Book Reviews -- Suggestions of Abuse-True and False Memories of Childhood Sexual Trauma by Michael D. Yapko

Article excerpt

MICHAEL D. YAPKO, PH.D. Suggestions of Abuse--True and False Memories of Childhood Sexual Trauma. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1994, 271 pp., $22.00.

The subject of childhood sexual trauma is both painful and confusing. It would be hard to find a more emotionally charged and important topic confronting psychotherapists today.

The author, Dr. Yapko, is a clinical psychologist with almost two decades of experience in working with families involved with issues of abuse. An expert on suggestibility, memory, brief therapy, and clinical uses of hypnosis, he brings to this study a rare combination of experience and open-mindedness.

Because of his intense involvement with people caught up in the phenomenon of repressed memories of sexual abuse, he shared the pain of shattered lives, broken families, and overwhelming despair. Yapko was led to write this book in the hope that it will provide valuable information and support for those caught in these agonizing circumstances. His treatment of this subject is not only valuable for therapists and those directly involved, but also for anyone trying to make sense of a phenomenon that has become so prominent in the public consciousness.

The author points out that understanding memory is critical to how we view this subject. Not only the public but also much of the therapeutic community is lacking in an adequate understanding of memory. Memory does not work like a computer. It is a reconstructive process, not an event. It is influenced by many factors and, like perception, it is selective. Certainty that a memory is true does not mean it actually is. There seems to be no reliable means to distinguish authentic from false memories. Memories can be rewritten retroactively with newly acquired information. …