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“Recovered memories are created by therapists. Thousands of therapists are searching for ‘recovered memories.”

“Therapists create the circumstances that lead a patient to develop false beliefs ("memories").” - Allen Feld, in the FMSF Newsletter. [1]

“Therapists made patients with problems into victims. The most dramatic examples involved searching for sexual abuse as the repressed trauma.” - Loren Pankratz, in the FMSF Newsletter. [2]

“There are probably several million families who have been destroyed by recovered memory therapy” - Mark Pendergrast, at the FMSF Day of Contrition Conference. [3]

“My question, therefore: are some or all trauma-focused therapists sexual deviants or psychologically disturbed individuals? … It is in the interest of therapists to keep their patients trapped in their delusional worlds forever.” - August Piper, in the FMSF Newsletter. [4]


A vast majority of recovered memories are recovered outside of therapy. In one study, Diana Elliot assessed traumatic memories – including the delayed recall of abuse – In a random sample of 505 individuals across America. She found that therapy was an uncommon reason for an individual to recover memories.
Excerpt: “With regard to the claim [that therapy creates recovered memories], only 14% of the participants in this study who reported delayed recall of a trauma reported having their memory triggered during the course of therapy. Even if all the individuals who had ever been in treatment reported delayed recall of trauma (a conservative assumption), 86% of the sample, nevertheless, reported recovering memory through other means. This finding suggests that the process of psychotherapy, per se, does not intrinsically explain the recovered memory phenomenon. Rather, these data suggest that, like other posttraumatic stress responses, intrusion of previously avoided memory can be cued by environmental stimuli, perhaps in the same way as has been documented with posttraumatic flashbacks. . .” (p.818) [5]

In a study by Linda Meyer Williams of 129 women who had previous hospital records regarding documented cases of abuse, where 49 of the women were completely unable to remember the abuse and 16% had a period of time where they were unable to remember the abuse, therapists did not foster their recovered memories of abuse.
Excerpt: “[T]hese findings are important because they are based on a prospective study of all reported cases of child sexual abuse in a community sample… There is no evidence from this study of child sexual abuse experienced by this community sample of women that recovery of memories was fostered by therapy or therapists. For this sample of women memories resurfaced in conjunction with registering events or reminders and an internal process of rumination and clarification. [6]

Even when memories are recovered in therapy, they are not necessarily constructed by the therapist. As mentioned in the previous argument, a study by Dalenberg found that memories recovered in therapy were found to be just as accurate as those that were continuous. [7] Secondly, a study by Leavitt found that “claims involving simple cause and effect relationships between treatment and memory recovery are not viable,” and that they are “not relevant for understanding the emergence of memories of childhood sexual trauma.” [8]

Claims about recovered memories discovered in therapy often imply that recovered memories are created by therapists searching for memories. This is described by critics of recovered memory as ‘recovered memory therapy.’ Descriptions of what constitutes ‘recovered memory therapy’ or ‘creating memories’ are vast and contradictory, including techniques as simple as journaling. Regardless, there is no standard procedure known as ‘recovered memory therapy,’ and the amount of therapists ‘practicing it’ is vastly overstated [Link to RMT page]

Attacking therapists and the concept of therapy was a common goal of those who critiqued the accuracy of recovered memories. Read more about their actions on the subject here: [Link to FMSF critique]


[1] Feld, Allen. (2002, May/June). Responsibility. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 11(3), 8.

[2] Pankratz, Loren. (2001 November/December). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 10(6), 9.

[3] Pendergrast, Mark. (1997, January 14). Don’t Demonize: A Message Of Compassion And Hope. [Conference Presentation]. Day of Contrition Revisited, Salem, MA, USA.

[4] Piper, August. (1996, February). A Special Delivery of some Food for Thought. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 5(2), 7.

[5] Elliott, D. M. (1997). Traumatic events: Prevalence and delayed recall in the general population. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 811-820.

[6] Williams, L. M. (1995). Recovered memories of abuse in women with documented child sexual victimization histories. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 8, 649-673.

[7] Dalenberg, C. J. (1996). Accuracy, timing and circumstances of disclosure in therapy of recovered and continuous memories of abuse. Journal of Psychiatry & Law, 24(2), 229–275.

[8] Leavitt, F. (1999). Suggestibility and treatment as key variables in the recovered memory debate. American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 17, 5-18.

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