IPT Book Reviews

Title: Recovered Memories of Trauma: Transferring the Present to the Past
Author: C. Brooks Brenneis
Publisher: International Universities Press, 1997

International Universities Press
59 Boston Post Road
Madison, CT 06443-1524
(800) 835-3487
$31.50 (c)

In 204 pages and 9 chapters, C. Brooks Brenneis introduces the reader to the reconstructed process of memory. The book deals exclusively with situations where an adult has no conscious memory for abuse, but the therapist, after observing indirect clinical "signs," helps the adult recover the memory. Brenneis is an analytic psychologist in private practice who taught for many years at Yale University and is now a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin. The book, which is intended for clinicians, reflects his psychoanalytical orientation.

Brenneis sets the tone of the book with his observation about memory in the preface: "Memory itself, however, is complex: no longer regarded as a static entity, memory for past events is continually recast and reformed depending on the conditions and circumstances of its recall" (p. xi). He originally accepted the claim that memory of trauma could be repressed and could be identified though clinical signs. In the early 1990s, however, he began to question this assumption in some of his own cases and, after talking to Elizabeth Loftus, began looking into cases where it was asserted that there was a correspondence between dream content and trauma. He studied the empirical literature on memory which led him to the literature on dissociation, multiple personality disorder, fantasy proneness, source monitoring, and demand characteristics. Brenneis' conclusion from this is, "While one cannot rule out the possibility that some recovered memories are valid, as yet, the impartial evidence to support this validity, and the process of recovery is virtually nonexistent" (p. 172). He explores how therapists can affect autobiographical memory and he believes that recovered memories may sometimes be seen as metaphors for the treatment situation rather than reflecting actual events in the past. He warns therapists against forming conclusions about past events based on clinical signs alone.

There is a judicious use of footnotes in this informative and scholarly book; Brenneis uses over 250 references to support his claims along with his own case material. There are clear and readable author and subject indexes. I recommend this book to clinicians, attorneys, and anyone interested in the debate over recovered memories.

Reviewed by LeRoy G. Schultz, Emeritus Professor, West Virginia University.

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