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Home arrow False and "Recovered" Memories arrow False Memory Syndrome - Articles arrow Recovered Memory Therapy and False Memories

Recovered Memory Therapy and False Memories

Article Index
Recovered Memory Therapy and False Memories
Initiation of Patients into RMT
Generating False Memories
The Dark Side of Recovery
The Care and Maintenance of False Memories
How Memory Really Works
Why Recovered Memory Therapy is Bad Therapy
Other Kinds of FMS
A Word About the Future

A Word About the Future

Increasing numbers of women who claimed to have recovered memories of sexual abuse have retracted their claims and now see themselves as having had FMS.  This may spontaneously occur when women relocate to another locale and lose contact with their prior therapists and support group.  Without the "positive reinforcement" from others to encourage false memory development and maintenance, some women begin to doubt the veracity of what they had believed was true.  While some remain suspended in a twilight of doubt, others have fully recanted.

These retractors may have a profound influence on getting women with an active FMS to re-evaluate their situation.  While FMS patients learn from the FMS culture to dismiss critics as either "perpetrators" or their apologists, the voice of a woman who says she is recovering from FMS is more easily heard.

Although most influential among family counselors and social workers, RMT affected the practices of some licensed psychologists and psychiatrists, some of whom were practicing in special "dissociative disorders units" in psychiatric hospitals.  These activities have gone on with little challenge, until recently.

The number of women with FMS who have become retractors is increasing.  Some have sued their former therapists for malpractice (see Laura Pasley's story in this issue of Skeptic), and others are weighing the possibilities of doing so.  One malpractice insurance carrier for clinical psychologists in California recently tripled its rates without explanation; this has led to speculation that the carrier is anticipating increasing numbers of lawsuits alleging that psychologists caused FMS.

The False Memory Syndrome Foundation, formed in 1991, has been contacted by over 7,000 families in the U.S.  and Canada who believe their grown children have FMS, and these families let their views be known to state licensing boards and professional organizations.  Managed care administrators are starting to question megabills submitted by RMT therapists, some of whom see their patients through lengthy psychiatric hospitalizations.  Understandably, all of this has gained the attention of the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association, who are setting up task forces to try to examine the whole phenomenon.

Meanwhile, there is a large FMS subculture consisting of women convinced that their "recovered memories" are accurate, therapists keeping busy doing RMT, and of authors on the "recovery" lecture and talk show circuits.  In addition, there are some vocal fringes of the feminist movement that cherish RMT since it is "proof" that men are dangerous and rotten, unless proven otherwise.  Skeptical challenges to RMT are met by emotional rejoinders that critics are front groups for perpetrators, and make the ridiculous analogy that "some people even say the Holocaust did not happen."

RMT will eventually disappear, but not next month.