Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society

March 2000 Vol. 6, no. 1

We enlighten future therapists about FMS

On February 11, twenty Loyola University students in Professor Carolyn Saari’s social work class gathered to listen to a presentation by a panel of our members. The students were of mixed ages, some were in their early twenties, others were older "returning" students. Reinder Van Til gave an excellent presentation of the historical and cultural background that contributed to the development of the FMS problem. This talk was followed by Eileen’s moving talk in which she essentially told her personal story as an accused parent. The last presentation was given by Mary Shanley who played excerpts from Frontline’s "The Search for Satan " and then commented on her experiences as a recanter and what implications could be drawn from these experiences for future therapists.

Mary made the following points to these future therapists:

1. Social workers are usually the first contacts for the client. Therefore social workers tend to set the direction and momentum of the case. If there is a lawsuit they may get the hardest hit because they gave the first diagnosis. The class was very surprised to learn this. They had assumed the opposite.

2. Social workers usually have the most influence and frequent contacts with the client. Therefore it’s especially important for them to keep an open mind and keep up with controversies in the field.

3. The social worker needs to explore alternative explanations by bringing in other members of the family.

4. The style of questioning the client should be open ended, not suggestive.

5. The standard of care in the social worker’s unit may not be the standard of care for the field. Just because everybody in your unit is going along with a certain practice it does not follow that that practice meets the standard for your field.

The last twenty minutes were allowed for questions from the students. The students were excellent listeners, really interested in the subject and asked good questions. The younger students above all were especially shocked. "How could this have happened?" " How could the clients have been so gullible?" they asked repeatedly. Reindeer and Mary tried to explain to the class how therapists could shape the clients’ gullibility. The class was also shocked and surprised that parents had no chance to talk to their children or the therapist in charge of the case. Our panel also handed out some reading material to the class.

Over all, our panel was very satisfied with their experience with this class and they (as well as all the other members of our Society) wish to thank Carolyn Saari most sincerely for having made the event possible. Hopefully our members will be able to have other opportunities in the future to inform other students about this subject.


This article is based on an interview with Mary Shanley.

Wisconsin dad: the next chapter

Our readers will almost certainly remember the story "Tragedy in Wisconsin" in our December 1999 newsletter written by one of our members, the heartbreaking story of Richard (1), his father. After an Alford Plea and six years of model probation, Richard was threatened with re-imprisonment by a new "therapist" for maintaining his innocence, which he had always done, and something the Alford Plea is supposed to let you do. A hearing had been scheduled for January 20th to decide whether to revoke his probation. On January19th the probation officer called the family and told them that Richard would be released from jail. No explanation was given for this abrupt change. He was delivered to his front door by a prison van wearing his yellow prison uniform.

Richard is now confined to his home with an electronic monitor, except for 16-20 hours per week. During this latter period he must attend three hours of therapy and see his probation officer. But the other 12-16 hours he can go where he wishes in the city where he lives. The good news is that Richard has a new probation officer who seems cordial. The bad news is that he has been re-assigned to the same "therapist" who participated in having him jailed originally. This person continues to use the same type of "therapy" involving threats of re-jailing, if Richard does not "confess". This therapist is part of a private agency called Genesis working on contract for the State of Wisconsin. Their aim seems to be, our member thinks, to be purely confrontational and to keep the clients in a constant state of agitation and uproar and to torment them and in this way break them down. Genesis deals mainly with drug and alcohol abuse and seems to have adopted this method from their work with addicts. After all, the first step toward a cure, according to Alcoholics Anonymous, is to admit you have a problem.

Richard and his family feel very ambivalent about this new stage in his ordeal. Richard is very glad to be out of prison and catching up with his life although he is not exactly free. But he and the family are quite apprehensive about what may happen next. Is there going to be a repetition of what happened the first time? Is Richard’s continued refusal to recant his plea of innocence going to lead to a second re-jailing with another threat to permanently revoke his probation? Is here any limit to how many times Richard can be put on the rack in this way?


(1) Richard is not his real name

Membership year began January 1st

Did you remember to renew your Illinois - Wisconsin FMS Society membership? We depend on our dues to produce this newsletter - maintain a web site - and do all our other projects. Please give more than the $20 dues if you can afford it. Your will find an envelope enclosed for your convenience. We need you!

