Statement of Deborah David for the Launch of StopBadTherapy.com
December 2, 1998
By Deborah David
I give thanks to Eric for providing this much needed resource by launching StopBadTherapy.com. The people in the State of California as well as the nation are getting fed up with therapists being allowed to use unproven and dangerous modalities of therapy. This is my story with one such practice.
It was late April 1989. Iíd just had a hysterectomy in early February. Since I was on hormone replacement medications, my medical doctor missed or ignored the symptoms of surgical menopause and instead of trying to find medication that I could utilize he suggested I may benefit from talking to a therapist. I just wanted the crying spells, hot flashes and mood swings to end, so I went to see a therapist. I didnít know that the kind of therapy this therapist did would change my life forever. I had no idea that it would turn out to be something that would nearly kill me, destroy every relationship I had at the time and steal thousands of dollars from me.
On the fateful day I entered therapy I didnít know that this therapist believed people could be sexually abused and not know it happened to them. I didnít know that he would assume that I had been sexually abused and tell me this thing had happened to me. I didnít know there was such a theory as repression and that therapists were claiming that was the reason patients of theirs didnít know they had been abused, though the therapists were claiming they knew it to be true based on a list of supposed symptoms. Like moving a lot as a child, getting spankings, mood swings, anger spells, the kind of clothes one wears or does not wear and many other things most people in the world do at one time or another. Including the therapists themselves.
I wasnít told that this theory of "repression for sexual abuse" was unproven, unscientific and a potentially dangerous modality of therapy. I wasnít told that this was the kind of therapy that would be practiced on me. I wasnít given any information to make an informed choice concerning the modality of the therapy I was to pay for. I was an innocent patient in the hands of a therapist who could do whatever kind of therapy he so chose. Whatever far fetched theory he took hold of to run his practice, whether it was proven safe, effective and within scientific standards of care and within the business and professions codes was of no consequence, because he is allowed to practice anything he so chooses and without letting the patient know what kind of therapy he practices, what the outcome or the dangers associated with it are. I was like a lamb to the slaughter, ripe for the picking.
I was, however, told that I would need years of therapy before I could get well. I was told that I would have to "recover" all the so called "repressed memories" of the diagnosed sexual abuse so that I could then live a life free of the dysfunction caused by this supposed sexual abuse. I was told that I was dissociative and had multiple personality disorder without any tests ever being given. I was told that each of these "personalities" would have to come forward and tell what happened to them, giving the lurid details of being raped, tortured and terrorized as a child. I was told that my family were Satanists who had abused me in rituals where people were murdered and sacrificed and little children were raped nearly on a weekly basis.
But I had not been sexually abused and I didnít have multiple personality disorder, nor post traumatic stress disorder. What I did have was an abundance of trust, and the money to afford the years of therapy sessions. I never considered that I would be conned and lied too, especially by a State licensed professional. Since the therapists I saw were licensed, I expected the therapy I was to receive would be professional, proven safe and effective. I expected by going to a licensed therapist that the practice of therapy would then be something that the State had regulated and given its approval for.
However, what I got were lies. I was conned out of thousands of dollars and my mind brainwashed into a belief system without factual standing. What the State gave me was a therapist licensed with the ability and blessings to practice without limits, any kind of therapeutic modality the therapist so chooses without interference from the State or the licensing Boards.
In the practice of "repressed memory therapy" it is perfectly correct to tell a patient they were abused even if they say, "No, I was not sexually abused." The therapists can then insist that it is true and the only reason being that I didnít know it happened was because it was so terrible that I didnít want to remember it. It is a practice where the things that I said which were not within the diagnosis and assumptions of the therapist are labeled as denial and being difficult. It then becomes the job of the therapist to insist that indeed the abuse took place and if I wanted to get well I would have to come out of denying the abuse happened and accept it as a fact. It is a practice where every time I would question the reality of such abuse taking place I was told to trust him for he knew it happened to me. I was told parts of me would continue to say it didnít happened because these parts didnít want to accept it.
