How To Destroy A Family

Ralph Underwager*

In the battle raging over claims of recovered repressed memories, dissociation disorders, including Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), and accounts of satanic, ritualistic abuse (SRA), believers in all of the above acknowledge there may be some bad or inept therapists who cause such claims but maintain that the great majority of therapists do not do anything but listen to the stories their patients produce.  These assertions are made as statements of fact but there are never any data offered to support the claim.  Nevertheless, the advocates of recovered memories, MPD, and SRA, become indignant about claims that therapists are responsible for accounts and beliefs that are false.  When the therapists are accused of destroying families and causing great harm and mischief, the indignation level rises even higher.

The transcript of the court proceedings and the brief chronology of events that follow are printed for three basic reasons.  First, the 10-year-old girl, in responding to the questioning of Mr. Bravos, attorney for the father, presents a clear picture of the process by which mental health professionals taught her to believe in bizarre, impossible events.  You will see how she learned to believe she had multiple personalities.  You will see how she describes the techniques of suggestion, shaping and molding of responses, social learning, relaxation, hypnosis, visual imaging, ideomotor finger signals, the impact of the total environment of a psychiatric hospital, and the authority and power of a therapist.  The result of the mental health intervention in this situation was the destruction of this family and grievous harm to these children.

The institutions involved are all in the Chicago area, and include some of the most prestigious places and services within the recovered memory and satanic ritual abuse network.  Large staffs of hospitals and clinics are represented during the numerous staffings, meetings, multidisciplinary teams, reports and evaluations of all the members of this family.  The complete social welfare apparatus, including supervisors, teams of workers, child protection workers, and their mental health consultants interact with the mental health system.  The county District Attorneys staff, including the sexual abuse unit, prosecutors and investigators, and law enforcement are involved.  In the mass of documents produced in the process there is no instance in which any caution, any suggestion for alternative explanations, or any examination or evaluation of the process imposed upon this family is to be found.  Nobody, in all of the professionals involved, blows a whistle.  Once on the track, the juggernaut simply rolls on until Mr. Bravos presented testimony to the court strongly questioning the procedures and the truth claims which led the judge to have a local psychologist whom he knew evaluate the situation.  If there is only a very small number of therapists who create problems, memories, and false accounts, they must have all been involved with this family and the entire nationwide population of bad therapists is all located in the Chicago area.  It is much more likely that there is, in fact, a large group, spread all round the country, who do to thousands of patients every week the same things which this 10-year-old child describes.  This instance alone falsifies the claim by believers that only a minute fraction of therapists are bad and influence clients to make false accounts.

The second reason for printing this transcript is to demonstrate the skillful cross examination by Mr. Bravos.  Attorneys often are anxious and insecure about questioning children.  They understand that if they appear mean and harsh with a child, they may alienate a fact finder, but if they do not question adequately, they may not elicit full and accurate information.  Mr. Bravos shows the young girl warmth, compassion, and empathy, while at the same time allowing her to produce an account of her experience that is credible, eloquent, and powerfully moving.  This transcript presents a model for effective questioning of a child that permits the production of maximally reliable information.

The final reason for printing this transcript is to use it to issue a warning to the mental health professions.  If psychiatry, psychology, and social work do not soon take control of their professions and eliminate the pseudoscience, nonsense, and foolishness that produce tragedies like this, the American public will soon conclude that mental health professions are simply contemporary witch doctors who may have some slight entertainment value on rare occasions but have nothing to do with real life.  It will be the end of the mental health professions as viable social agents.

* Ralph Underwager is a psychologist at the Institute for Psychological Therapies, 5263 130th Street East, Northfield, MN 55057-4880[Back]


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