• Quote of the Day
    "Worrying is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere."
    Van Wilder, posted by Daniel

Retired

Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2005
Messages
8,966
Points
36
Does anyone have experience with "Repressed Memory Therapy"?

What is the basis of this type of therapy and is it recognized by the medical community?

What benefits or difficulties are are associated with this process?

Steve
 

David Baxter

Administrator
Joined
Mar 26, 2004
Messages
37,760
Points
113
Re: Repressed Memory Therapy??

I'm not sure what you mean by this, Steve.

See Recovered Memories and "False Memory Syndrome":

Editorial Comment

The debate about recovered memories versus false memory syndrome is both complex and sensitive. As a clinician, I believe it is important to be aware of the issues on both sides of the debate, and, in the course of clinical practice, to be sensitive to any practices with even hypothetical potential for promoting a "false memory". The intent of this web page is not to support either side in the debate (there are many other web sites which already do that) but rather to provide some resources summarizing what is known and what is not known. Ultimately, truth is decided not by rhetoric but by empirical evidence, and in open accessibility to and examination of that evidence. In keeping with this, I do not believe that my personal opinions are relevant here and I wish to expressly emphasize that nothing presented on this page should be construed as necessarily representing the opinions of anyone at PsychLinks. Clinicians may be interested in consulting a recent article by Phyllis J. Proust & Keith S. Dobson (1998), Recovered Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse: Searching for the Middle Ground in Clinical Practice, Canadian Psychology, 39:4, 257-265.
 

Mari

MVP
Joined
Jan 28, 2007
Messages
1,171
Points
36
Re: Repressed Memory Therapy??

I do not have any experience with this but I am curious that there are large gaps in memories of my childhood. Even when my sisters tell me specific events which they remember and which they think I should remember I can not recall anything of those time periods. Sometimes I wonder if this is normal or if I am repressing the memories for some reason. Mari
 

healthbound

Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2005
Messages
901
Points
16
Re: Repressed Memory Therapy??

If I remember correctly, during the 80's, there was a strong belief that if a person thought they remembered something, then what they remembered must have actually happened. It was around the time when a book called "The Courage to Heal" was selling well and “repressed memories” became a hot topic (or at least, that’s the way I remember it ;)).

I remember several times during the 80’s when I was encouraged to talk about partial memories I was having. I didn't have a full grasp on many of them, but was encouraged to continue explaining them. I remember one therapist continually asking me, “what happened next". I explained that I didn't know what happened next and she responded with, "yes you do" and kept asking me, “what happened next”. I ended up just saying what came to my mind. I don't know if what came to my mind was actually a memory or not though. Was it my subconscious or my imagination?

I have had solid memories return to my consciousness though. These kinds of memories are very different than the ones that are partial images, sounds, smells, flashes, feelings or sensations. These memories are unquestionably legitimate and have always existed, but it’s as if I had just “forgotten” them for a while. There’s a very clear difference between the forgotten memories and the partial memories.

To the best of my recollection, after my dad left, my mother had insinuated that he sexually abused me (I was 11 when they split up). Around that time, I also remember her telling me stories about repressed memories. One that stood out to me was about a woman who blocked sexual abuse memories until she was in her thirties. I remember wondering if that's what I was doing too.

I ended up adopting a belief that I was abused, and in turn, talked about my partial memories (even though I wasn't 100% sure about them). At one point, I was even taken to the police station and told that I had to give a formal statement about the abuse (which I did).

Issues about repressed memories are complicated and delicate. As a scared, sad and confused girl, I relied heavily on therapists for cues, hints or indications about what was real and what was not. And if they said I knew what happened next, I figured I knew what happened next. Does that mean I made myself recall the actual events or does it mean that I made myself make something up?

There is no proof of severe sexual abuse by my father (I use the word severe because he admits to some sexually inappropriate behavior, but denies the more serious allegations). My dad does creep me out, but I've accepted that I will never know if my partial memories were actually real or not. My only witnesses were my sister who passed away, and my mom who was experiencing psychosis after my dad left. So, it is what it is, man.

Unlike experiencing forgotten OR partial memories, I had a friend who was definitely abused (it was confirmed by a witness as well as the offender), but she did not and does not have ANY memories of it at all.

Don’t know if any of that helps or not, but that’s my two (or more like fifty) cents.
 

David Baxter

Administrator
Joined
Mar 26, 2004
Messages
37,760
Points
113
Re: Repressed Memory Therapy??

I think Healthbound has laid out the problems with this issue quite well.

