Reports of Recovered Memories of Abuse in Therapy in a Large Age-Representative U.S. National Sample: Therapy Type and Decade Comparisons

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The potential hazards of endeavoring to recover ostensibly repressed memories of abuse in therapy have previously been documented. Yet no large survey of the general public about memory recovery in therapy has been conducted. In an age-representative sample of 2,326 adults in the United States, we found that 9% (8% weighted to be representative) of the total sample reported seeing therapists who discussed the possibility of repressed abuse, and 5% (4% weighted) reported recovering memories of abuse in therapy for which they had no previous memory. Participants who reported therapists discussing the possibility of repressed memories of abuse were 20 times more likely to report recovered abuse memories than those who did not. Recovered memories of abuse were associated with most therapy types, and most associated with those who reported starting therapy in the 1990s. We discuss possible problems with such purported memory recovery and make recommendations for clinical training.

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Clinical Psychological Science