False Memory                                          



May 8, 2013, False Memory Syndrome Foundation, PHILADELPHIA

An FMSF member recently sent us a quote from the Survivors Healing Center website and asked us to comment. The passage is eerily similar to those we saw in the early 90s (Ed. - When the implanted false memory tragedy destroyed thousands of lives), but if you look closely, you will note that the ‘signs of past sexual abuse’ are couched with “may be.”

“Do you experience depression, anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, or difficulty being intimate with your partner? These may be responses to childhood sexual abuse. You don’t have to feel this way forever. You can begin healing now.”  http://fsa-cc.org/survivors-healing-center  Ed. note:  This center is NOT endorsed.  "The Courage to Heal" is NOT a recommended book. There are many similar self-help psychology books that have led innocent people down the tragic false memory path.

It is now 2013.  We found the “may be” symptom checklist for past sexual abuse disturbing, but equally so is the lack of current information about how to cure the symptoms included in the list.

If an elbow is broken, it does not matter what caused the break.  It is the broken elbow that is treated. There are therapies and medications that have been tested and shown to be effective treatments for most of the symptoms listed above.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health website: “The first step to getting appropriate treatment is to visit a doctor or mental health specialist. Certain medications, and some medical conditions such as viruses or a thyroid disorder, can cause the same symptoms as depression.   A doctor can rule out these possibilities by doing a physical exam, interview, and lab tests. If the doctor can find no medical condition that may be causing the depression, the next step is a psychological evaluation.”  http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/how-is-depression-diagnosed-and-treated.shtml
Many studies have shown that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a particularly effective treatment for depression, especially minor or moderate depression. Some people with depression may be successfully treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy only. Others may need both Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps people with depression restructure negative thought patterns. Doing so helps people interpret their environment and interactions with others in a positive and realistic way. It may also help a person recognize things that may be contributing to the depression and help him or her change behaviors that may be making the depression worse.

Interpersonal Therapy has also been shown to be effective in treating depression. That type of therapy helps people understand and work through troubled relationships that may cause their depression or make it worse.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks 

In addition to various medications, Cognitive-behavioral therapy is very useful in treating anxiety disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health website. The cognitive part helps people change the thinking patterns that support their fears, and the behavioral part helps people change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/treatment-of-anxiety-disorders.shtml

For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help people with panic disorder learn that their panic attacks are not really heart attacks and help people with social phobia learn how to overcome the belief that others are always watching and judging them. When people are ready to confront their fears, they are shown how to use exposure techniques to desensitize themselves to situations that trigger their anxieties.

Difficulty Sleeping

There are many different sleep disorders and a vast amount of research has been conducted on the problems and the solutions.   As in the problems above, an examination by a medical doctor to rule out physical reasons for the problem is a first step.

Insomnia is one kind of sleep disorder. People have trouble falling asleep, they don’t stay asleep and they don’t get enough sleep. Insomnia can be successfully treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

According to the Mayo
Clinic website:  “Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a structured program that helps you identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep problems with habits that promote sound sleep. Unlike sleeping pills, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia helps you overcome the underlying causes of your sleep problems.” http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/insomnia-treatment/SL00013

From Good Therapy.org...
50 Warning Signs of Questionable Therapy

"If any of the following red flags appear during the course of your counseling, it may be time to reevaluate your counselor or therapist. Should you recognize one of these red flags, the first step, in most cases, is to discuss your concern with your counselor. Try talking candidly about what’s bothering you. A good therapist should be open and willing to understand your concerns. If your counselor doesn’t take your concerns seriously or is unwilling to accept feedback, then it’s probably in your best interest to consult with another therapist about it."  MORE

Choosing a therapist is a mind-boggling endeavor. Neither a therapist's degree, nor his or her professional identity, predict his or her competence. 

Prospective clients should not hesitate to ask a therapist about his or her training. Such questions are altogether necessary and appropriate. Any therapist who refuses to answer, or responds evasively, is a therapist to avoid.

There may be readers who are presently involved in psychotherapeutic treatment. Such a reader may confront the problem of evaluating the effectiveness of ongoing therapy. This is especially troublesome because firing a therapist is a more difficult decision than hiring one.

Any client who wonders whether his or her therapist is effectively aiding contends with substantial frustrations and self-doubt as s/he weighs what to do next. If a client terminates treatment with a therapist s/he regards as ineffective and/or incompetent, s/he is faced with the question of who s/he will find now to aid him or her.

The excerpts above and the survey below are reprinted from "Beware the Talking Cure" by Campbell, Terrence, PhD, with the permission from the author.

Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships

Take Back Your Life: Recovering
from Cults and Abusive Relationships
Janja Lalich & Madelaine Tobias

From a website by the Australian government...

Memory and childhood sexual abuse

Childhood sexual abuse is, unfortunately, not uncommon. When abuse of children occurs, it is often by someone they know and trust. When children are sexually abused they may also experience psychological and physical abuse. The impact of abuse is often made worse when children are urged to keep it secret or if they are not believed when they seek help.

Child sexual abuse can affect:

    Self-confidence and self-esteem
    The ability to trust others
    The potential to experience intimacy
    An understanding of appropriate sexual behaviour.

However, it is important to acknowledge that such difficulties do not necessarily indicate a history of child sexual abuse.

About false memory

A false memory is when a person reports an apparently true memory of an event that did not occur. It can also refer to situations where the current understanding of the event is very different from what actually happened.

False memories can be created by imagining situations and then associating strong feelings with those situations. If the ‘memory’ seems to explain why we are the way we are, this can satisfy a deeply felt human need for meaning and reinforce the feel of the memory as real.

False memories of child sexual abuse can have serious consequences as they can lead to false accusations. If the false memory is acted upon, it can have devastating effects on the person, the family unit and the lives of individual family members.
Recovering memories in therapy

Some therapy techniques, if used inappropriately, may increase the risk of recovering false memories. These techniques should only be used by therapists who are qualified in these methods. Techniques that may use the power of suggestion include:

    Guided imagery
    Dream interpretation
    Interpretation of body sensations.

Most professional bodies have now developed detailed guidelines for therapists who treat people who report memories of trauma and abuse. Good practice should not:

    Set out to recover memories of abuse
    Interpret or endorse recovered memories as accurate memories
    Suggest that a particular set of symptoms means that a person was likely to have been sexually abused.