Psychologist underfire for planting satanic cult memories

(Note: This was typed up prior to my hand injury. I like that WordPress lets people schedule posts to run later. Too bad I didn’t see the future and prepare more of these…)

That’s Lisa Nasseff’s story and she’s sticking to it. The Minnesota woman went for help at Castlewood Treatment Center in Ballwin once she decided to deal with her anorexia. She’s claiming the psychologist she saw over the 15 months, Mark Schwartz, duped her into believing she’d been abused by satanic practitioners.

Nasseff’s lawsuit said she was treated for anorexia with psychotropic drugs and hypnosis, which brainwashed her into believing she was repeatedly raped, had multiple personalities and suffered from and participated in satanic ritual abuse.

The lawsuit filed by Nasseff’s attorney, Kenneth Vuylsteke of Webster Groves, also claims that Schwartz implanted the false memories to keep Nasseff in the treatment center long-term because she had insurance that would pay her medical bills of $650,000.

Vuylsteke could not be reached for comment.

Castlewood’s director, Nancy Albus, and Schwartz deny the allegations. Albus reportedly pledged to fight the lawsuit, which seeks the repayment of medical expenses and punitive damages.

It’s he said/she said right now. Dr. Azfar Malik, CEO of CenterPointe psychiatric hospital in St. Charles was asked for his opinion on this case. He stated that no doctor would use hypnosis to treat an eating disorder.

“An eating disorder is a very complicated disease, and basically is treated with a medical model,” Malik said. “Hypnosis and going into the past are not indicated, there’s no data or research showing that would be the treatment of choice.”

But he also states that he’s unfamiliar with all the practices that would go on at Castlewod, saying only, “They don’t have a lot of physician oversight of the cases that I know about.”

“Oversight” being doctors keeping an eye out for questionable ethical practices? There’s mention in the article of psychologists pushing the notion of repressed memory on patients in the past but that entire style of treatment has been largely debunked. Some still like to claim it’s possible to get to the root of a problem this way anyway, though. Psychoheresy links the continued practice to some Christian counselors. Considering the accusations coming from Nasseff re: satanic rituals, would that include Scwartz, I wonder? No way to know from where I’m sitting. Psychologists operate from a position of authority and it’s important for the patient to be able to trust the treatment and advice. If he did somehow abuse his power over her, and the Center did nothing about it… It will be interesting to see what comes of it. If I remember to look for an update, of course.

Until then, here’s a site that gives instructions on how you, too, can create fake memories and amuse/freak out your friends and family. I don’t actually recommend doing that; the brain’s entirely capable of inventing memories without any outside help, actually. What might be real fun are these perception tests that help demonstrate just how fallible our minds really are. Maybe it will turn out that Nasseff invented these memories all on her own.

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Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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24 Responses to Psychologist underfire for planting satanic cult memories

  1. Mike D says:

    Hmmm… eerie recollections of my cognitive psych class in college…

  2. 1minionsopinion says:

    The mind is a weird country.

  3. Russ says:

    It’s obvious that the only cult these women at Castlewood were ever in was there at Castlewood. Sounds very familiar, as in Mercy Ministries. Castlewood, Mercy Ministries and all others who use therapy methods that destroy families deserve all the bad publicity they can get.

  4. recovered memory says:

    Theories of traumatic amnesia from war veterans, accident victims and child trauma victims have been shown to be accurate and their memories recovered later have been proven to be correct. There is no such thing as “recovered memory therapy.” There is trauma treatment therapy, where a patient may remember severe abuse they buried due to its extremely traumatic nature. Research has shown that these memories are often proven to be accurate.