FMS Foundation conferences

April 7 - 9, 2000

Professional conference: April 7

Sponsored by N.Y. Medical College. Counts for 7 hours towards AMA Physician’s recognition award. Featured speakers are Paul McHugh, M.D., Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D., Wendy Kaminer, Ph.D. and others.

To register call 914-594-4487 for details or consult March/April 2000 FMS Foundation Newsletter. Families are welcome to register for this conference and professionals are welcome at the family conference. The professional conference will take place at the Westchester Country Club, Rye, NY. A shuttle bus will be provided from the Crowne Plaza Hotel, site of the family conference (see below)

Family conference: April 8-9

Place: Crowne Plaza Hotel, White Plains, NY. White Plains can be reached from its own airport or from LaGuardia. It can be reached by train & easily by car.

Speakers (McHugh, Loftus, Paul Simpson, Freyd, Christopher Barden and others), panels (retractors, professionals, authors) and roundtables (dealing with returners, moving on, mediation, religious counseling, etc.)

Note: Illinois and Wisconsin families, retractors and other friends will have a special meeting of their own also. Details will be announced at the conference and posted. Watch for it!

For registration forms or more details, call the FMS Foundation at 800-568-8882.

See you at this great conference!

Dr. Martin Orne

Dr. Martin Orne died of cancer February 11 at the age of 72. Dr. Orne was a pivotal figure (along with his wife Emily) in the formation of the Advisory Board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation in Philadelphia and was an important member of this board.

A longtime University of Pennsylvania researcher, he was one of the world’s leading experts on hypnosis. Dr. Orne and his wife, psychologist Emily Orne, did research showing that people’s memories are altered and often tainted with falsehoods after hypnosis. The work led courts across the nation to adopt rigorous guidelines restricting the use of hypnosis on crime victims. In the Use and Misuse of Hypnosis in Court, Dr. Orne warned against establishing pseudomemories through well-rehearsed hypnotic confabulation. He frequently testified in repressed memory cases.

Dr. Orne was a great friend of our cause and he will be sorely missed.

Society publishes revised brochure

Our basic brochure that tells who we are, what we are doing, and so forth, has not been revised in a long time. Our revised name and structure led us naturally to do a revision of this piece. If you would like a copy, send us a note.

President's Corner

Dear Friends:

The biggest news from our organization since the last newsletter is our new incorporation as the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society. Not only have we welcomed all Wisconsin families who have been affected by recovered memory therapy (and attendant problems) to join us; we have also elected Katie Spanuello as vice president for Wisconsin and Larry K. as a new member of the steering committee. Though Katie has unfortunately not been able to attend the first couple meetings of this year because she is recovering from surgery, Larry K. has been an important new voice on our committee and has composed the introductory letter that we are sending out to the Wisconsin families.

After it is approved by the national FMS Foundation, the letter will go out from the Philadelphia headquarters to all those Wisconsin families who have contacted the Foundation in the past four years. As Larry points out in our letter, some Wisconsin FMS families have always been active in providing personal support to those affected by false memories, not only in their state but in conjunction with our efforts here in Illinois. The Wisconsin group has also held statewide conferences and educated many in the professional community; and they have been notable in pursuing FMS cases in the legal arena, where one important Wisconsin decision established the right of third parties to sue mental health practitioners for malpractice.

I personally believe that this latter accomplishment is very important because the threat of suits for malpractice has become one of our major weapons against therapists’ using these discredited "techniques" in the future

Also topping the list of important news and events this spring is the FMS Foundation nationwide conference, entitled "Memory and Reality: Return to Reason," scheduled for April 8-9 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains, New York. A separate, one-day professional conference, "False Memory Syndrome: New Perspectives," sponsored by New York Medical College, is scheduled for April 7 at the Westchester Country Club in nearby Rye, New York. Speakers at the professional conference will include nationally known authors and RMT critics such as Elizabeth Loftus, Paul McHugh, Wendy Kaminer, and David Halperin. These speakers will also be on the program of the Family Conference, and will be joined by August Piper, Christopher Barden, Harold Lief, and Pamela Freyd, among others. Pam points out that there are many advantages to keeping to the two conferences separate; but she assures members that all families are welcome to the professional conference, and all professionals are welcome to the family conference.

