Last week, the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) held its 36th World Congress on Complex Trauma in New York. “Complex trauma”, for those not up on their pseudo-scientific dialect, is the psychiatric community’s code name for the iatrogenic psychiatric disorder formerly known as “multiple personality disorder”. These days it’s called dissociative identity disorder (DID), which sounds a bit more respectable to some ears.
We’ve talked before about the linkages between DID and allegations of Satanic ritual abuse—the theory being that only “extreme” child sexual abuse could possibly cause the victim’s mind to shatter into multiple fractional selves, known as “alters”, each created by the mind as a clever way to hive off certain of the victims’ memories, thus protecting them from having to experience unbearably overwhelming traumatic memories.
As a psychiatric theory, this makes virtually no sense, and violates everything we know about how memory and trauma work—for one thing, people develop symptoms in response to trauma, not as some sort of prescient preventive measure to ensure that the person is not overwhelmed with traumatic memory.
Furthermore, a great many people have experienced horrific experiences of one sort or another. If the “multiple personality” concept were true, DID ought to be practically epidemic, especially amongst survivors of traumas like war atrocities and natural disasters.
Instead, it is limited to a very small demographic: people treated by psychotherapists who believe in DID.
However, that does not stop certain mental health practitioners from pushing it with missionary zeal. And that’s where the ISSTD comes in.
It was reassuring to note that the #ISSTD19 hashtag was being used not only by participants at the Congress, but by people protesting the pseudo-science of DID.
It was less reassuring, however, to see that a similar event, though smaller in scope, took place virtually unnoticed in York the previous week.
The European Society for Trauma and Dissociation (ESTD) held its own shindig at the University of York on 21–22 March, and featured speakers such as Sue Richardson, who bills herself thus:
Sue is a UKCP accredited psychotherapist and supervisor with over 30 years experience in the helping professions and a special interest in the impact of childhood trauma, including organised abuse and mind control. She is a founder member of the UK network of the ESTD and a member of the ESTD UK training group. A regular contributor to national and international conferences, Sue is the author & co-author of 2 books and a number of papers in the trauma and attachment fields. Her work includes taking part in 2 educational DVD’s on complex trauma and dissociation made by First Person Plural and an online attachment-based training module for ESTD UK. In recognition of her work in partnership with experts by experience, she has been made an honorary member of First Person Plural, a UK organisation for dissociative survivors and their allies.
(“Organised abuse”, in case you were wondering, is a polite euphemism in certain psychiatric circles for Satanic ritual abuse. “Mind control”…that one is pretty self-explanatory, no?)
Valerie Sinason, who we’ve mentioned here on several occasions, also spoke at the York event. Her talks included “Working with children with Dissociative Disorders and an Intellectual Disability” and “Theory isn’t Dreary”, which addressed psychoanalytic theoretical constructs.
One alarming event was a talk called “Planting Seeds”, which was presented by three NHS mental health workers:
- Dr Louise Harriss, whose credentials include “EMDR Europe Accredited Practitioner”;
- Dr Rebecca Andrew, who is “currently leading on the implementation of the trust strategy for trauma-related dissociation, focusing on DID, within Surrey & Borders Partnership NHS Trust”; and
- Dr Ruth Cureton, a retired GP whose volunteer work included a stint as trustee of the Trauma and Abuse Group, which arose from a working party of the Association of Christian Counsellors.
The presenters gave an overview of Surrey and Borders NHS Partnership Foundation Trust’s move toward “developing their pathways for trauma-related complex dissociative disorders”. In other words, they are spreading the gospel of DID to the largest provider of mental health, learning disability, and alcohol and drug treatment in southern England. These are the people one might depend on for a safe, medically sound approach to mental health issues—not a treatment based on quackery.
On Twitter, one ESTD conference participant wrote,
Scientist part has felt overwhelmed recently as a number of life events caused by younger parts trying to help; has caused uncertainty. It was lovely that she got to interact with questions at #ESTDYORK19. I hope she emerges again soon. …
The conference, meanwhile, was presented in partnership with a number of organisations:
Recognise anything familiar? Yep, it’s good old RAINS, the “Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support” organisation co-founded by the late Dr Joan Coleman, and much beloved by conspiracy theorists everywhere. This affiliation makes it even more difficult to refute the link between believers in DID and believers in SRA.
This organisation, and the recent York event, raise a number of very troubling red flags, which we’ll be looking into in the next few days.