A court ruled case on therapy-induced false memories

Henry Otgaar, Antonietta Curci, Ivan Mangiulli, Fabiana Battista, Elisa Rizzotti, Giuseppe Sartori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

We report on a unique Italian criminal case in which a court ruled that a therapist implanted false memories of abuse in a young girl. Using therapeutic excerpts, we show that the therapist used a multitude of problematic interventions that are all linked to false memory creation. Specifically, an analysis of the therapeutic excerpts showed that across many sessions, the therapist asked highly suggestive questions to the girl, implying that she was abused by her father. In addition, the girl underwent EMDR techniques that have been associated with memory undermining effects. Our analyses showed that although before treatment the girl did not have any recollection of being abused by her father, she gradually started to remember the abuse and identified the father as her abuser during the therapeutic sessions. Our case report clearly shows the danger of suggestive pressure in a therapeutic context causing patients to form false memories of abuse and supports the need to prevent the therapeutic practice of suggestive techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • IMAGINATION
  • MISINFORMATION
  • SEXUAL-ABUSE
  • case
  • court
  • false memory
  • suggestion
  • therapy

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