The Intrapsychic Domai

Gary Ramona

Gary Ramona, left, and his attorney walk to Napa County Superior Court on March 24,1994, for the start of a trial accusing his daughter's therapist of implanting molestation memories using improper suggestion and drugs.

he following information is drawn from a case decided in a California court in 1994 (Ramona v. Isabella, California Superior Court, Napa, C61898). The case is described in detail in Johnston, 1999.

Holly Ramona was a 23-year -old woman being treated through counseling for bulimia. One of her counselors, Marche Isabella, acknowledges telling Holly Ramona that an overwhelming majority of women with bulimia were sexually abused during childhood. During the course of therapy , which included sessions during which a hypnotic drug (sodium amytal) was administered, Holly Ramona began recalling incidents of sexual abuse that had occurred during her childhood. More specificall , in response to leading questions from her therapists, Holly began "recovering" memories of her father repeatedly raping her between the ages of 5 and 8. The therapist admitted telling Holly that, since sodium amytal is a "truth serum," if she recalled sexual abuse while under its influence it must have really taken place.

Holly's father, Gary Ramona, was severely af fected by his daughter's accusations. When Holly went public with the allegations of incest, his wife divorced him, the rest of his family left him, he lost his well-paying job as an executive at a lar ge winery, and his reputation in the community was ruined. Mr . Ramona claimed he was innocent and accused his daughter' s therapists of implanting false memories of incest in her mind.

In an unprecedented legal case, Gary Ramona decided to sue the therapists for the damage they had caused him and his family . He char ged that his daughter' s

Gary Ramona, left, and his attorney walk to Napa County Superior Court on March 24,1994, for the start of a trial accusing his daughter's therapist of implanting molestation memories using improper suggestion and drugs.

recovered memories of being raped by him were, in fact, created by the therapists through repeated suggestions that this was the cause of her bulimia and that she wouldn't get better until she actually remembered having been abused. Mr . Ramona held that implanting these false memories was a form of negligence on the part of the therapists, so he filed a malpractice suit against them

The therapists claimed that Gary Ramona had no legal grounds on which to sue for malpractice, since he was not their patient. In an important landmark decision, however, the trial judge held that, as a family member of the patient, and especially as one who had been substantially af fected by the therapists' alleged malpractice, Mr. Ramona did have the right to file a malpractice suit against the defendants

During the trial, which lasted seven weeks, Mr . Ramona denied abusing his daughter, whereas Holly repeated her allegations that he had raped her many times during her childhood. It appeared to be a classic case of one person' s word against another's. As often happens in such cases, expert witnesses were called in to try to clarify the issues. Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, a prominent memory researcher , testified during the trial that "there is no support for the idea that you can be rape . . . over a period of years and totally for get about it." A psychiatrist specializing in legal issues, Park Dietz, testified that, although Holly Ramona recalled being abused, sh could not at first recall who the abuser was. It was only after the sodium amytal ses sion, during which the therapists suggested to Holly that the abuser was her father , that she "remembered" it was her father . Martin Orne, a psychiatrist, psychologist, and authority on hypnosis, also testified that sodium amytal interviews are "inherentl untrustworthy and unreliable" and that "Holly Ramona's memory is so distorted that she no longer knows what the truth is." Finally, Harvard psychiatry professor Harrison Pope offered his opinion that Holly Ramona had been "grossly and negligently treated, with catastrophic results."

The jury decided that the therapists were guilty of malpractice and awarded Mr. Ramona $475,000 in damages. The jury foreman was quoted in media sources as having said that the verdict was intended to "send a message about false child abuse memories." Mr. Ramona's attorney saw the verdict as a warning to other therapists, especially to those who believe that adult psychological problems are the result of repressed childhood traumas. One defendant, therapist Marche Isabella, described the verdict as a blow to the mental health profession, adhering to the position that "repressed memories are a reality ."

Why did this case turn out so dif ferently from the case of Professor Cheit, described at the start of Chapter 9? The major dif ference between the two cases is that Ross Cheit provided substantial corroborating evidence in support of his recovered memory . Unlike Holly Ramona, Ross Cheit' s memory fragment was corroborated by many other persons, and even by a tape-recorded confession from the abuser himself.

But what do these cases tell us about the psychoanalytic idea of the motivated unconscious, the idea that the mind can bury memories of horrifying events and then, decades later, accurately retrieve those memories? By themselves, single cases do not prove anything for or against unconsciously motivated repression. People for get all sorts of things. Can you remember what you ate for dinner last Tuesday? With the right cues, however, could you be led to remember accurately? With other cues, could you be led to inaccurately remember what you had for dinner last Tuesday?

What is the dif ference between ordinary for getting and motivated repression? Is there good scientific evidence for motivated repression? Could people be moti vated to "remember" events that did not actually happen, as apparently was the case with Holly Ramona? To answer these questions we will examine contemporary revisions to classical psychoanalysis, collectively known as the Neo-Analytic movement.

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Breaking Bulimia

Breaking Bulimia

We have all been there: turning to the refrigerator if feeling lonely or bored or indulging in seconds or thirds if strained. But if you suffer from bulimia, the from time to time urge to overeat is more like an obsession.

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