994) is fond of telling attorneys, that this may not be due to dissociation or repressions but to the information never having been encoded in the first place. Generalizing to clinical cases, we might expect that clients would never recover certain information by any means.
Finally, she (Loftus, Schooler, Boone, & Kline, 1987) has also established that the vast majority of witnesses, especially women, grossly overestimate elapsed time of an event, particularly for the most stressful ones.
There are potentially many ways to tamper with a memory (Loftus & Zanni, 1975). Two decades of Dr. Loftus's research have demonstrated the power of the leading question to do just that -- lead. Very subtle differences in the wording of a question can produce significantly different answers about the details of an event, both immediately afterwards and some time later. Apparently, new ideas suggested by leading questions become incorporated into the actual memory, for as many as 30% of the subjects in one study. Even if your questions aren't leading, it appears that the very fact of your enquiring about a detail within a complex event can increase (from 7% to 15%) the chance of it being reported as having occurred when in fact it did not (Loftus, 1975; Loftus, Miller, & Burns, 1978). For our purposes as therapists working to help resolve old issues, it is perhaps critical that these effects are most powerful when the misinformation is introduced after the original memory trace has had time to weaken or fade, and just prior to the memory test (Loftus et al., 1978). This is still a smallish effect, however, in that the gist of the events is not affected, and, after all, 85% of the subjects are not misled even about the extraneous details (Loftus & Zanni, 1975).
Finally, clinicians often trust their clients' sense of certainty about the accuracy of their memories. But Dr. Loftus (Donders, Schooler, & Loftus, 1987; cited in Loftus & Hoffman, 1989; Loftus, Donders, Hoffman, & Schooler, 1989) has also studied the speed and confidence with which people report erroneous information, and she has bad news. In two experiments (Loftus et al., 1989), volunteers were shown series of slides depicting a burglary, after which various bits of misinformation about details were introduced. When their memories for events were tested, overall accuracy was reduced when they had been exposed to misinformation. Interestingly, while control subjects showed less confidence in their answers when were mistaken, experimental subjects did not. These results replicated those of three earlier studies (Cole & Loftus, 1979; Donders et al., 1987, cited in Loftus & Hoffman, 1989; Loftus et al., 1978).
In yet another series of experiments, Dr. Loftus (Means & Loftus, 1991) tested subjects' memories for visits to the doctor during the preceding twelve months, and examined cognitive interventions for enhancing accurate recall. The results indicated that individual incidents in a series of related events are less likely to be recalled accurately than are single non-recurring events.
The experimenters then used a personal time line constructed for each subject to help anchor events during the year. Nondirective questions (what was the weather? how did you get there? how long did you have to wait?) were asked to break down patterns into individual visits. The number of events accurately recalled increased from 16% to 78%. Accuracy of dating improved only a little, from 19% correct (to within two weeks) to 30%.
Perhaps the information therapists acquire at intake interviews is like this; some intervention then would be appropriate, even required, to obtain more specific details. If that is true, we could expect clients gradually to remember more while in therapy and would not see that as a sign that therapy is creating new memories. Nevertheless, we can still expect that abuse may well remain underreported.
Questions about generalizability
Earlier I alluded to questions about the generalizability of Dr. Loftus's work to incest survivors. Let's look at some of those objections now.
None of Loftus's work takes into account the possible differences between ordinary and traumatic memory. First, she uses non-clinical populations. Because she doesn't screen for Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, she has no way of knowing how many of her subjects might be operating in the changed neurophysiological environment of the trauma survivor (Herman, 1992).
Second, in no study were her subjects victims of an actual event. The simulated events that her subjects witnessed may be unpleasant, as in the case of car wrecks and shootings, but it is doubtful that they produced the sense of helpless terror of real trauma (Herman, 1992). That she is employing deliberate attempts to mislead subjects about information which is often not affectively tinged creates a study environment which may be very different from that of a survivor's psychotherapy session.