The cost of the professional conference is $85. The family conference fee is $90 for the first family member, $50 for the second, and $30 for any additional family registrants. The fee for retractors is $30. [These fees are based on early registration (by March 15th); they increase after that date.]

On February 11th, Eileen, Mary Shanley, and I presented a one-session (90-min.) panel on the dangers and damage of RMT, MPD, and SRA to Prof. Carolyn Saari’s class of social work students at Loyola University, Chicago. After my brief introduction to the subject, Eileen spoke about being a falsely accused parent, and Mary spoke of her own experience as a subject of these practices—accompanied by segments of her journey from the PBS Frontline special "The Search for Satan." That panel discussion is covered elsewhere in this newsletter. I just want to say here in my space how moved I was by the testimony of my two colleagues—and how impressive their narratives were to everyone in that classroom.

Finally, don’t forget our new web site. Walter and Gretchen have done a great job setting everything up, and they have our many thanks. Visit it at

And our gratitude and best wishes for the recovery of two of our steering committee members in these last couple of months: Walter from heart bypass surgery, and Katie from surgery to remove cancerous tissue from her back. All the best of health and getting back into the swing of things!

Videotaping bill introduced

As you may have read in the press, on February 7th Illinois House Speaker Madigan introduced a bill (HB 4039) which requires mandatory videotaping of the interrogation and confessions of suspects in serious crimes. On February 17th a House committee approved an amended bill without Republican opposition. (This lack of opposition bodes well for passage in the Senate.) The amended version allows non-videotaped evidence to be introduced only if the prosecution can show clear and convincing evidence that the statement was made voluntarily. The videotaping requirement would only apply to interrogations in the stationhouse. The amended bill requires the presence of an attorney for children younger than 13; originally the age was younger than 17. Only Alaska and Minnesota have a state-wide videotaping requirement at this time, but more than 2,000 departments nationwide have some sort of taping requirement. We will keep you informed of the progress of this bill.

Thanks to Marv and Lora for all their unflagging efforts in getting our newsletters printed and mailed.

FMS in the press

Some new books & articles

Acocella, Joan. Creating Hysteria: Women and Multiple Personality Disorder. Josey-Bass Pub., 1999. (A version appeared in the New Yorker, April 6, 1998).

Conway, Martin A. (Ed), Recovered Memories and False Memories, Oxford, 1997.

Meacham, Andrew, Selling Serenity: Life Among the Recovery Stars, Upton Books, 1999.

Taub, Sheila, J.D. Recovered memories of child sexual abuse: Psychological, Social and Legal Perspectives on a Contemporary Mental Health Controversy, Charles C. Thomas Pub., 1999

Watters, Ethan & Richard Ofshe, Therapy’s Delusions: The Myth of the Unconscious and the Exploitation of Today’s Walking Worried, Scribner, 1999.


Garry, Maryanne and Devon Polaschek, "Reinventing Yourself" Psychology Today, Dec. 1999, p. 65 (see review p. 6)

Gaven, Sena, and others. "More Than Suggestion: The Effect of Interviewing Techniques from the McMartin Preschool Case" Journal of Applied Psychology vol .53 no. 3 1998, p. 347-359

McHugh, Paul, "How Psychiatry Lost Its Way" Commentary, Dec. 1999, p.32.

Monroe, WI trial postponed

The trial that was supposed to have started in Monroe, WI in November 1999 has been postponed. Currently there is no news as to when it will commence.

Memory and imagination

What is the purpose of memory and how and why is it distorted? Two psychologists from New Zealand give an intriguing look at some research on imagination and memory in a recent issue of Psychology Today.(1) Imagination, they write, is used to "reinvent our past, and with it, our present and future." They ask the question "If memories aren’t reliable, why do we have them at all?" Memory allows us to learn from our experiences without having to repeat them endlessly - it helps us survive. We use our memories of the past to help us imagine and make sense of the present. Memories are also the glue in human relationships. It is less important to remember life events accurately than to preserve more enduring information about people, relationships and the continuing aspects of events, all of which form the core of human experience."

