As revelations of a major Mental Health Care scandal come to light, a malpractice settlement threatens to conceal the issue from scrutiny once more.
On November 21, 2011, the first of four disturbingly similar malpractice lawsuits was filed against Castlewood Treatment Center, LLC. Among the allegations, a former client of the St. Louis based eating disorders clinic, Lisa Nasseff, claimed that “under the influence of various medically prescribed psychotropic medications” she was “negligently hypnotized” and coerced into believing that, among other things, she “was a member of a satanic cult and that she was involved in or perpetrated various criminal and horrific acts of abuse.” Leslie Thompson, Brooke Taylor, and Colette Travers all followed suit, each also alleging the cultivation of traumatic delusions while undergoing treatment at Castlewood, particularly under the care and supervision of one Mark Schwartz and his (then) wife Lori Galperin. The stage was set for an intense legal battle when, according to KMOV 4 in St. Louis, “Castlewood denied implanting false memories in the women and called the allegations bizarre.”
Indeed, the allegations are bizarre, but not atypical in the world of conspiracy theory-driven psychotherapy surrounding the mythic diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder [MPD] (now rebranded as Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID] in the American Psychiatric Association’s [APA] Diagnostic & Statistical Manual [DSM]). Though lacking in empirical support, and despite indications to the contrary, the persistent theory maintains that certain conditions of psychological malaise are evidence of past trauma, even (in fact, especially) when the client has no conscious memory of those painful presumed events. Compartmentalized in “repressed” segments of the mind, these traumas are said to develop into isolate “personalities” independent of the client’s core self. Only by bringing the traumatic memories to full conscious assimilation can the client then be rid of the manifestations of distress these subconscious recollections provoke.
This theory of “traumatic repression” therapy is a well-worn fictional plot device, similar to the slapstick theory that the only cure for head injury-induced amnesia is another good whack to the head… and just as dangerously ill-advised. Less generally known is the fact that such “therapy” is only distinguishable from mystical past-life regression sessions in narrative content, and identical “memory” retrieval tactics have provided the “evidentiary” basis for alien abduction claims. In fact it is well recognized, outside of the insular subculture of MPD/DID, that “recovered memories” are almost entirely worthless insofar as historical veracity is concerned. More often than recalling actual real-life events, clients subjected to Recovered Memory Therapies tend to confabulate false narratives that bear a striking resemblance to the presuppositions of trauma held by the therapist.
Despite their professional veneer, organizations like the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation (ISSTD) — The primary proponents of DID theory today — still have no reliable method for discerning accurate recovered memory recall (if such a thing exists at all) from false memories created in therapy (a phenomenon that certainly exists). And while evidence continually amasses that such therapy is harmful and serves to instill clients with deeply-held delusions, the ISSTD still lacks in empirical support for “traumatic repression”. Worse, the organization abounds with conspiracy theorists still apparently invested in a paranoid delusion of secretive Satanic cult abuse. Just last year, at the ISSTD’s annual conference, they hosted a lecture by two deranged witch-hunters, Ellen Lacter –whose website contains helpful information about demonic possession as well as ludicrous advice, such as, “Pray a perimeter of protection against everything of witchcraft.” — and Valerie Sinason, a mocked British therapist famous for scenting Satan’s evil designs behind almost everything she comments upon. This year’s ISSTD conference will feature a lecture on advanced hypnosis by Richard Kluft, a panic-monger who dismissed the FBI’s Lanning Report — the result of investigation into once-prevalent claims of a Satanic cult conspiracy — as a “bullshit cover-up” for its conclusion that the “conspiracy” was but a delusional creation of a moral panic… a moral panic that Kluft himself played no small role in instigating.*
As a journalist documenting the continued problem of Recovered Memory Therapies I have collected literally hundreds of hours of interviews with people oppressed by false memories cultivated in irresponsible and unscientific treatment. I have spoken at length with heart-broken families torn apart by false — sometimes even impossible — allegations of revealed past abuse. I have documented individuals who came to recognize that their “recovered memories” were indeed false memories, as well as individuals who hold to bizarre and implausible beliefs revealed in the course of treatment. New cases come to my attention with distressing regularity, though this problem continually escapes general recognition. The problem has persisted due to both the spinelessness of the APA and relevant licensing oversight boards, as well as a legal climate that allows for, essentially, cover-up. Countless cases of malpractice have been filed only to find the plaintiffs paid a large settlement out-of-court, bound to an agreement that they will never disclose the facts of their case to the public-at-large. The accused therapist often leaves the institution where the offense occurred, or is silently removed from staff, free to move relatively untarnished to another facility where the same practice is taken up.
