IPT Book Reviews


Memory of Childhood Trauma: A Clinicians' Guide to the Literature  Negative Review Negative Review

Author: Susan L. Reviere
Publisher: The Guilford Press, 1996

The Guilford Press
72 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
(800) 365-7006
$35.00 (c), $14.95 (p)

The promise of the title of this 178-page book is a review of the relevant scientific literature about remembering childhood trauma that will help clinicians sort through conflicting claims. There is a clear statement defining the problem the clinician faces: "The veracity of childhood traumatic memory is an issue of much controversy, calling up new clinical and theoretical questions about memory processing, including fresh reflections on both the psychological and cognitive mechanisms involved and the nature of historical versus reconstructive articulation of personal history" (p. 1). The book contains 18 pages of references and an author index and subject index.

However, the book does not fulfill its promise. The literature reviewed is limited and little of the recent careful and important work on memory systems is noted. Instead, the emphasis is upon traumatic experiences and clinical notions about traumatic memory. The answer given to the question of veracity boils down to a denial of any standard of objective historical truth and acceptance of subjective therapeutic truth as the norm and standard for clinicians. The idea that a clinician's role is simply to accept the reconstructed memories of a patient with no inquiry or concern about accuracy is accepted uncritically. Scientific research is downgraded in favor of field studies, specifically by Lenore Tern This psychoanalytic, uncorroborated, and non-systematic anecdotal material cannot provide a solid empirical basis for clinical decisions.

I do not recommend this book.

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

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