Therapists accused of misleading patients

A 'STARTLING proportion' of therapists are unwittingly leading their patients to believe they have been victims of sexual abuse in their childhood when they have not, a seminar on suggestibility and false memories was told yesterday.

Dr Michael Yapko, a clinical psychologist from the United States, conducted a survey of 1,000 professional therapists and concluded that too many treat their patients on the basis of their personal beliefs and philosophy and not according to an objective consideration, which leads patients to make false accusations of child abuse, often against their parents.

He said: 'I am deeply concerned that psychotherapy patients will be led to believe destructive ideas that are untrue, recall memories of events that never actually happened, jump to conclusions that are not warranted and destroy the lives of innocent people.'

Dr Yapko was the main speaker at a seminar at the Royal Society of Medicine in London organised by the European Therapy Studies Institute. One of his most disturbing findings was that almost 19 per cent of the professional therapists he surveyed said they knew of cases where it seemed likely that a patient's trauma was suggested by a psychotherapist rather than a genuine experience.

Dr Yapko was highly critical of techniques and methods used by some therapists when interviewing patients under the influence of so- called truth drugs and hypnotherapy. He was also scathing about the importance attached to 'checklists' of symptoms used by some therapists to diagnose sexual abuse in childhood, which could apply to almost anyone. These included depression, low self-esteem, headaches, obesity, arthritis and acne.

One therapist claimed that 96 per cent of all people were victims of abuse.

Dr Dorothy Rowe, a British-based clinical psychologist, told the seminar she believed some therapists were motivated by money.

She said: 'A lot of therapists suffered in the recession. There is a feeling that 'if I have got a client I will hang on to that client'. A good therapist will help a patient understand their past and leave it behind. An unscrupulous therapist never lets you get over your past.

'The (recovered memory) movement is all about telling the patient you can never grow up and be an independent person because you are fatally flawed. The recovery movement is a marvellous money spinner because no- one in the recovery movement ever recovers'.

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