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Wednesday, April 1, 1998 Published at 04:21 GMT 05:21 UK


Memory treatment myth, says report
image: [ The controversial report says that memory is 'open to suggestion' ]
The controversial report says that memory is 'open to suggestion'

A controversial report says that recovered memory syndrome, in which childhood abuse is remembered for the first time during psychiatric treatment, is a myth.

The report, published in the Journal of British Psychiatry, accuses therapists of implanting memories of abuse through "questionable" psychological techniques.

The article says it is an area which threatens to bring the profession into disrepute.

The BBC's Social Affairs Correspondent Alison Holt reports (59')
The paper was originally commissioned by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, but it caused such a row within the college that two years after it was completed it has been printed as an independent paper.

Author Professor Sydney Brandon and his team examined existing research into memories which emerge after years of apparent amnesia.

[ image: Professor Sydney Brandon questions psychological techniques]
Professor Sydney Brandon questions psychological techniques
Their investigations concluded that numerous studies found psychologically traumatic events such as sexual abuse could never be "blocked out" by the mind and then recovered later.

The report also outlines growing evidence to suggest that the memory is "fallible" and "open to suggestion" particularly after long periods of time.

Professor Brandon is highly critical of some of the techniques being used by therapists including hypnosis and the use of "truth" drugs.

He warns that there is evidence that they are "powerful and dangerous methods of persuasion".

[ image: Lydia Carney discovered the real truth too late]
Lydia Carney discovered the real truth too late
One person who has suffered at the hands of such treatment is now speaking out against it.

While being treated for depresssion over the past 10 years, Lydia Carney was given a "truth drug" by her psychiatrist.

Lydia Carney blames a 'truth drug' for devastating her family (33')
After a while she recovered memories of her father abusing her, which she later discovered was medically impossible.

However it was too late to repair the damage done to her family.

"Bit by bit it broke my family into pieces and my poor father died in misery wondering why his daughter wouldn't speak to him - and I find that incredibly hard to live with," she said.

Article disputed and supported

The publication of the report comes after concerns within the profession about the techniques used by some therapists.

[ image: Professor John Morton: concerned for victims]
Professor John Morton: concerned for victims
Last year the Royal College of Psychiatrists Working Group on Reported Recovered Memories of Child Sexual Abuse issued guidelines to its members on good practice.

But the new report has been condemned by many working in the field.

Some psychiatrists maintain that the article is wrong and that traumatic events such as abuse can emerge years later.

Professor John Morton worries the report may hurt real victims (18')
Professor John Morton admits that a few recovered memories may be false but he also believes many are valid. He fears the Brandon report could make it harder for victims of abuse to be heard.

Since 1993, nearly 1,000 families in Britain say they have been falsely accused of sexual abuse after adult children "recovered" memories.

The Director of the British False Memory Society, Roger Scotford, which campaigns for falsely accused parents, warned that therapists who continue to use the techniques criticised in the report are sitting on a litigation time bomb.

"The NHS is still paying for therapy which is neither safe nor effective and which this report specifically singles out for criticism," he said.

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False Memory Syndrome Foundation

British Psychological Society Report On False Memory (1995)

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