  5. Russ says:

    Whatever you want to call it, any therapy that evokes “recovered memories” is quackery, and is responsible for untold false memories and destroyed relationships with daughters and families. It is very misleading to say there is no “recovered memory therapy”, it is a series of very dubious, unproven, dangerous methods used such as hypnosis, trance writing, guided imagery, mind regression and in biblical counseling, “prayer therapy” (mind regression). I know this because am living this nightmare, and several other families are as well and it is ongoing. This is ongoing at Mercy MInistries, they use the same poor, discredited therapy methods as Castlewood. These therapy methods were eliminated at hospitals and clinics back in the 90’s where there was oversight due to rampant false accusations and people being imprisoned when the accusers then recanted… but unfortunately these “therapy” methods survive at treatment centers and those that do “biblical counseling” which leads to mind regression therapy (just another name for therapy that leads to “recovered memories.). There is no oversight or accountablity in these places, they can use whatever therapy they want, even if they obtain false memories (which is becoming systemic in at least the Lincoln CA home of Mercy Ministries. This is very damaging, and I believe will come to eventually be a national story, and a black eye on all of psychiatry.
    I know all of this because they were used on my daughter and 3 others that I know of, all at the same branch of Mercy in Lincoln CA. These girls all had the same counselor (this cannot be a coincidence) and they all cut off contact with their families and now live with “host families” as a result of their horrific, false memories.
    These are girls that are at a very vulnerable time in their lives, they are looking for an answer as to why they have such illnesses as anorexia. Many who use this type of therapy believe that all these types of mental disorders are cause by sexual abuse…but the problem is there is zero evidence for this. This has led to untold, needless pain and suffering by girls and their families. In fact, two of the three girls in question at Mercy (one of them my daughter) who were never suicidal before their treatment attempted suicide while under their care and undergoing this “therapy”. When these girls do eventually realize these memories are false, that will be difficult for them as well, they will blame themselves. They have been victimized…but not by their fathers, but by poor therapy. This must stop before more girls and their families are damaged. Once donors (who fund Mercy MInistries) are made aware of the horrific consequences of their therapy methods, they have the power to make this stop by withholding any future donations until significant, sweeping changes have been made to make sure this never happens to any more girls or their families. If these changes do not occur, they will eventually shut down as they did in Australia.

  6. 1minionsopinion says:

    I’m aware of some of this but it’s nothing I’ve looked into extensively. It does start to sound like an avenue more skeptical activists should be pursuing, though.

  7. Russ says:

    When you do look into this more extensively (if anyone does), I believe you will find something truly horrifying, and you don’t have to be a skeptical activist to believe it or be motivated to do something about it (I’m talking about Mercy Ministries here, but I have no doubt that Castlewood is the same way, they use they same destructive therapy methods). Vulnerable girls/women’s lives (and their families) are being turned upside down for things that aren’t even true, and never even actually happened (I personally know of 3 other families going through this nightmare at this moment)…life is hard enough to deal with for these girls with life-threatening disorders and then to compound that with therapy that often produces false memories of the most horrific kind…that is an epic fail on the part of the psychiatric industry. The phrase “do no harm” is a basic tenet of treatment, and there is plenty of evidence to show that harm has been done and is ongoing at places where this type of therapy still goes on (it is now out of the hospitals and clinics but still thrives at “treatment” centers and so-called “religious” institutions. These places need to either drastically change their methods, or be forced to shut down. Since Mercy Ministries is privately funded, donors have the power to stop this, by withholding future funding, this is what happened in Australia.

  8. recovered memory says:

    It is totally wrong to state that clinicians working in trauma treatment recovery are “quacks.” The term “recovered memory therapy” comes from those in the false memory movement. This movement is made up predominately of those that defend accused and convicted pedophiles. Some have even made statements that appear to excuse pedophilia, like Ralph Underwager. Pedophiles are well known for denying their illegal behaviors.

    Mercy and Castlewood are two totally different places. Mercy has counselors, but no doctors. Many people that were at Mercy have stated it has saved their lives. There is no solid evidence that false memories were created there.

    Castlewood is a well run professional clinic that has saved many lives. The attacks on it now are presently unproven and could be found to be false.

    Most of the accusers in the cases of the 90s have not recanted. False memories are rare in almost all of these cases. Some studies have shown false memories of trauma to be less than one percent. Simply because a person accused denies the crime does not make the memory false.

    Readers should be skeptical of rhetoric of the false memory movement. This movement with its attacks on legitimate treaters of abuse victims has tried to destroy the resources available to trauma survivors. Readers should be skeptical of this “skepticism.”

  9. Russ says:

    Castlewood is going down, because their poor, discredited therapy methods. So is Mercy Ministries eventually if they don’t drastically change their methods…they won’t because they are a destructive cult and cults don’t change. I have solid evidence about Mercy Ministries, believe me, it is becoming systemic at least at one Mercy home to produce false memories by their therapy, and this is going to come out in time. “Recovered memory”, the truth is not your side, and neither is God.

