IPT Book Reviews

Title: Ending the Cycle of Abuse
Authors: Philip G. Ney and Anna Peters
Publisher: Brunner/Mazel, Inc., 1995

Brunner/Mazel, Inc.
19 Union Square West
New York, NY 10003
(800) 825-3089
$23.95 (c)

For those who are interested in a relatively reasoned and careful description of recovered memory therapy, this 246-page book provides it. The principal professional author is apparently a psychiatrist by training but this is not specifically stated. He is described as maintaining a private practice of group therapy with adults abused as children, Director of the Adolescent Unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Victoria, B.C., and Clinical Professor, Department of Family Practice, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia. The book is a detailed description of a 30-week structured group therapy treatment of seven adult women. The second author is one of the patients who was in the group. The group also had a family practice physician in it as a trainee to learn group therapy and two facilitators who were also former patients who had been through a similar group therapy program. The first author was the only male in the group.

The group therapy is a psychodynamic, feeling-expressive, insight-oriented approach that accepts repressed memory as fact, body memories as true, and ventilation of feelings and expression of anger as healing. It is assumed that each of us has an inner child who must come out. A model of transgenerational transmission of abuse is presented as real which accounts for the experience of many adults who believe they are continuing a pattern of abuse they experienced as children. Developing memories and thus having insight is the principal activity of the 30 weeks of therapy. This includes recovering repressed memories of satanic, ritualistic abuse for some of the patients. The group is crucially important and it is considered necessary for the patients to accept that the memories produced by the treatment are true.

Each week of the program is described by the principal therapist and by the patient. The behaviors and activities of the therapist, each patient, the trainee, and the facilitators are described. There is no information given as to whether these accounts are documented or are simply recollections of the authors. At one point, the group is described as composed of the seven patients who initially presented with a variety of complaints but none of which appear to have been claims of childhood abuse. Some at least appear to have been in individual therapy with the principal author but were then referred to this group program. There are several places where individuals assert that they had no memories until after being in therapy.

There is much focus on transference and countertransference and much attention is given to the relationships of the patients with the therapists. It is a group experience that appears to generate considerable dependency and in some ways may come to look like a surrogate family. While the families of the patients are regarded as the cause of all the difficulties and there is a section of the program that requires confrontation, there is also a chapter purporting to encourage forgiveness in order to further the healing of the patient. However, the forgiveness is conditional and requires the people now labeled abusers to acknowledge guilt, seek counseling, and make amends.

The outcomes of the program are described in positive, glowing terms, but a careful reading of the final chapters suggests that only a few claims of improvement are made and most of the patients appear somewhat the worse for the experience. This text can give a rather clear understanding of how a well-intentioned therapist with no awareness of scientific methodology or knowledge but with a potpourri of pop psychology and diluted Freudianism can create unreliable but firmly believed in memories of childhood experiences that most likely never happened.

There are no references supporting the assertions in the book, but there is a short list of "resources" at the end, many written by the principal author. There are no resources listed that are critical of recovered memory therapy.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.

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