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SELECTED COMMENTS FROM PROFESSIONAL STATEMENTS

 
 
Contents

Distinguishing true from false memories

Hypnosis and memory recovery techniques

Traumatic memories

Caution against using a set of symptoms to diagnose child sexual abuse or a child abuser

List (by date) of guidelines issued by professional organizations on the topic of "recovered memories"

 

DISTINGUISHING TRUE FROM FALSE MEMORIES: EXTERNAL CORROBORATION

"It is not known how to distinguish, with complete accuracy, memories based on true events from those derived from other sources."
American Psychiatric Association, 1993

"While aspects of the alleged abuse situation, as well as the context in which the memories emerge, can contribute to the assessment, there is no completely accurate way of determining the validity of reports in the absence of corroborating information."
American Psychiatric Association, 1993

"The available scientific and clinical evidence does not allow accurate, inaccurate, and fabricated memories to be distinguished in the absence of independent corroboration."
Australian Psychological Society, 1994

"The AMA considered recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse to be of uncertain authenticity, which should be subject to external verification. The use of recovered memories is fraught with problems of potential misapplication."
American Medical Association, 1994

"At present there are no scientifically valid criteria that would generally permit the reliable differentiation of true recovered memories of sexual abuse from pseudomemories."
Michigan Psychological Association, 1995

"At this point it is impossible, without other corroborative evidence, to distinguish a true memory from a false one."
American Psychological Association, 1995

"Psychologists acknowledge that a definite conclusion that a memory is based on objective reality is not possible unless there is incontrovertible corroborating evidence."
Canadian Psychological Association, 1996

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HYPNOSIS AND MEMORY RECOVERY TECHNIQUES

"The Council finds that recollections obtained during hypnosis can involve confabulations and pseudomemories and not only fail to be more accurate, but actually appear to be less reliable than non hypnotic recall."
American Medical Association, 1985

"Psychiatrists are advised to avoid engaging in any ‘memory recovery techniques’ which are based upon the expectation of past sexual abuse of which the patient has no memory. Such ‘memory recovery techniques’ may include drug-mediated interviews, hypnosis, regression therapies, guided imagery, ‘body memories’, literal dream interpretation and journaling. There is no evidence that the use of consciousness-altering techniques, such as drug-mediated interviews or hypnosis can reveal or accurately elaborate factual information about any past experiences including childhood sexual abuse. Techniques of regression therapy including ‘age regression’ and hypnotic regression are of unproven effectiveness."
Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1997

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TRAUMATIC MEMORIES

"Most people who were sexually abused as children remember all or part of what happened to them although they may not fully understand or disclose it."
American Psychological Association, 1996

"While traumatic memories may be different than ordinary memories, we currently do not have conclusive scientific consensus on this issue."
International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, 1998

"[B]ecause exactly what is meant by the terms ‘repression’ and ‘dissociation’ is far from clear, their use has become idiosyncratic, metaphoric, and arbitrary."
Scientific Advisory Board of the FMS Foundation, 1998

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CAUTION AGAINST USING A SET OF SYMPTOMS TO DIAGNOSE CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
OR A CHILD ABUSER

"There is no uniform ‘profile’ or other method to accurately distinguish those who have sexually abused children from those who have not."
American Psychiatric Association, 1993

"Psychologists recognize that there is no constellation of symptoms which is diagnostic of child sexual abuse."
Canadian Psychological Association, August 1996

"Previous sexual abuse in the absence of memories of these events cannot be diagnosed through a checklist of symptoms."
Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1997

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GUIDELINES ON "RECOVERED MEMORIES" ISSUED BY MAJOR PROFESSIONAL
ORGANIZATIONS (by date)

1985 (April)
American Medical Association (Council on Scientific Affairs)
Scientific Status of Refreshing Recollection by the Use of Hypnosis

1993 (December)
American Psychiatric Association
Statement on Memories of Sexual Abuse.

1994 (May)
American Medical Association
Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse.

1994 (October)
Australian Psychological Society Limited
Guidelines Relating to the Reporting of Recovered Memories.

1995 (January)
British Psychological Society
Recovered Memories: The report of the working party of the British Psychological Society.

1995 (February)
American Society of Clinical Hypnosis
Clinical Hypnosis and Memory: Guidelines for Clinicians and for Forensic Hypnosis. 1995 (May)

Michigan Psychological Association
Recovered Memories of Sexual Abuse: MPA Position Paper.

1995 (August)
American Psychological Association
Questions and Answers about Memories of Childhood Abuse.

1996 (March)
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Position Statement on Adult Recovered Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse.

1996 (April)
American Psychological Association
Working Group on Investigation of Memories of Child Abuse.

1996 (June)
National Association of Social Workers
Evaluation and Treatment of Adults with the Possibility of Recovered Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse.

1996 (August)
Canadian Psychological Association
Guidelines for Psychologists Addressing Recovered Memories.

1997
British Association for Counselling
False Memory Syndrome: A Statement.

1997 (June)
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Reported Recovered Memories of Child Sexual Abuse.

1998 (May)
Scientific Advisory Board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation
Statement. 1998 (June)
The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
Childhood Trauma Remembered: A report on the current scientific knowledge base and its applications.

1994
The International Society for the Study of Dissociation
Guidelines for Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder) in Adults.
ISSD, 60 Revere Drive, Suite 500, Northbrook, IL 60062
Note: While this document is concerned primarily with diagnosis and treatment issues, it also contains
a section called: "Veracity of the patient’s memories of child abuse."

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