  10. Russ says:

    One other thing Mr. recovered memory (a moniker I’d change if I were you, it’s about to become the scourge of psychiatry) if you knew what I know about Mercy, you would sing a very different tune about them at least. I’m guessing you are affiliated with Castlewood, and you may be too close to them to really see what’s really going on. I will pray for all the victims your moniker has wrought.

  11. Russ says:

    They actually were paying for this crap at Castlewood…wow…I hope these women get a huge judgment. Does anyone know if they are privately funded? Their donors will dry up after this. If they aren’t privately funded, this is your tax dollars at work. Shameful and abhorrent.

  12. recovered memory says:

    You are wrong. I am not affiliated with any of them. Castlewood is a legitimate clinic using legitimate methods of treatment. The “scourge of psychiatry” is the false memory movement. What is “shameful and abhorrent” are your attacks on the legitimate practitioners of trauma treatment that are trying to help abuse survivors. You won’t stop clinicians and clinics from helping others who were abused and you won’t stop trauma survivors from getting the help they need. Who are you affiliated with?

  13. Russ says:

    I am “affiliated with” all of the victims this kind of therapy has wrought, and that are ongoing. I don’t care about the false memory movement, I’m not part of any movement, but I do know the truth and it’s not pretty, it’s shameful…I care about my daughter and all others who have been damaged by this therapy. If you knew what I knew about what is really going on (I’m talking about Mercy here), it is truly horrifying. I don’t doubt that many of these people who practice this kind of therapy are well-meaning, and I’m sure they believe they are helping them…but they are wrong, they are practicing destructive therapy and this must stop. These women will never get the help they need when their “healing” is based on a false premise. Those who practice this therapy ultimately have blood on their hands. The only places that use it anymore are those where there is no real oversight or accountability. When women are committing suicide (or trying at least) as a result of their therapy, having never been suicidal before (for things that too often never even happened), that should tell anyone using any critical thinking that the methods must be changed. When the truth comes out, advocates of this type of therapy will not want to ever admit they supported it.

  14. recovered memory says:

    No one has been “damaged” in legitimate trauma treatment, where sometimes people recover or remember memories of past events they buried so they could continue to live their lives as children with the people that abused them. The people who work through their traumas do get better and often go on to live full lives. A patient may attempt to commit suicide for many reasons, with or without working through their memories. It is more likely someone would try to commit suicide if they don’t work through their past trauma memories. It is obvious that you know little about the field of trauma or trauma treatment and just repeat the same rhetoric promoted by false memory theorists.

  15. Russ says:

    I agree with you on one point. The key word you mentioned is “legitimate.” This is not “legitimate” treatment they are receiving, at least at Mercy Ministries, I have evidence of that at Mercy and I believe the Castlewood case will ultimately be ruled in favor of the plaintiffs largely for this reason as well. How can you “work through a trauma” that never occurred in the first place??? Now if the trauma was real you would have a point, but what if it’s not real which it is not in all too many of these cases???
    When you discover a “trauma” through your therapy that never even happened, you are hindering real treatment and will make that person ultimately even worse off and they would have been better off getting no treatment at all.

  16. Russ says:

    At Mercy at least, they begin with a false premise that all of these disorders like anorexia and bulimia MUST BE the result of some trauma, namely sexual abuse. The problem is, there is no evidence of this. These are vulnerable women, looking for an answer to their problems, to explain why they are the way they are, and this provides a “once size fits all” solution, regardless of the real truth. When your “treatment” is based on a false premise, it is doomed to fail if taken to its full conclusion. I have talked with several at Mercy (from several different branches) who were exposed to this “therapy”, and they have told me it was very, very distressing and messed them up for awhile (not to mention their relationship with their families) before they realized none of it was true. It is just a matter of time before similar lawsuits occur at Mercy as well. The reason why so many have not sued at Mercy at least is that by the time many of them realize none of it was real, by that time the statute of limitations has been passed. The families often do not initiate legal action since their daughters still believe it happened for a time, and they don’t want to push their daughters further away, plus Mercy is very obstructionist about medical records. Mercy makes it a habit of denying patients their own medical records, they have to sue to get them, and when they do finally get them by court order they are often incomplete…again shameful and abhorrent, consistent with a place that has something to hide.