A third potential problem is that the test events lack the chronicity associated with incest, and the test intervals themselves are relatively brief (e.g. 20 minutes to 6 months in one study).
Finally, Dr. Loftus's memory tests often focus on minor details of an event, rather than the outlines of the event itself, somewhat analogous to trying to trip up a rape victim who mis-remembers the color of her attacker's t-shirt. In no case was any of Loftus's subjects confused as to whether a robbery or wreck had occurred, only as to whether one tool or another appeared in the crime scene (Donders et al., 1987, cited in Loftus & Hoffman, 1989; Loftus et al., 1989).
All-in-all, therefore, it is hard to say how much this data applies to persons badly traumatized decades in the past by known perpetrators. Dr. Loftus herself refused to apply her work in defense of John Demjanjuk a.k.a "Ivan the Terrible" (Loftus & Ketcham, 1991).
Nevertheless, Dr. Loftus's studies should be more than enough to convince us that memory is a tricky thing. Her work should inspire caution in therapists dealing with patients' memories of abuse. It should also be enough to convince doubters, however, that one can indeed forget traumatic events: Her studies also demonstrate that there are limits to how much distortion one can produce in a subjects' memories, a conclusion rarely cited by false memory syndrome proponents.
To summarize her results, while memory is less likely to be lost for traumatic events, time distortions are more likely to occur when the events are traumatic. Even with cues to recall, memory is lost for frequent, similar events, which would be the case in repeated abuse, and appropriate intervention can enhance the accuracy of such memories. Finally, although these studies do indeed demonstrate the fallibility of memory, they also suggest that survivors who remember abuse at ages when a perpetrator could not have had access to them or who remember abuse occurring in a home in which they were not living at that time, are not necessarily victims of false memories.
On the other hand...
Let's look at some studies with potentially more relevance to the population under discussion. At Nova University's Sexual Abuse Survivors Program (Gold, Hughes, & Hohnecker, 1994), 30% of the clients reported complete blocking of any recollection of sexual abuse for periods of at least one year. Another 40% reported lesser degrees of loss of awareness. Of the 30% who entered treatment believing that their memories were complete, "many... [came] to realize that their recollections [were] much more fragmentary than they originally thought" (p. 441).
A similar study by Shirley Feldman-Summers and Kenneth S. Pope (1994) surveyed randomly-selected members of the American Psychological Association and found that 40% of those who reported abuse histories also reported "a period of time when they could not remember some or all" (p. 637) of it: One quarter attributed recall of the abuse to therapy, another quarter to media reports. Of those with recovered memories, 47% had corroboration -- and persons who remembered in treatment were no less likely to have corroboration.
For a beautifully written review of over 100 years of clinical observations, field studies, and experimental work on the subject, I recommend Mardi Horowitz's (1992) book, Stress Response Syndromes. The literature on bereavement, war, concentration-camp internment, and rape frequently cites some form of memory impairment as a finding in survivors. Other expressions of denial appear to be nearly universal.
OK, what do we have so far? We know that when Jennifer Freyd braced her parents back in 1991, she touched off a national debate about child abuse and false memories. Psychotherapists in the course of this debate have garnered a good deal of unwanted publicity, and a number of us have been sued. Internal splits in the profession over this issue have gotten fairly rancorous.
In our survey of this debate today, first we saw that, despite the FMS Foundation's claims to the contrary, child sexual abuse is distressingly common and its negative after-effects are well-documented. Then we tackled the question of recovering memories.
Elizabeth Loftus's research, focusing as it does on eyewitness testimony, has furnished a good deal of the false memory proponents' ammunition, so we have looked at her work in some detail. From her we learned that non-directive, cognitive memory-enhancement techniques may actually produce more accurate memories than free recall. On the other hand, suggestion or pressure on the patient will almost certainly contaminate her/his memories. At the same time, we saw that inaccuracy as to the details of time, place, and other circumstances are to be expected, and do not necessarily mean that abuse didn't happen. A dramatic example of this is detailed in Dr. Loftus's book, Witness for the Defense (with Ketcham, 1991). Testifying in Ted Bundy's defense, Dr. Loftus pointed out numerous errors in the eyewitness's identification. Nevertheless, the victim was absolutely correct in naming Bundy as her attacker, as later events would show.
