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Katy Butler

Role: Journalist and Author
Impact: Wrote critically about the False Memory Syndrome Foundation despite significant backlash.

Katy Butler is an Award-winning journalist, public speaker, and bestselling author who covered the recovered memory controversy. She wrote six articles on the subject for the Psychotherapy Networker (previously called the Family Therapy Networker) in 1995 and 1996, and two articles for the Los Angeles Times in 1994 and 1995. She wrote critically about False Memory Syndrome, the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF), and those who founded and were involved with the organization.

Katy Butler was subject to significant backlash for her criticism of the FMSF. After her success writing for the Los Angeles Times and the Psychotherapy Networker, Newsweek asked Butler to write a story assessing the backlash against recovered memories, which included how the FMSF was involved with the backlash. Upset with how Butler portrayed the FMSF in previous articles, various members of the FMSF - Peter and Pamela Freyd, Richard Ofshe, and Fredrick Crews – complained to newsweek, successfully getting newsweek to drop the article. [1]

Butler was called “a zealot masquerading as a journalist” in what was described as a “well organized action to block the story or at least discredit Butler.” [1] The severity of the backlash against Butler dissuaded senior editors from following through with the story, in hopes of avoiding a “pissing match” with FMSF members. [1]

Butler wrote 8 articles on the recovered memory controversy. They are all available on her website,

A House Divided. Los Angeles Times, June 26 1994.
Impact: This article covers the Ramona Trial, where Gary Ramona sued his daughter’s therapist for damages in the first third-party lawsuit of its kind. Butler sheds important light on the issue, pointing out that while Holly Ramona’s memories of sexual abuse were dismissed as false memories fostered by her therapist, “The case did not prove that he did not do it…. [The jury foreman] did not believe, as Gary indicates, that these therapists gave Holly a wonder drug and implanted these memories.” Butler covers the story from the perspective of Holly Ramona, her therapist, and Stephanie Ramona, her mother. These often-unmentioned accounts counter the “idyllic life [Gary] Ramona had described,” telling a story of domestic violence, a slow recollection of sexual violence occuring before therapeutic intervention, and circumstantial evidence compiled by Stephanie.

Did Daddy Really Do It? Los Angeles Times, February 5 2005.
Impact: Butler critiques the recent books published by Elizbeth Loftus and Richard Ofshe, "The Myth of Repressed Memory" and “Making Monsters" respectively. Their their biases and inconsistencies are pointed out - examples include ignoring case studies that contradict their work while relying on case studies themselves, or leaving out Loftus’ own study that found one fifth of women reporting sexual abuse experienced recovered memories. Butler notes that “Inaccurate reporting like this takes a book like "Making Monsters" beyond polemic to backlash,” and that books such as these “will create a new breed of experts who will once again presume to know the truth.”

Marshaling the Media. Psychotherapy Networker, March/April 1995.
Impact: The story of how the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) began is told from the perspective of Dr. Jennifer Freyd, who accused her parents of abuse - spurring them to found the FMSF. Her narrative involves “a long history of… invasive and sexualized interactions with her father that she had never forgotten,” and that her parents had later “invaded her privacy, contacted her elderly mother-in-law and embarrassed her to academic colleagues and family friends.” This is followed by an analysis of the FMSF’s impact on the media and the recovered memory controversy. Butler profiles a few key members of the FMSF – Martin Orne, Richard Ofshe, and Ralph Underwager – illustrating their history of inaccurate research and controversial views on pedophilia.

Like Herding Cats. Psychotherapy Networker, March/April 1995.
Impact: Butler covers the difficulty in combating misinformation spread by false memory advocates during the recovered memory controversy. When an APA working group was formed to prepare clinical guidelines for practitioners in cases where abuse is alleged, the group could not agree on an outcome. Furthermore, it was an uphill battle to organize therapists to form the American Coalition for Abuse Awareness, a parallel organization to the FMSF.

Caught in the Crossfire. Psychotherapy Networker, March/April 1995.
Impact: This article covers the rippling effects of the Ramona case, the first case where a father sued his daughter’s therapist for fostering her memories of abuse. Butler describes similar cases that followed in its wake, and how therapists were increasingly blamed for “false memories” - eventually culminating in the Truth and Responsibility in Mental Health Practices Act, which limited therapeutic practices and branded “memory retrieval therapy” as a “dangerous fad.” Butler argues that the political climate and growing backlash against therapy perfectly set the stage for the FMSF. “For the first time in history, therapists faced a well-organized, furious and effective grass-roots opposition group.” “They do not see the issue as a few incompetent therapists using poor techniques to generate disastrous results with highly suggestible clients. They see an epidemic. They blame a single, well-defined therapeutic technique that they call "memory retrieval therapy," which they say shouldn't be used ever, by anybody, with anybody.”

The Biology of Fear. Psychotherapy Networker, July/August 1996.
Impact: This article reviews the neurological changes that occur in PTSD that affect memory, covering the biological differentiation of traumatic memory from normal memory. It discusses the biological alteration of memory in war veterans, resulting in amnesia and fragmentary memories. Butler notes that “In the ideological war over recovered memory, these reports are sometimes dismissed as therapeutic folklore.”

Around the Network. Psychotherapy Networker, July/August 1996.
Impact: This article covers the frontline documentary “Divided Memories,” a 4 hour documentary critical of recovered memory produced by Ofra Bikel. Christine Courtois describes the show as using “bizarre practices to discredit work done in the clinical mainstream.” It also left out corroborating evidence when covering cases of recovered memory. The article continues in a conversation about responsible and irresponsible therapeutic relationships, interviewing notable researchers and clinicians that specialize in helping traumatized patients. Butler notes that “Therapy techniques, after all, are not simply tools, but human skills, part of a context of relationship poison for some clients and medicine for others.”

Latest on Recovered Memory. Psychotherapy Networker, November/December 1996.
Impact: Butler reviews recent corroborated cases of recovered memory and scientific research which supports the phenomenon of recovered memory. “Four years ago, clinicians had plenty of theories of recovered memory, but few of their case studies had been validated in the public arena. Now a wealth of detail and raw research data is emerging from hotly contested court cases around the country.”


Katy Butler’s latest work is displayed on her website,
[1] Stanton, Mike. (1997, July/August). U-turn on memory lane. Columbia Journalism Review. 36(2), Pg. 44.

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