  17. Russ says:

    Here is a very well-written article dealing with this subject, one that anyone using critical thinking will be difficult to disagree with:

    The Dangers of the Therapeutic Culture

    Germund Hesslow

    From Modernity and Its Discontents: Sceptical Essays on the Psychomedical Management of Malaise. Petteri Pietikainen (ed.), Stockholm: Ax:son Johnson Foundation 2005.

    Clinical psychology is in a serious state. Although there are many psychologists who practice therapies with scientifically documented effects and others who perform tests with firm scientific underpinnings, there are also many who do the opposite, who practice psychotherapy that have been proven useless and perform tests that lack all predictive value. For some reason, the kind of corrective forces that have been relatively successful in purging snake oils from somatic medicine have been very inefficient in psychology and some parts of psychiatry.

    Many readers are likely to be shocked by these blunt statements, especially readers who are unfamiliar with the subject. For them it may simply sound too improbable that the psychological and psychiatric professions should have many practitioners who are little more than quacks – a few rotten eggs perhaps, but so many that it is really an important social problem? I am afraid that this really is the truth and although it may sound aggressive and confrontational, it is mainly misplaced politeness and fear of seeming one-sided that prevent more scientists from making similar statements.

    Before discussing what should be done about it, let me illustrate what I mean by quack psychology. I will do so with the help of two examples: repression of traumatic memories and multiple personalities.

    Repression of memories of sexual abuse

    Contrary to popular belief, the concept of memory repression was quite marginal in psychological research before the 1980s. Although many researchers had tried to demonstrate its existence ever since Freud made the concept popular, repression had never been demonstrated and was hardly mentioned in textbooks on memory. Then in the late 1980s and 1990s a number of highly publicised cases appeared in which patients (mostly middle-aged women) in psychotherapy claimed to have recovered memories of previously unknown childhood sexual abuse. The idea that various psychological ailments had their roots in sexual abuse caught on among therapists and the public and within a decade many thousands of families had been torn apart and alleged perpetrators convicted to long prison sentences. In one of the most famous cases, Eileen Franklin, who was receiving therapy for depression, “remembered” that her father had committed a murder twenty years earlier and despite a complete absence of any other evidence, the father was convicted of the murder.i

    We are not talking here of people who have not thought about an incident for many years and are suddenly reminded of it. Nor are we talking about people who remember a traumatic incident but who do not want to talk about it because it is painful or embarrassing. The typical claim is rather of someone who has
    (1.) been subjected to repeated sexual abuse for months or years,
    (2.) had no conscious recollection of such abuse during the period in which it occurs, and
    (3.) later recovered detailed memories of the abuse with the help of psychotherapy

    To put it simply, there are two competing hypotheses to explain such cases:

    Repression hypotheses: The alleged memory may be true and has really been repressed. I shall argue against this hypothesis that it is a) inconsistent with human experience, b) highly implausible on theoretical grounds and c) completely lacking in scientific support.

    Therapeutic suggestion hypothesis: The alleged memories are fantasies induced by suggestion from a therapist, possibly with the aid of social workers, police investigators or popular culture. I shall argue that there is pretty conclusive evidence that such psychological mechanisms exist and also that suggestion does occur even if it may sometimes be unintended.

    Does repression exist?

    Let us first look at the repression hypothesis. It is really quite strange that this idea has caught on so strongly in the popular culture for although it has been a staple cliché in film and literature, it is quite alien to the experience of ordinary people. For instance, have we ever heard of someone who has suffered a traumatic loss, say a close friend or family member, and who is completely ignorant of this fact? Do hospitals regularly get visitors from family members of deceased patients? Do people who have survived concentration camps remember or are their memories of these periods of their lives blank? Are victims of torture known to sometimes forget that they have been tortured? When sexual or other abuse has been independently corroborated by witnesses or by physical evidence, it should occasionally happen that the police are unable to get any information from the victim because the abuse has been repressed. But is this ever a problem for the police? It should be sufficient merely to ask these questions, to realise how foreign the idea of memory repression is to human experience, but for the sceptic there is also scientific documentation of the fact that people remember traumatic events very well. For instance, Wagenaar & Groeneweg concluded that “almost all witnesses remember” a Nazi concentration camp “in great detail, even after 40 years”.ii Studies of how people remember catastrophes such as collapsing buildings or hijackings also fail to show repression.iii