The authors looked especially at the research on imagination. It has a strong effect on autobiographical memory. "We found that simply imagining a childhood event for about a minute boosted people’s confidence that the events had really happened." Memories also are increasingly foggy as we reach back: "memories of childhood events were easily confused with imagined ones - on about 90% of the characteristics tested, in fact."

Of course the effect of imagination on memory is very relevant to the creation

of false memories. "Perhaps the biggest myth about memory is that we can forget the seriously bad stuff, a phenomenon called repression or amnesia. Of course it’s possible to forget traumatic events. But scientific study does not support the concept of repression."

To show that imagination can be dangerous - especially in psychotherapy, the authors cite the case of Lynn Gondolf whose therapist saw her eating disorder as a symptom of repressed memories of childhood abuse. "Her therapist insisted that her parents must have been involved. Gondolf tried to imagine how."

Research also shows that some people may be predisposed to imagination-based false memories. "Those who score high on measures of both hypnotic suggestion and dissociation are more likely that other to experience imagination inflation."


(1) M. Gary, Ph.D. & D. Polaschek, Ph.D. "Reinventing yourself", Psychology Today, December 1999, p 65.

Mark your calendars!

The fall conference of the Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society will be either on Saturday, October 7 or on Sunday October 15, depending upon the availability of speakers. Among the speakers currently being considered are the Rutherfords. Our program committee is also considering the possibility of holding the conference in Wisconsin this year, as part of our outreach to Wisconsin families that is part of our current efforts.

Mental Health Parity Bill

The "Mental Health Parity Bill" had been introduced to the Illinois 91st General Assembly in 1999, and passed the House of Representatives as HB 0111. This bill amends the Illinois Insurance Code by changing Section 3370c and adding Section 370c-1. The bill is now residing in the Senate Rules Committee.

The Mental Health Parity Bill requires insurers that provide coverage for hospital or medical expenses under a group or individual policy of accident and health insurance or health care plan to provide treatment of serious mental illness under the same terms and conditions as coverage for hospital or medical expenses related to other illnesses and diseases. Serious mental illness is defined as nine serious diagnoses, but is not limited to these nine serious mental illnesses.

With all the advancements in the ability to diagnose and treat serious mental illnesses with medication proven to be safe and effective, this bill is of great benefit to the citizens of Illinois. However, this bill as written permits reimbursement for questionable diagnoses such as Disassociated Identity Diagnosis (DID - formerly Multiple Personality Disorder), and the use of unproven and discredited therapies such as Repressed Memory Therapy (RMT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR - sometimes called eye wiggle).

The Illinois-Wisconsin FMS Society is urging an amendment to the Mental Health Parity Bill to control reimbursements for therapy that has no basis in science. Allowing additional reimbursements for unproven and fad therapy could cause insurance costs to escalate and thereby raise insurance premiums for the consumer. There are no criteria in the bill at present to give the provider and insurer guidelines as to what is acceptable therapy. To provide these criteria, we urge the following amendment to the bill (as paragraph (e) of section 370c-1):

(e) Reimbursement should apply only for mental health treatments scientifically proven to be safe and effective.
Since this bill now resides in the State Senate, please contact your State Senator and voice or write your request to add the above phrase to HB 0111. There is an urgency to do so, since the 91st General Assembly will close on April 14, 2000.

If you do not know your State Senator, please contact your local library or the IL-WI FMS Society at either 877 985-7693 (toll-free) or e-mail:



Public library project

Several people from out of state have requested our public library project materials. Information about this Illinois FMS Society project appeared in the FMSF newsletter. We would like to hear from anyone who has used these materials to try to get books and information from our perspective into public libraries. For information, or to receive a packet, contact: the Illinois - Wisconsin FMS Society: P.O. Box 3332, Joliet, IL 60434 or Tel 877-985-7693 (toll-free)

Did you pass out any Foundation fliers this month?

Take the very effective Recovered Memories: Are They Reliable? flier with you everywhere you go and keep leaving copies in grocery stores, churches, libraries, bookstores etc. They are available free from our Society or the Foundation