Finally, we saw that there is some clinical evidence for repression and recovery of traumatic memory. Now what?
Uncertainty has been introduced into what we once thought was a simple process (remember it, talk about it, you'll feel better!). A once-private arena is more and more being opened up to very public scrutiny and we can now be held liable for damages to third parties (Dorgan, 1994a, 1994b). Fortunately, some principles for practice also emerge from the data.
1. If you regularly work with victims, be especially careful in initial contacts with prospective clients who in fact may be family members (or worse, private detectives) investigating your practice or your client's therapy.
2. Be knowledgeable about how memory works (& how it doesn't) and discuss that with your clients. The American Psychological Association should have a special committee report ready by the end of this year (Hundley, 1993), and I strongly recommend that you obtain a copy and study it carefully. Keep up with media reports on false memories, and be prepared to discuss these objectively with your clients and significant others.
3. Stick with the memories your patient already has (Herman, 1992). Whenever possible, allow the client to tell her version of events freely, first. For example, "tell me a little bit about yourself" at intake. Only then should you ask questions, and these should be as neutrally constructed as possible (Hilgard & Loftus, 1979). A specific disorder or a suggestive collection of symptoms does not confirm a history of abuse (Yapko, 1993), however much we might like it to. Keep in mind that, should you be able to obtain validation of one or more memories, such validation may (but does not necessarily) lend credibility to other allegations.
4. Any new memories triggered by daily living events (including media reports) can be judged for accuracy according to how suggestive (directive) the trigger is.
5. If the patient's condition makes memory recovery necessary, this should be done as non-directively as possible -- by having the client cruise the old neighborhood, for example, or by reviewing photo albums together (Byrd, 1994). Hypnotically retrieved or refreshed memories (American Medical Association, 1985), while quite convincing, unfortunately may contain as much error as fact (see also Smith, 1983, for a good review), making that game not worth the candle.
6. When memories do come, keep a neutral stance (Chu, 1991). The client can't work through her mistrust of her own perceptions if you have taken over reality- checking functions for her (Ganaway, 1989). If a client is to learn how to resolve her own ambivalences, it is critical that the therapist avoid reinforcing either pole (Ganaway, 1992; Gleaves, 1994).
7. As always in good therapy, an awareness of your own biases can help you keep them out of the treatment. It can be helpful to tape sessions and study them closely for ways in which your assumptions and presuppositions may be creeping into the direction and/or framing of your questions. You can practice your interviewing in supervision or with colleagues.
8. Never place a client who does not have clear, complete, detailed memories of specific incidents of abuse into a survivors' group (see also Byrd, 1994). Such groups should never be used for clients who merely think they may have been abused, or for clients whose memories were elicited in therapy which may have been overly suggestive, unless there is external validation.
9. Similarly, recommend self-help books only after it has become clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that your client is indeed an abuse survivor (Byrd, 1994). When clients do mention books or articles they have read or discussions of abuse on television talk shows that they have seen, note these in the chart. If the client is indeed confabulating, a pattern will emerge. If not, documentation of the absence of such a pattern may one day prove invaluable.
10. If you are working with persons who clearly are incest victims, directly warn them against committing anything in writing to their families which may be turned over to the Foundation for its research.
11. Keep Carol Tavris's concerns in mind as you work. Do not let your clients overestimate the function of either internal or family dynamics. This is above all a social problem requiring social changes, and in any event, I tend to believe that social action is in and of itself healing.