    Repression is also a very implausible idea for theoretical reasons. Why would evolution have equipped us with a mechanism that makes us forget traumatic events that are important for our survival? Surely, evolution should favour those who are good at remembering the facts of abuse as well as the perpetrator. When confronted with this obvious objection, believers in repression usually claim that it is a defence mechanism that has evolved in order to protect us against the anxiety and pain that the traumatic memories evoke.

    But this is an incoherent idea. The driving force behind evolution is selective survival and reproduction, not what makes life nice for the organism. If repression were dangerous, which it surely is, evolution would eliminate it even if that meant more anxiety. Anxiety is actually the point of traumatic memories – it is there in order to make us avoid dangerous situations and persons. The idea that nature would provide us with an alarm signal (anxiety evoked by a memory) and then put a silencer on the alarm (repression) in order to protect us from the unpleasantness of the alarm signal is simply incoherent. But the repression theory is actually worse than this. For although the silencer is said to be there to protect us, it also needs to be removed by therapists! Thus, although the anxiety associated with traumatic memories is so serious that nature has to protect us from it, therapists have no qualms about destroying the protection so that the repressed memories can be recovered. It is actually believed both that traumatic memories are so dangerous that evolution had to create a special repression mechanism to protect us from them and that the repression is so dangerous that therapists have to prevent it from functioning. A doctor who interfered with bodily protection mechanisms such as wound healing or inflammatory reactions can be prosecuted, but in certain areas of psychiatry and psychology this is regarded as common sense.

    The third argument against the repression hypothesis is that there is simply no scientific evidence for it. Holmes, reviewing attempts to demonstrate repression in experimental psychological research, concluded that “despite over 60 years of research involving numerous approaches by thoughtful and clever investigators, at the present time there is no controlled laboratory evidence supporting the concept of repression.”iv

    A recent experiment by Anderson and Green has shown that subjects can purposefully induce forgetting if they use certain tricks to avoid thinking about a particular item.v This is neither surprising nor relevant to the issue of repression. Firstly, the memory items the subjects were asked to avoid, were words, which is rather different from traumatic experiences of sexual abuse. Secondly, the experiments only showed that the words could be purposefully forgotten, not that they were repressed in the sense that they were relegated to a separate compartment in the brain were they could remain unavailable for conscious recollection for a decade, yet produce serious mental symptoms, and then recovered intact after psychotherapy. The idea that this study vindicates the claim that sexual abuse can be repressedvi cannot be taken seriously.

    A lot has also been made of clinical evidence for repression, but again the published literature does not support it. Space will not permit me to review the state of scientific evidence here, but let me briefly mention the main problem. There are a few studies of varying quality that claim that abused children have been unable to recall the abuse for long periods.vii However, these studies all suffer from one or more of the following fatal flaws:

    a) Some studies do not differentiate between not attempting to recall the abuse and a true inability to do so.

    b) Some studies include children less than five years of age and could therefore not exclude infantile amnesia. It is well known that the neural substrate for declarative memory is not developed until about five years of the age.

    c) Many cases of abuse, such as indecent exposure, may not be particularly traumatic for the child and may therefore simply be forgotten. There is no widespread fear that a medical examination or inserting a rectal thermometer is so traumatic that it must be repressed. Why should indecent exposure or fondling, that the child need not interpret as sexual, necessarily be traumatic?

    d) Many victims of abuse are known to deny the event, not because they cannot remember it, but because they find it painful to talk about, perhaps out of feelings of shame. Such feelings may seem irrational and misplaced, but they are known to be quite common among adult rape victims.

