Recovered-memory therapy and robust repression: influence and pseudomemories

Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 1994 Oct;42(4):391-410. doi: 10.1080/00207149408409367.


A subset of the psychotherapists practicing trauma-focused therapy predicate their treatment on the existence of a newly claimed, powerful form of repression that differs from repression as used in the psychoanalytic tradition and from amnesia in any of its recognized forms. Recovered-memory specialists assist patients to supposedly retrieve vast quantities of information (e.g., utterly new dramatic life histories) that were allegedly unavailable to consciousness for years or decades. We refer to the hypothesized mental mechanism as "robust repression" and call attention to the absence of evidence documenting its validity and to the differences between it and other mental mechanisms and memory features. No recovered-memory practitioner has ever published a full specification of the attributes of this mechanism. That is, the properties it would have to have for the narratives developed during therapy to be historically accurate to any significant degree. This article reports a specification of the properties of the robust repression mechanism based on interviews with current and former patients, practitioners' writings, and reports to researchers and clinicians. The spread of reliance on the robust repression mechanism over the past 20 years through portions of the clinical community is traced. While involved in therapy, patients of recovered-memory practitioners come to believe that they have either instantly repressed large numbers of discrete events or simultaneously repressed all information about abuse they may have endured for as long as a decade.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder / psychology
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder / therapy
  • Ethics, Professional
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis
  • Incest / psychology
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Psychotherapy*
  • Repression, Psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy
  • Suggestion
  • Truth Disclosure