Those famous for saying there is no “scientific evidence” supporting repression or recovered memory are finding it ever harder to maintain that position. As indicated in the previous post, several courts have rejected Dr. Harrison Pope’s extreme position. Add to that the evidence from a study published last year based on magnetic resonance imaging that concluded:
“This pattern of results fits exactly to the psychodynamic theories of repression as a mechanism for avoiding conscious access to conflict-related material. One relevant future project will be to test the effects of individually-designed stimuli, e.g. derived from psychotherapy or operationalized psychodynamic diagnostics (OPD). Furthermore, it will be interesting to apply this paradigm to clinical populations whose psychopathology is assumed to depend on repression, for example patients with conversion disorders or dissociative pseudo-seizures. Possibly, brain activation patterns during this paradigm may point towards relevant unresolved conflicts – reminiscent of the initial ideas of C.G. Jung, and in line with previous research in the emerging new field of ‘‘Neuro-Psychoanalysis.’’’
Schmeing et. al., “Can the Neural Basis of Repression be Studied in the MRI Scanner? New Insights from Two Free Association Paradigms,” PLOS ONE (April 2013), vol. 8, Issue 4 (e62358), pp. 56–58.
Judge Ronald B. Rubin issued an opinion in Montgomery County Circuit Court yesterday finding that “dissociative amnesia has been sufficiently tested by the psychiatric and psychological community using research methods generally applied in those fields and that it is generally accepted” (p.19). The court rejected as “unrealistic and unnecessary” Dr. Harrison Pope’s claim that laboratory studies are necessary, noting that “no complete laboratory study could ever be completed on repression of events as traumatic as sexual abuse.” The court also found that the methodological criticisms of studies offered by the plaintiffs “were effectively rebutted by the testimony of Dr. Silberg, the plaintiff’s hearing exhibits and the well-regarded medical literature” (p.18).
Dr. Pope offered a survey he conducted as evidence that dissociative amnesia was not generally accepted. Judge Rubin concluded: “Dr. Pope’s after-the-fact ‘survey’ of a small number of psychiatrists who are dissatisfied with the work of DSM committees is not persuasive evidence of anything other than some doctors disagree” (p.16). It is worth noting that Pope’s survey found a higher rate of acceptance of dissociative amnesia disorder than the problematic study by Patihis et. al., discussed in an earlier post.
The court also cited the “carefully written and reasoned opinion of the federal judge in Clark v. Edison,” another case that rejected Dr. Pope’s position, as a “further indication that the theory [of dissociative amnesia] has attained general acceptance” (p. 19). This encouraging decision suggests that the science of recovered memory is starting to overcome the politics.