When interviewing therapists, it is a good idea to ask what each candidate knows about false memory syndrome.
There is an extensive literature on this.
If one runs a search on Google Scholar and types false memory into the slot, one gets these citations--as of October 28th, 2013 it listed "About 1,140,000 results"
A search of Recovered Memory Syndrome on Google Scholar - About 136,000 results as of October 28th, 2013
If a therapist becomes defensive or belittles you for inquiring about his or her knowledge of false memory syndrome, get up and run.
One article was published as far back as 1988
Reconstructing memory through hypnosis: Forensic and clinical implications
M Orne, W Whitehouse, D Dinges, E Orne… - … and memory, 1988 - ncjrs.gov
... Abstract: In clinical settings, the therapist and patient jointly define the events, the realities, and
the ... In contrast, forensic applications focus on determining the truth. Studies have shown that normal
human memory is considerably more reliable than are memories induced by the ...
Cited by 78 Related articles All 3 versions Cite More
Now, there can be a more subtle situation in which a therapist may say the right thing. My say that his or her role is never to dig, but to create a safe and boundaried situation so that whatever a client needs to work with will surface when the client is ready.
All well and good.
But...keep alert for whether your therapist, long term, continues to behave according to this mission statement.
I am aware of a situation where a therapist did say that his or or role was to never to dig or fish, but to maintain that safe and boundaried setting.
But, over years, every now and then, the therapist would remind the client of how the client had expressed concern in that very first interview about the therapists stance on false memories (very well informed client!) and the therapist, recalling this incident, would make it seem the client had been hostile, out of control.
The client had made that inquiry at a time when news reports were being published about false memory.
To remind someone of their highly appropriate question and then try to reframe that memory in a way that makes it seem that the client had been out of control or on the verge of being out of control while asking this most appropriate question -- that is a possible foul ball.
One is not insane or paranoid to ask an appropriate question how a therapist deals with issues of memory. One is not out of line for asking about a therapists stance on how he or she deals with boundaries.
To repeat, there is an extensive literature out there.
In this one article, the author lists various techniques.
Techniques for probing memory can actually alter memory. In fact, some constellations of techniques, when used together, are a cookbook for implanting full-blown false memories. This reality came to light during the 1990"s, when an epidemic of cases emerged in which people were recanting memories that they had "uncovered" in therapy; many such memories were demonstrated to have been false. In these cases, the techniques used by therapists to uncover repressed memories appear to have been the culprit; these same techniques are well-established to contribute to distortions of memory in the laboratory, as noted in these two books.
The problem with not being informed about what will happen during the retreat to which I was invited is that I have no way of evaluating whether the activities in which I will be engaged will be beneficial or whether they might influence my memory in a way that I would not want. Do the techniques happen to form a "cookbook" for false memories?
What is in the "cookbook?" Among the techniques to look out for are:
Leading Questions: How a question about a memory is worded can influence how a person remembers.
Suggestion. From merely planting ideas about things that "likely" happened to you, to doctoring photographs of past events, researchers have repeatedly shown that exposure to suggestion changes what we remember. In effect, the exposure itself is an experienced event that may produce confusion.
Guided Imagery: While guided imagery can be very useful for things like motor rehabilitation, athletic training, or focused relaxation, in the context of using it to uncover unconscious memories or hidden aspects of oneself, it can be dangerous. The use of guided imagery in attempting to uncover memories can increase the likelihood of developing false memories. One reason for this may be that there is neural overlap between the networks used in imagining activities and actually performing them, and there is overlap between the neural networks used in imagination and those in remembering; this may contribute to false memory.
Imagination: A phenomenon known as imagination inflation occurs when imagining something leads to believing that it actually happened, and it can be brought on in the laboratory at alarming rates.
There are other factors to consider too, like mood manipulation. When questioned about a negative experience from your past, the wording can affect how close or far away from the experience you feel. Making you feel closer to negative experiences from your past will make you feel sadder. Importantly, relative mood can be induced, and being in a negative mood will tend to trigger negative memories-it will be easier to think of them. And the sadder you feel, the more negative memories you"re likely to conjure up.
When put together and couched in terms of probing hidden aspects of yourself, these methods can convince you that things that occurred in your past are causing you problems today.
And she describes how she was invited to a workshop but her friend flat refused to tell her what the techniques consisted of.