In my last discussion, Dissociative Disorders - Part 15, I talked about the media’s focus on presenting misleading information about the reality of multiple personalities and the impact on therapists who treat patients with this disorder. I would have preferred that Mike Wallace talk about how therapists were being targeted and harassed simply for doing what they were trained to do—treat adult survivors of child abuse who were displaying dissociative symptoms.
“A. Stephen Anderson of Seattle was awarded the WSBA (Washington State Bar Association) Courageous Award at its annual Awards Luncheon held today at the Seattle Space Needle. The Courageous Award was presented to a lawyer who has displayed exceptional courage in the face of adversity.”
“Mr. Anderson is recognized for his work on behalf of his client David Calof in Calof v. Noah and Calof v. Casebeer, Noah, et al. David Calof is a Seattle psychotherapist who is a noted author, lecturer and editor.”
“Chuck Noah, Francie Casebeer and others belong to or support an organization called the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF). Members of FMSF claim to have been falsely accused by their children and blame therapists for eliciting false repressed memories of sexual abuse. Although Mr. Anderson’s client, David Calof, never treated any of these people or their children, he was targeted as a subject of attack because of his writings. Mr. Noah and members of FMSF repeatedly harassed Mr. Calof, his staff and his clients. Although other therapists also were being subjected to picketing, harassment, defamation and the like, Mr. Calof appeared to be the main target.”
“Mr. Anderson went to court numerous times to obtain and enforce protective orders to try to prevent his clients’ practice from being destroyed and protect client access to his services. Because of these actions on behalf of his client, Mr. Anderson came under attack by Mr. Noah and his group. These attacks, which occurred over a period of time of several months, included picketing of his home and office, keeping him under surveillance, disseminating disparaging literature, yelling taunts at his family, and filing a false claim of assault against him (which the City Attorney’s office refused to prosecute for lack of credible evidence). The harassment of Mr. Anderson intensified to the point where it became necessary for him to go to court to obtain an anti-harassment order protecting his family and his home.
Finally, in July 1997, Judge Monica Benton issued an order prohibiting harassment and further contact with Mr. Anderson or his family. After extensive litigation and trial preparation, Mr. Anderson obtained a settlement through mediation for his client; however, some of the defendants renounced the settlement, fired their lawyers, and picketed the mediator’s office. On April 14, 1998, Mr. Anderson obtained from Judge Richard Eadie an order to enforce the settlement after a two-day hearing.”
“In his letter nominating Mr. Anderson for this award, Seattle attorney, Jan Eric Peterson writes:
“With a family to support and a practice to protect, he [Mr. Anderson] never wavered in his devotion to his client, despite the personal attacks on him, his practice, and his family. His courage to stand by his client to the end, at all costs, in the face of being outnumbered, and at considerable personal and professional sacrifice, is inspiring as a professional example of courage and commitment to one’s client.”
The International Society for the Study of Dissociation (ISSD) wrote an article trying to present the reality of the problem. Unfortunately, the national media didn’t make this a major issue. Instead, it preferred to continue focusing on sensationalizing or disparaging the disorder rather than standing behind the facts as I have written about in this series. Presented below is ISSD’s statement.2
“A Federal fraud trial currently underway in Texas may make it difficult for many Americans to find therapists willing to treat them for the effects of child abuse. ISSD, a professional association of therapists and researchers, has previously characterized the trial as criminalizing the practice of psychotherapy by making allegations of malpractice a criminal matter. A finding of guilt carries a mandatory jail sentence, instead of the monetary damages that defendants pay when civil juries find that therapists have been negligent. Rather than risk criminal charges of this kind, many therapists may avoid treating patients who have symptoms of a dissociative disorder and cannot prove to therapists that their memories of childhood abuse are factual.”
“Although ISSD takes no position concerning the guilt or innocence of the defendants in this case, the organization is concerned that inaccurate information concerning dissociative disorders and the effects of child abuse may unduly influence media coverage. Many newspaper articles and television reports replay the unproven notion that MPD (multiple personality disorder) is created by fringe therapists practicing poor therapy. In fact, MPD is hardly a fringe idea. There are over 1,000 articles in peer-reviewed journals about MPD. Now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), it has been listed in the standard diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association since 1980. The National Institute of Mental Health partially funded the development of a reliable psychological test for diagnosing the disorder, and ISSD issued treatment guidelines for DID in 1993. Although some professionals are skeptical about DID, one study showed that skepticism was associated with a lack of knowledge of the disorder. In another study, over half of the 425 surveyed mental health professionals had seen at least one DID patient.”
“In addition to the myth that therapists treating DID are a fringe group, another fiction about DID concerns the origins of the disorder. Skeptics have claimed that therapists create DID in healthy patients using manipulative therapy techniques. In contrast, therapists treating DID generally believe that the disorder usually results from abuse and neglect. The evidence indicates that the skeptics are wrong. Patients diagnosed with DID generally have not been healthy people. Many have had years of treatment under other diagnoses before DID was diagnosed, have been repeatedly hospitalized, and have attempted suicide. There is no documented case of a patient who did not have DID prior to treatment, yet had DID after treatment. Nor is there any experiment in which a researcher successfully created DID in a research participant.”
“Many skeptics have also claimed that DID is the result of creating false memories of abuse in people who were never abused. In fact, two studies found that the majority of patients with Dissociative Identity Disorder reported upon entering therapy that they had always remembered their child abuse. Several researchers have obtained independent confirmation of the abuse their patients have reported by 19 out of 20 patients. Although most DID patients eventually do recover memories for other childhood experiences (often including additional abuse), recovered memories do not always occur during therapy, and should not be assumed to result from therapy techniques. In fact, several studies of non-patient college students have found that retrieving unfamiliar and painful childhood memories in adult life is a common event.”
“No responsible therapist maintains that all memories, recovered or otherwise, are completely accurate. Nevertheless, skeptics resort to the shoddy tactic of using extreme recovered memories, such as stories of ritual and cult abuse, to prove that all recovered memories should be rejected. The evidence suggests otherwise. For example, a professor at Brown University, Ross Cheit, has compiled an archive of 45 corroborated cases of recovered abuse memories, including his own. Most recovered memories do not describe ritual abuse, and even extreme and unlikely allegations may contain factual elements. Therapists simply have no way of knowing how much of any memory is accurate, and therefore ISSD suggests that therapists remain neutral about the accuracy of their patients’ memories.”
“The Texas trial raises the possibility that therapists may face criminal action for treating people whose memories lack corroboration. As it did a year ago, ISSD urges Americans to consider what actions they may wish to take to protect the justice system from criminalizing the delivery of mental health care. Prosecutors should not be allowed to set standards for health care.”
It would be helpful if the national media would provide accurate information about the range of dissociative disorders. Since they haven’t done so, I am providing as much information as I can to help survivors understand why they can’t get the funded research and treatment they deserve, and the reality of what the media refuses to publish.
1 “Calof Attorney Receives Washington State Bar Association Courageous Award,” Seattle, Washington, September 11, 1998, False Memory Syndrome Facts, https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/misc.legal/a5melCfLvyw [Viewing this link may require copy and pasting it into your browser]
2 “Federal Trial May Hinder Treatment of Abuse Survivors,” International Society for the Study of Dissociation (ISSD), September 14, 1998