And when "memories" were not forthcoming he used questionable techniques to enlist the so called "memories". Techniques such as "guided imagery" and relaxation techniques that are nothing more than hypnosis with another name. And the theory of "body memories" where supposedly the body remembers the abuse instead of the mind. Therefore every pain good or bad, every feeling and every twinge was the "body memory" coming forward. I was then supposed to find the "memory" that matched the body feeling that was happening. In other words if I had a bruise it meant that the body was telling me it had been injured there and Iíd repressed the memory of how I got the bruise in childhood. Or even to have sexual yearnings was nothing more then the body reliving the sexual abuse and that a "memory" was coming to the surface ready to be relived and abreacted in a therapy session. I was married and I am a healthy adult female but these feelings, and problems were never seen in the context of something happening in reality, never seen as something normal, only as a dysfunction, only as something that had been repressed or dissociated and was now coming forward.
I wasnít told that the so called "recovered memories" during the "guided imagery" and relaxation sessions were nothing more than visualizations enlisted from suggestions and the therapistsí expectations. I wasnít told anything but that these abuse scenarios in my mindís eye were reality. And as I continued to question the reality of such "memories," I was always drawn back to believe in the therapist as he knew what was best for me.
According to him, within believe of these "repressed memory therapies," what was best for me was to get rid of all the people in my life that supposedly had abused me, as they were sick individuals. For these people were not in therapy. These people were trying to turn me against the therapist by telling me it was the therapy that was making me sick and causing me to believe I had been sexually abused. I had been told about this kind of people and to stay away from them as they were abusers, liars and wanted to keep me silent. So as I got sicker and sicker I was told that was the normal progress of therapy and I was praised for doing all that the therapist told me to do.
My life was falling apart. My family was cut off from seeing me or speaking to me. I made accusations against them and called them filthy names. My friends couldnít stand to be around me any longer and if they questioned any of what the therapist was telling me I cut them out of my life also. To question me meant that they were in denial over sexual abuse and that they did not believe me.
The more therapy I did the more I lost my independence and became totally dependent upon the therapist for my well being and my decisions. The more therapy I did the less caring of others I became and the angrier I got at anything and at anyone whose views were different than mine. And the only views I had at that time were centered on sexual abuse and regaining the "memories" so I could be well again. The only other people I would have anything to do with were those that were also in like therapies and had recovered memories also. These were the only people who were no longer dysfunctional for they were in "recovery." They were the only people who were trustworthy because they believed also as I did.
So I lived in this cult like world for four long years. I didnít know and had not been told that this kind of therapy had and has no standard of care. As a consumer of goods in the State of California, I didnít know and wasnít warned by the licensing Boards that therapists are allowed to make up their standards as they go. In effect they are allowed to practice any unproven ineffective form of therapy they so choose. And if it should prove to be damaging people, even killing a few, they adjust how they practice it. But they keep the theory and the practice of it, perhaps being careful as to not be so obvious.
On March 23, 1998 I turned in a complaint to the Board of Behavioral Science, exactly like the one you see here before me. This board is a tax paid licensing and regulating Board for Marriage Family Child Counselors and Licensed Social Workers in this State.
On April 1, 1998 I received a short letter from
them dismissing my complaint as they put it, and I quote,
Standard of care was slowly evolving! In other words I was being used as a guinea pig by an industry that is licensed and sanctioned by the State of California, to practice within the medical profession without informed consent and without my prior knowledge that what I was entering upon was something that was not proven to be safe effective and healthy. I wasnít even given the option to enter at my own risk. A risk that would cause lifetime damage to my health and finances and the way of life I once lived. This is an industry bilking the innocent public out of thousands of dollars that is allowed to practice therapies that are questionable at best and with the potential to kill at most without any controls.
I wrote several letters of complaint for the dismissal I had received on three Sacramento area therapists. One of which not only practiced "repressed memory therapy" but also put himself forth as a medical doctor as testified to from depositions by several other people. Also this therapist was sued six weeks after receiving a MFCC license for practicing medicine without a license, his father was put on probation, because he allowed his son to practice medicine. A therapist who crossed boundaries with dual relationships, made sexual like innuendo's, and had his hands on my thighs, thus violating several of the Business and Professions code by which he is to abide by set forth by the law. Of course, none of this was of concern to the Board of Behavioral Science since the violations were done while practicing "repressed memory therapy" a form of therapy that had and has "no standard of care."
I sent letters to the Board of Behavioral Science, and each of the Board Members, State Attorney General Dan Lungrenís office, Governor Pete Wilson, and the Department of Consumer Affairs. Each of these letters can be viewed on my web page at http://members.aol.com/deborah680/.