    To my knowledge, there is no clinical study that meets all these objections and this also seems to be the view among several investigators who have conducted extensive reviews of the subject. In 1995, the British Royal College of Psychiatry set up a working party to evaluate the published evidence for repression and provide guidelines for psychiatrists. They concluded that “no evidence exists for the repression and recovery of verified, severely traumatic events”.viii The most extensive review to date is probably Remembering Trauma by McNally, who reaches essentially the same conclusion.ix

    It should also be pointed out that there is a conspicuous lack of corroborated case histories in the clinical literature. One highly acclaimed book states that approximately a third of sexually abused victims repressed memory of the abuse and later recovered it.x If repression of sexual abuse were nearly as common as this, there should be thousands of individual cases where the abuse, the repression and the subsequent memory recovery could be independently verified. Much of the alleged abuse, after all, takes place in homes with siblings and one other parent. Surely, in at least a small percentage of cases, there would be a witness willing to confirm what had happened. Yet, when the published literature has been searched, not a single case has been found.xi

    Therapeutic Suggestion

    It is hardly necessary to present scientific evidence that it is possible to implant false memories into people by suggestion. It is a quite common historical phenomenon with the witch hunts as perhaps the best parallel to today’s hysteria about sexual abuse. People have related vivid and emotionally charged memories of being abused by aliens from outer space and witnessing ritual child murders in satanic cults, which we know must be false. However, there is also an abundance of laboratory evidence demonstrating that false memories can be implanted by suggestion. Memories of fantasies are, as far as we know, stored in the same way as memories of real events. If we are led to believe that a certain event has taken place and then have memories of fantasies about such an event, the brain will often construct the most plausible scenario, namely that the memories are authentic. Subjects of psychological experiments have been led to relate extremely elaborate stories of events that never took place, yet later appear as clear memories to the subject.xii

    Nor is it difficult to demonstrate that many alleged victims of sexual abuse have been pressured or subjected to strong suggestions. The following is an excerpt from a police interrogation with a girl who has accused her father of sexual abuse. The girl suffered from anorexia and bulimia and spent many months in therapy at a child psychiatry clinic in Sweden.

    I: police interrogator. G: girl.

    I: I know that you have had anorexia … what do think caused it?
    G: The psychologists … think it was my father who caused it by what he did … but that is not something anyone can say since I don’t remember myself.
    I: But when you say that you don’t remember – why is that? Surely you have some little memory fragments of what he did?
    G: Yes, I have.
    I: Can you tell me about them?
    G: No, not the fragments… I am not sure, but it’s about incest … we don’t really know how.
    I: You remember occasions when it happened?
    G: No I don’t, there are only certain memory fragments but I cannot get a whole picture of what happened.
    I: But you do remember that it was sexual abuse?
    G: I don’t really know what to say… I don’t remember anything … I remember that he touched me in a certain way … the staff at the psychiatric clinic interpret it in their own way. I don’t know, I can’t say…

    After a few months of “therapy” the girl started having nightmares about being raped by her father. She was explicitly told that the dreams were memories about to be recovered and if she could only remember them clearly, her anorexia and bulimia would disappear. This girl was actually quite reluctant to accept the suggestions that had obviously been made by the therapist and reinforced by the police interrogator. After a few months of this treatment, however, she agreed to go to trial against the father. xiii

    It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, in cases of alleged repression of memories of sexual abuse, therapeutic suggestion is by far the most plausible explanation. Serious investigators may differ about how secure or obvious this conclusion is, but there can be no question that the weight of the scientific evidence is against repression. Since recovered memory therapy has frequently and obviously wrecked the lives of thousands of people, the burden of proof must surely be on its practitioners.

  18. recovered memory says:

    You write:
    “How can you “work through a trauma” that never occurred in the first place? Now if the trauma was real you would have a point, but what if it’s not real which it is not in all too many of these cases?”

    How do you know these traumas never really occurred? The denial of the accused perpetrator is not sufficient evidence a trauma did not occur. Perpetrators of sexual abuse often deny their crimes.

    Since you cite an entire paper, I will be citing information here.

    Research has consistently shown that false allegations of child sexual abuse by children are rare….In only 1% of the total cases were children judged to have advanced a fictitious allegation. (From the Leadership Council’s “How often do children’s reports of abuse turn out to be false?”)

    “Many studies show high corroboration rates for recovered memories of traumatic events.” (Child abuse wiki – Recovered Memories) Several studies are cited there backing this statement up.

    You state:
    “they begin with a false premise that all of these disorders like anorexia and bulimia MUST BE the result of some trauma, namely sexual abuse. The problem is, there is no evidence of this.”

