IPT Book Reviews

Title: Multiple Personality: An Exercise in Deception   Positive Review Positive Review
Author: Ray Aldridge-Morris
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates 1989

Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
27 Palmeira Mansions
Church Road
Hove, East Sussex, BN3 2FA
United Kingdom
$24.95
  

Description:

This 129 page book critically reviews the published literature on the multiple personality controversy.  Aldridge-Morris, a British clinical psychologist and lecturer in psychopathology at Middlesex Polytechnic School of Psychology, begins with a historical review of well-known multiple personality case histories, including "Eve," "Sybil," and Bianchi, the "Hillside Strangler," who claimed multiple personality as part of his insanity defense.  The next chapters review the theoretical bases for multiple personality and the empirical evidence offered for and against it.

The author points out that a very few therapists are seeing most of the multiple personality cases and that "some therapists have an astronomically higher probability of meeting such patients than their colleagues and the vast majority (dare one say 'all'?) are in the United States."  He views the practitioners who are convinced of the reality of multiple personality as belonging to a professional subculture which favors hypnotherapeutic techniques, has an analytical orientation, and sees their patients over very long periods of time.

He maintains that even if multiple personality should pass muster as a discrete psychiatric syndrome, it has been grossly overdiagnosed.  He notes that little empirical evidence supports it and believes that it is heavily dependent upon cultural influences for both its emergence and its diagnosis.  He interprets multiple personality in terms of social role theory and the demand characteristics associated with the emergence and treatment of the disorder in therapy and hypothesizes that multiple personality may be a variant of a hysterical psychosis which occurs in highly suggestible persons.  He concludes that "One should only diagnosis multiple personality when there is corroborative evidence that complex and integrated alter egos, with amnesic barriers, existed prior to therapy and emerge without hypnotic intervention by clinicians."
  

Discussion:

This book is extremely important in terms of the satanic ritualistic abuse claims since adult "survivors" of these alleged cults are invariably diagnosed as having multiple personalities and the stories of the abuse are "remembered" in therapy, generally during hypnosis.  The fact that little empirical evidence supports the disorder, particularly when it emerges through hypnosis and suggestive questioning, should raise serious suspicion about any of the survivor stories.

This excellent book is clearly and concisely written and the evidence for the author's thesis is convincing.  The book is highly recommended for an overview of the multiple personality controversy and the research evidence concerning it.

Reviewed by Hollida Wakefield, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.

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