1. Having gaps in childhood memories is common and does not in itself signal anything worrisome or traumatic.

2. There is little doubt that repression of memories does occur, especially repression of traumatic memories.

3. However, it is essential that we understand that memory is a constructive process, coded semantically according to meaning), and not a video of how events have unfolded in the past. Because of this, it is also the case that "false memories" also occur or can be created, especially in the case of injudicious questioning that may plant suggestions regarding "memories" of events that never occurred.
 

ThatLady

Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2004
Messages
4,104
Points
36
Re: Repressed Memory Therapy??

I've got lots of what I call "bald spots" in my memory - particularly, in childhood. I've learned not to worry about those "bald spots". At least for me, I find I do better if I live in the present and plan for the future, instead of worrying about the past.
 

Retired

Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2005
Messages
8,966
Points
36
Re: Repressed Memory Therapy??

memory is a constructive process, coded semantically according to meaning), and not a video of how events have unfolded in the past

David,

Would you elaborate on the meaning of this statement, as well as it's significance in how our memory works?

I find I do better if I live in the present and plan for the future, instead of worrying about the past.

TL,

My point of view is that I too try live in the present and look to the future, but I fondly cherish my memories, especially the good ones. However, like most people, I've had a few unpleasant experiences, and the challenge is to how to deal with these. I've done well with some, while others continue to haunt me.
 

David Baxter

Administrator
Joined
Mar 26, 2004
Messages
37,760
Points
113
Re: Repressed Memory Therapy??

TSOW said:
David Baxter said:
memory is a constructive process, coded semantically according to meaning), and not a video of how events have unfolded in the past

David,

Would you elaborate on the meaning of this statement, as well as it's significance in how our memory works?

This is a simplification (over-simplification) based on theory but nonetheless is probably a fairly accurate description of how memory and memory retrieval works.

First, think of human memory as a huge filing system. What we experience goes first into immediate memory (basically sensory storage which decays - is deleted or overwritten - very quickly) and then with some "encoding" into short-term memory. Then, when time and resources are available, the brain must sort through all of the information in short-term memory and place it into the correct "file folder" in long term memory.

Now, the amount of information to be stored over the course of years becomes enormous of course. In order to store it and to store it in a form that can be later retrieved (located from all those filing cabinets) when needed, the brain needs a coding or tagging system. It can't store this as a audio-video direct copy of the experience because there simply isn't enough space in the brain to do that (and even if there were the job of trying to locate the correct video would be massive and slow).

So what happens is (e.g. during dreaming) the brain takes a new memory and sifts through the file folders looking for memories of other experiences that are related semantically, have a similar meaning - when it finds a match, the two memories (old and new) get linked together or tagged, and the process continues. When completed, you now have the memory stored as a collection of semantic tags.

Later, when the brain retrieves the memory, it reconstructs the specific event sequences from those tags.

That's why our memories are rarely 100% accurate and why they can vary over time. It's also why if 10 people witness an unexpected or traumatic event and later give testimony as to what happened, there will inevitably be discrepancies in their testimony - each person extracts elements and codes or tags those elements in an idiosyncratic way according to their unique history of experiences and existing memories.

It's also why suggestions as to what may have happened in the recovery of repressed memories is so dangerous. Details can be added according to suggestions made by the interviewer or therapist that then become part of the reconstructed memory, even though they in fact never existed in the original experience.

This is the adult memory system, which doesn't develop until about age 3. That's why our memories typically do not extend to the first 3 years of life.

The exception is memories of traumatic events, which seem to be stored in a more emotionally-based or emotionally-tagged manner and may have a more video-like character, a more primitive type of storage system probably similar to the pre-3 year old memory system.
 

Retired

Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2005
Messages
8,966
Points
36
Re: Repressed Memory Therapy??

A resource for families affected by this issue is the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.

How does one filter through the hostile and false information on this controversial subject and know they are receiving accurate and sound guidance?
 

David Baxter

Administrator
Joined
Mar 26, 2004
Messages
37,760
Points
113
Re: Repressed Memory Therapy??

That is a serious problem with this entire issue, TSOW. If you suggest to some people (including victim activists and many clinicians) that such as thing as [wiki]false memory syndrome[/wiki] even exists, they react as if you are trying to claim that [wiki]repressed memories[/wiki] do NOT exist, and they react with the fervor and vehemence of a fanatical anti-abortionist.

One of the psychologists who did some early research into eye-witness testimony and creating false memories, Elizabeth Loftus, was hounded almost into retirement.
 

Top Bottom