    I have not heard anyone state the premise that all are caused by abuse. Research has shown that childhood trauma can cause adult obesity and eating psychopathologies. “A 2009 study of more than 15,000 adolescents found that sexual abuse in childhood raised the risk of obesity 66% in males in adulthood. That study found no such effect in women, but did find a higher risk of eating disorders in sexually abused girls.” (Time Magazine 1/5/10) Also see: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study and J Clin Nurs. 2009 Jul;18(13):1897-907. Childhood trauma as a predictor of eating psychopathology and its mediating variables in patients with eating disorders. Kong S, Bernstein K.) In other words, there is often a link between sexual abuse and eating disorders.

    The paper you quote above (Hesslow) is theoretical and not research based. I am using critical thinking and I disagree with it. It does not appear to be peer reviewed and appears to be only the opinion of the author.

    Some holocaust survivors do suffer amnesia.

    “The following articles provide compelling scientific evidence in support of the phenomena of dissociation and recovered memory in Holocaust survivors. In addition to supporting the phenomenon in general, these articles also counter the argument that recovered memory is (a) no more than a recent cultural “fad” and (b) specific to false accusers of sexual abuse.” (Memory disturbances and dissociative amnesia in Holocaust survivors – Recovered Memory Project – blogs brown edu)

    Hesslow appears to be a neuroscientist and is not clinically trained in the mental health field. If this is true, then IMO he is not qualified to discuss trauma treatment, since it appears he has not participated in it.

    Hesslow’s article states: “It should also be pointed out that there is a conspicuous lack of corroborated case histories in the clinical literature.” This is not true.

    There are many corroborated case histories. One place to find some of these is “110 Corroborated Cases of Recovered Memory – Recovered Memory Project).

    It is well known that dissociative amnesia exists. War soldiers and accident victims may totally forget a traumatic event. And almost always, no one questions this. But when a victim of child abuse suffers the same phenomenon, then amnesia is questioned. Is this due to the social denial of child abuse?

    Hesslow’s article makes many sweeping statements without evidence. Yet he demands strong evidence from those he disagrees with.

    The strongest evidence that dissociative amnesia exists is its inclusion in the DSM-IV. This is the foremost diagnostic book used in the US, backed by years of research, discussion and evidence. Those like Hesslow are a small minority of people that don’t believe it exists. The majority of those that work with trauma victims know that dissociative amnesia is a reality and that often these memories are accurate.

  19. Russ says:

    Ok let’s talk about Mercy Ministries, who does use this type of therapy (the type that leads to “recovered memories”), whatever you want to call this type of therapy. My daughter (and many others who I have actually verified it from) were subjected to this “therapy” which uses very dubious methods such as trance writing, guided imagery and even suggesting that any kind of pain they feel in their body at that moment in time may well be the result of sexual abuse. One parent I have come to know, a woman, was also accused of “emotional abuse” by her daughter and accused her mom of watching him sexually abuse her more than 50 times (which the daughter later realized that part was not true and apologized ot her father). When the woman asked the daughter what she meant by emotional abuse, how she got that from her therapy, she said “we argued sometimes.” Wow….by that definition of abuse, every mother in America is guilty!
    Here are some questions that need to be answered: Why does Mercy Ministries refuse to answer questions about their therapy methods in the most recent article? Why can they not explain the type of therapy they use? The answer is that they use a discredited form of therapy, and cannot answer the question honestly so they refuse to talk about it.
    I have also learned in the past few weeks that many girls/women at all branches of Mercy Ministries have been denied access to their own medical records when requested…they have to sue to get them and when they have jumped through all these hoops and finally receive them I’ve heard from many who say that the records they did receive were incomplete, with missing information. What possible reason could Mercy Ministries (or any place for that matter providing therapy and treatment) deny women their own medical records??? There are so many red flags here…..

  20. recovered memory says:

    Your statements above are unproven.

    How can we know that traumas you mention never really occurred? The denial of the accused perpetrator is not sufficient evidence a trauma did not occur. Perpetrators of sexual abuse often deny their crimes.

    Mercy does answer some questions in their article. These disprove your statements above.