Because of my insistence with the BBS, Sherry Malh, the BBS director, sent my complaint to Earl Plowman who is the BBSí liaison Deputy Attorney in southern California. By way of the Department of Consumer Affairs I received a second dismissal from the Attorney Generalís Office. This letter is also on the Web site.
Again the dismissal was based on there not being
a standard of care.
Peak of popularity! Again in effect, they are saying that if several therapists are practicing something that is controversial, but happens to be popular to do so, then the therapists can do whatever it is they please within the context of the practice, even the violating of the law codes that have been set forth for them to abide by. And further, if that practice of therapy is popular and many are doing it, no matter if it is proven or not, just that if it is popular, the damage caused to the patient and the violating of codes is not unprofessional! Because the standard of practice is that so long as many therapists are practicing the same dangerous, unproven, unscientific therapies they can do whatever it is they want and use whatever theory they so choose, without fear of their license being revoked. What a con and the State of California is backing it up!
Not only are the State licensing boards and the Attorney Generalís office refusing to stop therapists who are practicing such modalities of therapies but they have allowed it in the first place. They have and are doing nothing to protect the public from the dangers of therapists and therapies that have not been tested before using them on the public. They instead are allowing the public to be unwitting and unknowing subjects to see what works and what does not work.
All other medical professions that deal with the public have to disclose and through prior research show that the practice they do upon the public is safe and effective. Why even the research subjects are given informed consent and told the possible dangers. The Pharmaceutical industry cannot start passing out medications on the public and to see what works and what does not. And when they are allowed to sale medications they often come with inserts for the consumer to be informed as to the possible dangers of taking the medication.
I was a victim of an industry who was and still is allowed to use dangerous "repressed memory" theories on the peopleís minds. My family, friends and acquaintances are secondary victims of this quackery.
I ultimately charge that the Board of Behavioral Science and the State of California are allowing therapists to practice techniques and theories on the public without any prior testing or research to prove its safety. I charge the State with allowing a whole industry to set their own standards of care, in effect using the public as guinea pigs. And when the industry discovers that the theories and techniques they use turn out to be dangerous, harming patients and their families and even perhaps killing a few, the industry pulls back some to set their own new standards.
Yet even to this day, five years after I figured out that the therapists I saw perpetrated a lie upon me to believe as fact, using dangerous techniques akin to brainwashing, the BBS has made no statement outlining guidelines that therapists must follow concerning "repressed memory therapy". Furthermore when anyone in this state submits a complaint concerning the damage done to them by "repressed memory therapy", the BBS claims there is nothing they can do as there were "no standards of care" thus allowing these therapists to continue to practice their wares upon the innocent public.
Why is this? Why is the BBS and the Attorney Generalís Office refusing to discipline therapists for the harm they are doing to patients by using untested techniques and therapy practices? So I ask the State of California what they are going to do about protecting others from the therapists I once had? What are they going to do about cleaning up the psychotherapy profession to make is safe and effect for the innocent consumer of mental health? I ask what they are going to do about the harm done to me and my family by therapists practicing something that had "no standard of care" in the first place? And I ask them what are they going to do about the many law codes that were violated when I was a consumer of the mental health industry?
Article II #4982. Of the Business and Professions code is:
Unprofessional conduct. Item (i) states "Intentionally or recklessly causing physical or emotional harm to any client."
If there is "no standard of care" then a practitioner would need to be that much more careful with the type of therapy they practiced. And to not do so, would be reckless with a patients well being. The therapists I saw were reckless. They went ahead with a therapy with no scientific foundation. A therapy that was unproven and had never been tested using scientific methods and controls to show its safety and effectiveness. It was reckless to use me as a guinea pig and without my consent to do so. Therapists who practice therapies that have "no standard of care" should be held even more culpable for the damage done.
I believe the Board of Behavioral Science is trying to avoid a trap that they have set for themselves. If they discipline any therapist for the, negligence and unprofessional reckless harm done by the practice of "repressed memory therapy" or any code violation while practicing such therapy, the question will be asked, "Why didnít they stop it sooner?" Yes, when is the BBS and the State going to Stop this insidious practice?
My web page URL is: http://members.aol.com/deborah680
The site includes the BBS complaint on the main therapist I saw and all the letters I send and received concerning the dismissal of the complaint. And later I will be posting the exhibits I gave the BBS pertaining to the complaint backing up my allegations.