Psychological Self-Help

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A WARNING needs to be given to self-help readers who do not
clearly remember any sexual abuse: In an effort to help people
uncover repressed traumatic events in their childhood, some books
have suggested something like this: "if you or your child are having
these specific symptoms (one book lists 19 signs, including being too
trusting or distrusting, liking sex too much or too little, homosexual
tendencies, nightmares, and masturbation), even though you/he/she
don't remember being abused, you/he/she probably were." Wow!
What a misguided statement in otherwise helpful books. Ask yourself:
Couldn't something else besides sexual abuse cause masturbation,
distrust, nightmares, and those other signs? Of course! No one knows
enough about any psychological problem to be able to imply that "this
is probably the cause." Moreover, a percentage of humans, adults and
children, are so suggestible that "memories" from childhood can be
created by psychology books, therapists, movies, TV, our own dreams,
hypnosis, crime reports, talk shows, novels, etc., etc. (See Newsweek,
April 19, 1993, and Gardner, 1993.) 
Loftus (1993) carefully documents a variety of ways in which false
memories of abuse have been created by "therapeutic procedures"
designed to uncover sexual abuse and other trauma supposedly
causing the client's problems. That is a serious matter. How often do
therapists go searching for these "repressed" memories of sexual
abuse? Polusny & Follette (1996) and Poole, Lindsay, Memon & Bull
(1995) report that almost 70% of Ph.D.-level psychotherapists have
used at least one special procedure to search for forgotten sexual
abuse. For instance, 47% of the therapists had used dream
interpretation, 27% had used guided memory, 33% had recommended
you-can-remember books, 29% had referred the patients to a sexual
abuse survivors group, and a smaller percentage utilized hypnosis, age
regression, family photographs, and other methods. The important
point is: science does not know how many of these "recovered"
memories actually happened and how many didn't happen but were
implanted by the therapist or by case studies or by fiction writers or
movies, etc. If you feel you have been falsely accused of sexual abuse,
call 1-800-568-8882 at the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Suite
130, 3401 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19104. The American
Psychological Association in Washington, D.C. also has a brochure
about sexual abuse memories. 
Current data indicates that people commonly remember being
abused if it occurred; yet, between 20% and 40% of abused women
forget their sexual abuse memories for a while and then later
remember the experience. Therefore, it was not entirely unreasonable
for self-help books, such as Bass and Davis (1988, 1992), to probe
(briefly and very tentatively) for forgotten memories of abuse. In fact,
if the reader has forgotten aspects of being abused, deeper probing
might be justified (preferably only by an experienced therapist) but
only if the prober knows for certain that some abuse actually
happened. But if a person does not clearly remember being sexually
abused, there is a very serious risk of the repeated probing (or
suggesting) leading to the creation of false memories (Hyman,
Husband & Billings, 1995). Therefore, if you are a woman and unaware
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