Ethical Issues in the Search for Repressed Memories
American Journal of Psychotherapy. 1996 Summer; 50(3): 323-335.
Currently, concepts of repression and dissociation are in flux. It has been pointed out that there is no scientific evidence for the occurrence of repression and that the whole notion is anecdotal. Dissociation, which is offered as an alternative to repression, cannot logically be held to operate without a motive force, as Freud argued, or a weakness of the organism, as Janet proposed. The concepts have been applied particularly to the idea that early childhood experience could be repressed but recovered many years later. This claim is at variance with established knowledge concerning human memory. Practices of subtle and overt suggestion, employed in recovered-memory treatments, give rise to a false-memory syndrome in which individuals, who have undergone various levels of suggestion, accuse their parents and others of childhood sexual abuse. The common phenomenon of childhood sexual abuse is contaminated by many cases that may be regarded on strong grounds as being false and have been retracted in more than 1,000 instances. Repressed-memory (RM) treatment is also at variance with traditional psychotherapy, which does not encourage confrontation on the basis of uncorroborated information; moreover, many cases of RM therapy seem to result in deterioration. Unlike traditional psychotherapy, some RM practitioners strongly encourage patients to hate individuals in their family circle. The consequences of these developments, the need for informed consent, and the development of legislative initiatives to challenge RM therapy are noted. The impact of these therapies and proposed legislation upon regular psychotherapy and psychiatry is outlined.
Attitudes; Child Abuse; Consent; Health; Health Personnel; Informed Consent; Knowledge; Legal Aspects; Legislation; Mandatory Reporting; Methods; Organizational Policies; Organizations; Parents; Patient Care; Patients; Professional Organizations; Psychiatry; Psychotherapy; Recall; Reporting; Sex Offenses;
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