메인 Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health Return of the furies: an investigation into recovered memory therapy. By Hollida Wakefield and Ralf...
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CBMH 7(3) 1st/JH 22-9-97 4:28 pm Page 241 Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 7, 241–256 1997 © Whurr Publishers Ltd Book Reviews RETURN OF THE FURIES: AN INVESTIGATION INTO RECOVERED MEMORY THERAPY By Hollida Wakefield and Ralf Underwager. Open Court Publishing, distributed by Eurospan Group, London WC2E 8LU. 1994. Hardback £35.95, ISBN 0-8126-9291-3. Paperback £15.50, ISBN 0-8126-9272-1. This book deals with an important issue with profound implications for the way in which psychotherapy is practised. Its message and most of its conclusions are basically sound. But its hectoring style is irritatingly intrusive and its message vitiated by lack of balance. It is also uncertain whether it is addressing an academic or a lay audience. The ‘recovered memory therapy’ of the title refers to a phenomenon that can perhaps best be understood sociologically. There has been a growth in the USA over the last decade of a ‘therapy’ which has at its core the following complex of beliefs: that sexual abuse of children, especially girls, within families, especially by fathers, is very much more common than generally believed; that such sexual abuse commonly leads to a wide range of serious psychopathology; that such sexual abuse may be forgotten or ‘repressed’ until ‘recovered’ in ‘therapy’; and that recovery of such memories is necessary for ‘healing’ the effects of sexual abuse. Necessary but not apparently sufficient. According to the authors’ account, to be healed also requires the catharsis of intense hate-filled anger directed at the perpetrator or those who defend him. The authors describe how a growing number of vulnerable, mainly female, subjects are receiving this inappropriate therapy at the hands of incompetent and wrong-headed practitioners who have been strongly influenced by a selfhelp best seller, The Courage to Heal. Much of their book is devoted to a fairly academic discussion of the nature of memory to demonstrate how ‘memories’ of abuse may arise in response to therapists’ expectations and suggest; ions. The authors are at their most passionate when recounting the effects of these ‘false memories’ on the subjects’ families. Professionally, they are psychologists with considerable experience in the arena of child abuse. They describe their 241 CBMH 7(3) 1st/JH 242 22-9-97 4:28 pm Page 242 Book reviews increasing involvement with the False Memory Syndrome Society and how their work has come to be dominated by clients who have been wrongfully accused of sexual abuse. The child abuse system is described as increasingly and monstrously out of control: What began as an admirable effort to protect children has evolved into a system of laws, justice and law enforcement authorities, social workers, and allied professionals that intrudes into American families with almost despotic power. It is based on pseudoscientific balderdash supplied by unscientific mental health professionals, unfounded and unsupported dogmas propounded by radical feminist propagandists, and the gullibility of politicians eager to build an image of probity at no cost to themselves. The Furies of the title , ‘the ancient matriarchal Greek goddesses of vengeance and vitriol, rage and bitterness’ are equated with contemporary radical feminists with whom, amongst a range of others, the authors join battle. Like Lady Thatcher, the authors appear to believe that the modern bureaucratic state is profoundly evil. The heat of the clash pervades the book, engendering scepticism at the case propounded. I found myself longing for a calm and considered appraisal of the complexities involved. The authors claim to be defending ‘objective, neutral and value-free research’ from the depredations of various foes but their language subverts the very notion. Their world is divided categorically into goodies and baddies, heroes and villains, perpetrators and victims. Because some ‘therapists’ have encouraged false beliefs, the authors come close to condemning all psychodynamic psychotherapy. There is little acknowledgement that, as Chris Dare has written, the whole subject of child sexual abuse almost inevitably arouses a confusion of conflicting emotions and reactions that mirrors the responses of the victims themselves. Out of this confusion comes denial and the temptation of simple solutions. Shortly after reading this book I read a journalist’s account of ‘Fred and Rose West and the Gloucester House of Horrors’, a reminder of the other side of the coin. Real sexual abuse and false accusation of sexual abuse both devastate lives. Both evoke the wishful response ‘it can’t be true!’. Unfortunately, it sometimes is. In the search for clarity and understanding of this difficult fact of life, this book is less helpful than it might be. REFERENCES BASS, E. & DAVIS, L. (1988). The Courage to Heal. New York: Harper & Row. (1993). Denial and child sexual abuse. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry 4, 1–4. DARE, C. Philip Lucas Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK