Letter: Lost memories of childhood abuse

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Sir: Jerome Burne ("Recovery syndrome", 14 February) stated that when the British Psychological Society polled its members on the topic of recovered memories "they found that 97 per cent not only believed in recovered memories, but they also thought that claims of ritual Satanic abuse were real too. Thirty per cent believe that you can't influence patients' memories".

To start with, the quotation exaggerates. For example, the 97 per cent includes those who believe recovered memories are something "essentially accurate". Secondly, Jerome Burne forgot to mention that the Working Party agreed that false memories could be produced and that certain memory recovery procedures could be dangerous.

To help our members avoid the possibility in their own therapeutic work, we put forward extensive guidelines. As far as I am aware, there has only been one complaint against a British Psychological Society psychologist for inducing false memories, and this psychologist was exonerated after an extensive investigation.

We believe that any false accusation of an offence as revolting as child abuse should be taken seriously. One of the reasons we are pressing for statutory registration of the term "psychologist", and for more controls over the training of therapists generally, is to minimise the risk to the public of therapists who may be instrumental in inducing false memories in their clients.


Chair, Recovered Memories Working Party

The British Psychological Society