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Recovered Memories Are Not a Problem From the Past

Yesterday, the New York Times posted a Retro Report video titled "Sybil: A Brilliant Hysteric?"

Yesterday, the New York Times posted a Retro Report video titled “Sybil: A Brilliant Hysteric?” The piece recalled the rise and fall of “memory recovery” therapy, and the creation of the mental health classification of “multiple personality disorder” (and that classification’s transition to “dissociative identity disorder”) in popular culture in the United States.

For the November/December issue of Pacific Standard, Ed Cara wrote about the disturbing influence that “memory recovery” therapy is still unleashing today, in his story “The Most Dangerous Idea in Mental Health.” About the Times video, Cara says “Something I always feel is flawed in these varied critiques of dissociative identity disorder and recovered memories is the assumption they are re-telling one of psychiatry's past battles, as if they were moral fables of a time long ago. But while alter egos and recovered memories now represent the fringe of psychotherapy, there are still mental health professionals flying under the radar attempting to dredge them up from their unsuspecting clients.”

As Cara’s story points out, that these therapists have continued to endure in the 21st century points to a reluctance—or inability—for the therapeutic community to police itself. And there are still families paying the price. —Maria Streshinsky