False Memory Syndrome Risks
Great care needs to be taken when dealing with the past, especially when working with regressed clients. What the client remembers is only their understanding of the situation. They may be viewing the event from the point of view and understanding of a child. Whilst the client is regressed under hypnosis the therapist may have access through the unconscious mind to memories which may have been buried by the conscious because they were too painful to deal with in everyday life.
If these memories, obtained from the unconscious mind, are returned to the conscious mind when the client is in the wakened state they may cause distress or consternation, especially if the client cannot recall the event. This may happen inadvertently by poor questioning techniques such as asking leading questions.
The client may even try to fill in the gaps in the memory. The reconstructed past may or may not be accurate but the reconstruction could become part of the client’s conscious memory. If the reconstructed memory is false and the client believes it, the resultant repercussions could be disastrous to the client, their family or others involved. This is particularly difficult in abuse cases.
Discussion of what has been said while regressed needs to be carefully thought out and perhaps withheld until the unconscious mind is willing to release it. In some ways it may be thought of as maintaining the unconscious mind’s confidentiality.
It is often advisable to return information obtained from the unconscious mind to the unconscious while the client is still under hypnosis with the instruction that the unconscious will allow it to be released to the conscious mind only when it is safe and right to do so.
The following is quoted from the Penguin Dictionary of Psychology:
Memory, recovered: Material that has supposedly been brought back into conscious memory by the use of various techniques such as hypnosis and suggestion. This is a very touchy issue, particularly in legal settings, where such ‘memories’ have been used in cases of abuse and assault. Alas, there is absolutely no evidence that hypnosis or suggestion can function to recover lost memories; worse they tend to encourage confabulation and elaboration. Recovered memories are rarely true memories; they tend rather to be constructed at the prompting of the hypnotist or therapist (Reber, AS, 1995, 448)