With the minor media sensation that surrounded the initial filing of claims against Castlewood, many hoped that the issue would finally see the main-stream light of day, making its way to a full trial. Disappointingly, I received news last night from a reliable source that it appears all four Castlewood litigants appear ready to settle for a hefty sum, with gag orders, “within the month”. I certainly hope this does not come to pass, and with that in mind, I address the below to plaintiffs Lisa Nasseff, Leslie Thompson, Brooke Taylor, and Colette Travers.
What you should consider before accepting a buy-off with a gag-order attached
They are buying your silence. But they can’t ensure the silence of anybody else. Your gag orders will not only ensure that you refrain from criticizing or exposing your treatment at Castlewood under the care of Mark Schwartz and Lori Galperin, but it will ensure that you can’t speak in your own defense on the matter. The Castlewood case has become one of great interest to those concerned with the ongoing “recovered memory” controversy. You will silently watch — legally gagged — as the tale is revised, selectively redacted, and turned toward your own personal slander. The DID faithful, as is typical in their self-serving exercises in Cognitive Dissonance, will feel vindicated in their speculation that you all are merely opportunists who conspired to collect a massive payoff. The fact that you accepted payoff will be construed a evidence in and of itself that money was the only real motivating factor behind your lawsuits to begin with. Schwartz and Galperin, Recovered Memory Therapy advocates will happily point out, were not found guilty of anything at all. Once the papers are signed and the payoffs are distributed, this whole episode — despite the happy tale you are surely currently being sold by self-interested lawyers — will not go away. It will haunt your names constantly, and you’ll be powerless to ever set the record straight, to let your own cases be fully known.
They are making you complicit. When the same outrages are committed against more Mental Health consumers — as they inevitably will be so long as delusion-harboring organizations like the ISSTD are allowed to offer continuing education credits for conspiracy theory-based seminars — you’ll be powerless to lend your voices in support. Further, you’ll know that you might have prevented their suffering if you had not failed to force Schwartz and Galperin face the allegations against them. You’ll know that you might have helped bring reform to a broken system had you persisted in seeking Justice… rather than accepting a payoff for silence.
Both Mark Schwartz and Lori Galperin have comfortably relocated to Malibu — Avalon Malibu Treatment Center — where nothing is preventing them from returning to the exact same “therapeutic” techniques they employed at Castlewood. Avalon Malibu Treatment Center (headed by CEO Jeff Schwartz, alleged to be Mark Schwartz’s own brother) seems entirely unconcerned about, and dismissive of, any questions or requests for assurances that the events alleged to have occurred at Castlewood will be safeguarded against in their own facility. They have entirely ignored the inquiries of at least two journalists (including myself). If you fail to seek Justice, Schwartz is free to continue the exact type of therapy you allege to have caused you such horrific distress. Make no mistake, in taking a settlement you enable this.
You are denying justice to those who are unable to seek reparation through litigation. Since the beginning of the Castlewood case, I have personally spoken with families who claim to have lost their daughters to delusions instilled in them during the course of Mark Schwartz’s “therapy”. During treatment at Castlewood, it is alleged, these girls “learned”, through “recovered memories”, that they were abused as children, and that their parents were either the direct perpetrators, or complicit in, the crimes against them. The allegations are identical to the claims you have brought against Castlewood. Unlike yourselves, however, these girls have held fast to their false memories, even in the face of disconfirming evidence. The shattered remains of their unjustly accused families find themselves unable to sue for malpractice, not being direct recipients of the therapeutic maltreatment themselves. They look to you to see that Mark Schwartz and Lori Galperin face Justice. They are left, again, with less than nothing if you agree to settle.
Your lawyers aren’t necessarily your friends, and they could probably do better. They may be perfectly happy to take the money and run, and their consciences aren’t likely to be distressed when the same crimes are perpetrated against new potential legal clients. The arrangement of a settlement-with-gag-order strikes me as, in all likelihood, the most convenient path of least resistance for them. Divorced from any sense of Justice, this is simply a business transaction in the legal world. Don’t let the lawyers convince you that this is the only way. Just today, I was in contact with a former recovered memory therapy victim past ISSTD president Bennett Braun. She wrote to me that, “with excellent attorneys, I took a quite generous settlement agreement containing no gag order.” and she emphasized that she would “definitely advise” against a gag order. I know many others who aren’t as lucky, and it is to their eternal regret that they ever collected a settlement and accepted a gag-order before justice was served. They are left to watch the careers of those who victimized them carry forward untarnished, continuing to practice and promote harmful therapies.
Are you truly resigned to a life of the same?
*After posting this piece, I received a message from a friend pointing out: “I noticed that you mentioned Kluft in the article and that he is speaking at this year’s ISSTD conference. What you didn’t mention is that Kluft was sued and settled out of court. And so it goes…”