12. I believe that is in particularly ill-advised to co-author books with one's current or former clients, to encourage them to engage in premature confrontations with family members, or worse, to participate in public appearances with them. Therapists who promote themselves in this way are particularly vulnerable to accusations that they are behaving unethically.
13. Finally, for those of you who are approved supervisors, I would like to add the suggestion (Byrd, 1994) that your supervisees (or students, if you teach) should be fully informed of the potential for their expectations to shape clients' recall, and they need to be thoroughly familiar with the interpersonal processes by which this takes place. I would advise you to help them see how many different ways a specific memory fragment can be interpreted, depending on how you approach it, and how that interpretation in turn influences how further fragments are identified and handled.
One fellow (Byrd, 1994) likens memory work to an archaeological dig: As the "fossil record accumulates, the ambiguity of the picture lessens," (p. 439) as long, of course, as you're not "salting" the site!
References Alexander, P. C. (1992). Introduction to the special section on adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60, 165-166. American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.) Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. Become Informed. (1992, August/September). FMS Foundation Newsletter. Berliner, L., & Loftus, E. (1992). Sexual abuse accusations: Desperately seeking reconciliation. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7, 570-578. Bower, B. (1993, September 18). Sudden Recall. Science News, 144, 184-186. Bower, B. (1993, September 25). The survivor syndrome. Science News, 144, 202-204. Briere, J. (1992). Methodological issues in the study of sexual abuse effects. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60, 196-203. Briere, J., & Elliott, D. M. (1993). Sexual abuse, family environment, and psychological symptoms: On the validity of statistical control. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61(2), 284-288. Bull, D. L., & Marten, L. M. (1994, February). Letter to the editor. ACA Guidepost, 36(8), p. 2. Byrd, K. R. (1994). The narrative reconstructions of incest survivors. American Psychologist, 49, 439-441. Christianson, S.-A., & Loftus, E. F. (1987). Memory for traumatic events. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 1, 225-239. Christianson, S.-A., & Loftus, E. F. (1991). Remembering emotional events: the fate of detailed information. Cognition and Emotion, 5(2), 31-108. Chu, J. A. (1991). The Critical Issues Task Force report: Strategies for evaluating the validity of reports of childhood abuse. International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation News, 9(6), 5-7. Chu, J. A. & Dill, D. L. (1990). Dissociative symptoms in relation to childhood physical and sexual abuse. American Journal of Psychiatry, 147, 887-892. Cole, W. G., & Loftus, E. F. (1979). Incorporating new information into memory. American Journal of Psychology, 92, 413-425. Cooper, C. (1993, March 18). Repressed-memory lawsuits spur backlash from accused. Sacramento Bee, pp. B1, B4. Council on Scientific Affairs. (1985). Scientific status of refreshing recollections by the use of hypnosis. Journal of the American Medical Association, 253, 1918-1923. Dawes, R. M. (1991). Biases of retrospection. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations, 1(3), 25-28. Dorgan, M. (1994a, March 25). Lawsuit raises questions about "buried" memory. San Jose Mercury News, p. 1A. Dorgan, M. (1994b, May 14). Father wins "recovered memory" suit: Therapists implanted recollections of abuse, jury rules. San Jose Mercury News, p.1A. Elliott, D., & Briere, J. (1992). Child sexual abuse and family environment: Combined impacts and the effects of statistical control. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., August 16, 1992. Feldman-Summers, S., & Pope, K. S. (1994). The experience of "forgetting" childhood abuse: A national survey of psychologists. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62, 636-639. Ganaway, G. K. (1989). Historical versus narrative truth: Clarifying the role of exogenous trauma in the etiology of MPD and its variants. Dissociation, 3, 205-220. Ganaway, G. K. (1992). On the nature of memories: Response to "A reply to Ganaway." Dissociation, 5, 120-122. Gleaves, D. H. (1994). On "The reality of repressed memories." American Psychologist, 49, 440-441. Gold, S. N., Hughes, D., & Hohnecker, L. (1994). Degrees of repression of sexual abuse memories. American Psychologist, 49, 441-442. Goleman, D. (1992, July 21). Childhood trauma: Memory or invention? New York Times, p. B5. Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and recovery. New York: Basic Books. Herman, J. L., Perry, J. C., & van der Kolk, B. A. (1989/1994). Childhood trauma in borderline personality disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 146, 490-495. (From PaperChase, 1994, Abstract No. 89190991) Herman, J., Russell, D., & Trocki, K. (1986/1994). Long-term effects of incestuous abuse in childhood. American Journal of Psychiatry, 143, 1293-1296. (From PaperChase, 1994, Abstract No. 87023464) Herndon, L. (1992, September 20). Defending parents from ugly charges. Philadelphia Inquirer, pp. L1, L5. Herzog, D. B., Staley, J. E., Carmody, S., Robbins, W. M., & van der Kolk, B. A. (1993/1994). Childhood sexual abuse in anorexia nervosa & bulimia nervosa: A pilot study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 32, 962-966. (From PaperChase, 1994, Abstract No. 94012457) Hilgard, E. R., & Loftus, E. F. (1979). Effective interrogation of the eyewitness. The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 4, 342-357. Horn, M. (1993, Nov. 29). Memories lost and found. U.S. News and World Report, 115(21), pp. 52ff. Horowitz, M. J. (1992). Stress response syndromes (2nd ed.) Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. Hundley, W. (1993, December 4). Lies of the mind. Time, pp. (sic) Legal aspects of false memory syndrome. (1992, June). Philadelphia: False Memory Syndrome Foundation. Loftus, E. F. (1975). Leading questions and the eyewitness report. Cognitive Psychology, 7, 560-572. Loftus, E. F. (1983a). Silence is not golden. American Psychologist, 38, 564- 572. Loftus, E. F. (1983b). Whose shadow is crooked? American Psychologist, 38, 576- 577. Loftus, E. F. (1991). Resolving legal questions with psychological data. American Psychologist, 46, 1046-1048. Loftus, E. F. (1993a). Desperately seeking memories of the first few years of childhood: The reality of early memories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 122, 274-277. Loftus, E. F. (1993b). The reality of repressed memories. American Psychologist, 48, 518-537. Loftus, E. F. (1994, March). Therapeutic recollection of childhood abuse: When a memory may not be a memory. The Champion, 5-10. Loftus, E. F., & Burns, T. E. (1982). Mental shock can produce retrograde amnesia. Memory & Cognition, 10, 318-323. Loftus, E. F., Donders, K., Hoffman, H. G., & Schooler, J. W. (1989). Creating new memories that are quickly accessed and confidently held. Memory & Cognition, 17, 607-616. Loftus, E. F., & Hoffman, H. G. (1989). Misinformation and memory: The creation of new memories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 118, 100- 104. Loftus, E. F., & Ketcham, K. (1991). Witness for the defense: The accused, the eyewitness, and the expert who puts memory on trial. New York: St. Martin's. Loftus, E. F., & Loftus, G. R. (1980). On the permanence of stored information in the human brain. American Psychologist, 35, 409-420. Loftus, E. F., Miller, D. G., & Burns, H. J. (1978). Semantic integration of verbal information into a visual memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning and Memory, 4, 19-31. Loftus, E. F., Schooler, J. W., Boone, S. M., & Kline, D. (1987). Time went by so slowly: Overestimation of event duration by males and females. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 1, 3-13. Loftus, E. F., & Zanni, G. (1975). Eyewitness testimony: The influence of the wording of a question. