Posted by: Shrunk | 2009/01/27


Hi Doc,

It' s too late to change the past (having just read your thoughts on this topic) but yes I have been going for Hypnotherapy with a Clinic Psychologist, four sessions thus far. He is supposed to be quite good and is active publicly (tv, radio interviews and published articles) as well. I am concerned about the possibility of false memories that have come up. I do not believe that any idea was implanted into my head maliciously but am shocked at what appears to be a ' small'  part of my past. I go from one extreme of thinking no, its my imagination to believing it completely true.

My question is what are the chances of this being a false memory?

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Our expert says:
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For my taste, rather too many hypnotists are active in promoting the method. There is NOT a significant amount of good quality scientific research showing that it is a valuable technique in almost any problem, though they love to quote studies in hypnosis journals which are not of sufficient quality to get published in proper scientific / medicaljournals.
In the situation you describe there is a really high risk of the creation of false memories. I also feel this is not usually done maliciously rather than ignorantly --- I have yet to find a hypnotist who understands how extremely easy it is to create such false memories, simply based on the suggestibility of the situation and the expectations and interests of the hypnotist, when even he may be quite unaware of the effect he is producing or that he is doing it. Hypnosis is a state of heightened suggestibility in the patient created by a highly suggstible and gullible hypnotist. Their work as regards memory is based on a total and comprehensive misunderstanding of the facts of memory that have been established by good research.
Also, the assumptionn that treatment needs to or even should include excavating such memories is also false, and devoid of the support of proper evidence. Therapy needs to be about solving current probnlems, not digging archeologically to find in the past relics the therapists expects to find there.
There is no good evidence that such therapy works or is beneficial, and loads of experience that it can often create more problems and prolong their resolution.
It is an absolute fact that people who have experienced anything traumatic in their past, DO remember it, or at least are able to recall it if they think about it, and that true amnesia for such events is extremely rare. Memories recovered within hypnosis can absolutely NEVER EVER be trusted or assumed to be true --- above all, as evidence shows, they are highly unreliable. They usually consist of a mix of perhaps some scraps of real memory, some fantasy, elements suggested by the therapist's expectations, elements mis-recalled from films, TV and stories one has seen or heard, and so on. THis is why no sensible court of law on nearth accepts such "memories" recovered with the aid of hypnosis as evidence .
If you have "remembered" in hypnosis tinngs that surprised you, and of which you had absolutely no previous awareness, and which do not fit with your other memories, and perhaps those of other family members, then these "|memories" are probable false, and at least should not be assumed to be true. Recalling them is of no therapeutic benefit.

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