When the issue of child sexual abuse moved from being a private to a public issue in the 1980’s and early 1990’s psychotherapists were wrongly blamed for causing this social change.
The false memory movement wanted to show (for legal reasons) that adults´ memories of sexual abuse as children could be produced iatrogenically through psychotherapy and they exploited professional differences within psychology, psychotherapy and psychiatry to argue that some types of psychotherapy brainwashed people more than others.
The false memory movement created a strawman called Recovered Memory Therapy and attempted to show that this therapy was responsible for the fact that child sexual abuse had become a public issue
To prevent a compete breakdown of relationships between and within these professions, in 1993 a group of researchers in the USA wrote to the APS Observer that they had
and suggested that
“for the sake of intellectual honesty, let’s leave the term ‘false memory syndrome’ to the popular press.”
I don’t know if any similar letter was written in the UK ( please tell me if this was the case) but it seems that the legacy of “false memory syndrome” is today stronger in the UK press than in the USA.
I understand that psychotherapists in the UK don’t want to put themselves on the firing line anymore. They are trained to look for complexity which is the exact opposite of simplistic stories about brainwashing.
But I would like to include a quote from Marjorie Orr about this issue
The primary focus of therapy clearly lies within the consulting room. But therapists are also members of wider society, with responsibilities beyond their individual patients. Like other members of the public, they presumably want justice, fairness and protection for the vulnerable.
Traumatic memory is a complex field. The business of therapy is to understand how memory works (and dysfunctions) in the shattered personalities who come for help. That corpus of knowledge needs to be disseminated more widely in understandable language – to the general public and to the legal professionals.
….In general, therapy organisations have been too timid and too wrapped up in their internal battles to find a voice out in society. There is a vital need for human behaviour and relationships to be more widely understood, both in court and in society in general. The public clearly have a desire for deeper understanding of human psychology and our therapy organisations have a vital part to play here if they can galvanise themselves.