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 5, 86-88. Means, B., & Loftus, E. F. (1991). When personal history repeats itself: Decomposing memories for recurring events. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 5, 297-318. Nash, M. R., Hulsey, T. L., Sexton, M. C., Harralson, T. L., & Lambert, W. (1993). Long-term sequelae of childhood sexual abuse: Perceived family environment, psychopathology, & dissociation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61, 276-283. Ofshe, R., & Watters, E. (1993). Making monsters. Society, 30(3), 4-16. Okerbloom, J. (1992, January 18). Satanism: Truth vs. myth. San Diego Union. Olio, K. A. (1994). Truth in memory. American Psychologist, 49 442-443. Russell, D. E. H. (1986). The secret trauma: Incest in the lives of girls and women, New York: Basic Books. Ryan, R. (1993a, December 11). Remembering abuse. Boston Globe, OE13. Ryan, R. (1993b, December 25). Child abuse tactics. Boston Globe, OE13. Saxe, G. N., van der Kolk, B. A., Berkowitz, R., Chinman, G., Hall, K., Lieberg, G., & Schwartz, J. (1993/1994). Dissociative disorders in psychiatric inpatients. American Journal of Psychiatry, 150, 1037-1052. (From PaperChase, 1994, Abstract No. 93304524) Shapiro, L. (1993, April 19). Rush to judgement. Newsweek, pp. 54-60. Sifford, D. (1991, November 24). Accusations of sex abuse, years later. Philadelphia Enquirer. Sifford, D. (1992a, January 5). When tales of sex abuse aren't true. Philadelphia Enquirer. Sifford, D. (1992b, March 15). When therapists 'find' childhood sexual abuse. Philadelphia Enquirer. Smith, M. C. (1983). Hypnotic memory enhancement of witnesses: Does it work? Psychological Bulletin, 3, 387-407. Tavris, C. (1993, January 8). Beware the incest-survivor machine. In FMS Foundation Newsletter, pp. 13-15. (Reprinted from the New York Times Book Review, January 3, 1993). Taylor, B. (1992a, May 16). What if sexual abuse memories are wrong? Toronto Star, p. G1. Taylor, B. (1992b, May 18). True or false? Toronto Star, p. C1. Taylor, B. (1992c, May 19). Therapist turned patient's world upside down. Toronto Star, p. C1. Toufexis, A. (1991, October 28). When can memories be trusted? Time, pp. 86-88. van der Kolk, B. A., Perry, J. C., Herman, J. L. (1991/1994). Childhood origins of self-destructive behavior. American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 1665-1671. (From PaperChase, 1994, Abstract No. 92067840) What can families do? (1992, October 5). FMS Foundation Newsletter, p. 4. What do we know about therapists? (1992, October 5). FMS Foundation Newsletter, p. 3. Whitley, G. (1992, January). Abuse of trust. D Magazine, pp. 36-39. Wielawski, I. (1991, October 3). Unlocking the secrets of memory. Los Angeles Times. Wiscombe, J. (1994, January 9). Mind over memory? Long Beach Press-Telegram, p. J1. Wyatt, G. E., Guthrie, D., & Notgrass, C. M. (1992). Differential effects of women's child sexual abuse and subsequent sexual revictimization. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60, 167-173. Wylie, M. S. (1993). The shadow of a doubt. Family Therapy Networker, 17(5), 18-29. Yapko, M. (1993). The seductions of memory. Family Therapy Networker, 17(5), 31-37. ____________________________________________________ Author Notes Virginia S. Wood, M.A. is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice and a doctoral student in clinical psychology. Correspondence concerning this paper should be addressed to Virginia S. Wood c/o North Georgia Psychotherapy Services, 9147 East Alabama Road, Woodstock, GA 30188. The original draft of this paper was submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Psy.D. degree at the Georgia School of Professional Psychology. The author wishes to thank Dean Joseph Bascuas, Ph.D. for his thoughtful comments of the first version of this presentation. Any remaining flaws are, of course, my own responsibility. [Transcriber's note: The above information is as of September 1994] Copyright © 1994, 1996 by Virginia S. Wood. All rights reserved.Virginia S. Wood
North Georgia Psychotherapy Services
9147 East Alabama Road
Woodstock, GA 30188.