Discredited Recovered Memory Therapy May Resurge


There is no specific allegation that any new claim of abuse has been precipitated by memories regained as a result of this therapy. But memory researchers are concerned. A surprising number of practitioners in the UK still use recovered-memory therapy, and as more people come forward with claims of historical abuse, there is a danger that people will become victims of a different kind.

That this is even a possibility is scandalous. Even in its heyday a few decades ago, recovered-memory therapy was built on shaky scientific ground. It has now been almost completely discredited as a therapeutic tool.

Much of the blame has to be laid at the door of psychotherapy, a broad term for a variety of techniques for resolving personal and psychological problems. Many of these techniques are evidence-based. Many others are not; recovered memories are among the least well supported.

Scientists in the field rightly point to the “satanic panic” of the 1980s and 1990s as a warning. Dozens of children made allegations of satanic abuse, often under pressure by well-meaning social workers and therapists. Some cases were also “revealed” by recovered-memory therapy. The whole thing turned out to be a collective delusion.