Repressed memory Syndrome

Repressed memory therapy

RMT is a term which refers to the attempts to recover long forgotten or repressed memories. It is often used when a client is suspected to have been abused many years ago, but has no memories of it as an adult. RMT is a hotly debated topic within the mental health community:

  • Most memory researchers believe that any serious abuse will be remembered into adulthood - whether a single event or oft-repeated.
  • Many therapists believe that it is extremely common for a person to actively repress abuse memories. According to this belief system, an adult could have been sexually abused as a child hundreds (or even thousands) of times and have no current memory of any of the events, even though the adult could recall other memories of mundane childhood activities from the same years. The survivors would not even remember that something dreadful happened during their childhood. The more serious the abuse and the more frequent the abuse, the more likely the memories will be repressed.

Although most memories are recovered during counselling with a therapist who believes in them, there exists a growing number of individuals who have recovered memories outside of therapy. Frequently, books like The Courage to Heal are involved. The techniques are the same; they are simply self-administered.

Many therapists engaged in recovered memory therapy believe that adult problems, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, relationship problems, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, etc are often caused by a specific form of abuse. Memories of that abuse are often believed to have been repressed so that they cannot be remembered. Even though the abuse is not remembered, it generates some of the above symptoms in the adult.

Many therapists use a checklists of symptoms likely to surface in adulthood because of the repressed memories. Unfortunately, some of these checklists include so many symptoms that they include most of the adult population as suspected victims/survivors.

In order to recover memories, therapists have used a variety of techniques:

  • hypnotism
  • guided imagery (talking the client through an imaginary trip)
  • dream work (analyzing dreams for suggestions of abuse)
  • age regression (taking the client back in time to early childhood or beyond)
  • "truth serum": use of drugs to enhance recall of memories
  • automatic writing (having the client write freely without thinking about what they are writing)
  • having the client imagine abuse that could have happened to them

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