    They state they do not use recovered memory therapy.
    “Certainly, we are not going to dismiss if a patient brings an issue up. We might gently explore it but we also (say to them), ‘Lets get your behaviors in check,’” Lombardi said. “Sometimes, throughout the course of treatment, patients may have memories they may not have realized or acknowledged.”

    Lombardi said treatment of eating disorders is first focused on getting the patient medically stable. Then therapy is done.
    “We’ll start looking at underlying issues, such as if they had trauma or triggers that can fuel the fire or are perpetuating the need for the illness,” Lombardi said. “We do work with patients in terms of identifying triggering factors and working with a support system so they have good communication.”

    In another article, one client discusses her treatment at Mercy.

    Mercy was the opposite of other treatment centers Ellie had attended. “I was in the program for eight months and it was phenomenal. It was probably one of the hardest things I did in life, to give up addictions and face things,” Ellie said. “I can truly say Mercy Ministries saved my life. I can say, without them, I would not be alive.” Ellie said she was taught how to live instead of just manage her disorder.

    “I was set free from something instead of having to manage it for the rest of my life. When I left, I was equipped for life,” Ellie said. “Mercy has a different structure. They taught you how to reach out and ask for help instead of being monitored and having people teach you how to do things.”

  21. Russ says:

    Many of these people, the so-called “success stories” have been brainwashed, and a large percentage of staff members at Mercy are former patients who were brainwashed themselves. I have also gotten to know someone who considered herself once a Mercy “success story” and thought Mercy could do no wrong, just like Ellie who you cited in the article, but that was five years ago and now she thinks very differently because she now realizes that she was in a destructive cult and is now trying to help other Mercy survivors. There are a large number of women having to go to therapy just to recover and undo the damage from their time at Mercy, and at large part of it is the discredited therapy methods that they use. I have talked with many who were subjected to the type of therapy that Mercy uses, and they all say it was very, very distressing.
    A former Mercy staff member recently said that all is not at seems at Mercy, that even the so-called “success stories” are not what they seem, and that there is true darkness going on at Mercy. Mercy Ministries also fits the BITE model for being a destructive cult, as described by Steven Hassan. One question that none of Mercy’s defenders can answer: Can you give any legitimate reasons why former patients at Mercy are being denied their medical records and have to sue to get them??? Please do not say that they were “lost”.

  22. Russ says:

    Any kind of therapy, whatever you call it, that leads someone to believe that her mother was “emotionally abusive” to her because “they argued sometimes” is bogus, and that’s an understatement. This kind of therapy would be laughable if it weren’t so destructive and cruel.

  23. Russ says:

    This is one woman’s experience with Mercy Ministries from one of the many websites detailing the damage done to women and their families by the therapy methods still practiced today by Mercy Ministries:

    “I was a Mercy girl. Suffering from severe anorexia for 17 years now. My time spent at Mercy wasn’t awful but it also left me with regrets. Because now I know that the memories of the past were never true. The techniques used there led me to believe that I had repressed memories. They never dealt with my eating disorder as it was a non issue. Imagine that. I faked a divine healing in order to be the perfect person. I believe in God and I am a Christian but I’m not healed. I’m still very much a sick person. I’m not a success story. I’m a failure. Most staff and former residents are no longer there for me because of my failures. One of my friends also cut ties with her family and now has a “new” family.

    Through a lot of brainwashing, I believed I was ok. Was I taught how to deal with my Ed when life dealt me blows. No. I was told that as long as I stayed in God’s will, I would be fine. but if not that I was choosing to go back to anorexia and allowing Satan in. Now I’m full blown anorexic again. Seeking treatment again. I have nothing but remorse and guilt for not being the perfect Mercy grad. For if I sought them out through transitional care, I would be told to pray and renew my mind. I have prayed. I have tried to speak truth. It hasn’t worked. Mercy didn’t work for me. Yes I completed the program but I really had no choice. I was on the brink of death and at least Mercy saved me nutritionally but that’s all I can give them.”

  24. evilsloth4 says:

    So much back and forth between two that firmly will not acknowledge that, okay, sure you’ll forget your father raped you if he hit you in the head hard enough… and of course if you weren’t hit in the head hard enough, there’s no way that you’d forget. The clue here is, did religious institutions ever have anyone’s best interests at heart while following their calls by the love of a god in manufacturing racks, iron maidens, and anal pears…

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