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False Memories and Trauma:
Forensic and Methodological Issues

3 CE Credits/Hours - Online Course - $29.00

Developed by Donald A. Eisner, Ph.D., J.D. and Courtney Eisner, B.S.

This course includes materials consisting of:

Transcripts are available for PPTs and are provided in pdf format.

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General Course Description

This course focuses on the forensic and methodological issues that stem from the so-called "false memory" debate. The concern is the veridicality of recovered memory of trauma. It examines recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse and methodological issues in the false memory debate. This is especially the case during and subsequent to psychotherapy. There have been various attempts over the last two decades that assessed whether the memories are real or false. In therapy, as well as in litigation, it is important to be able to ascertain if the underlying trauma has actually occurred.

Clinicians and researchers have argued that a patient in psychotherapy may be lead into actually believing that childhood sexual abuse occurred, when in fact it did not. On the other side of the debate, it is claimed that false memory of abuse does not readily occur. There are differing views as to the appropriate method for investigating false memory and memory flaws. A significant forensic issue is whether under a Daubert standard, recovered memory of abuse can be admitted into evidence at trial.

This intermediate course consists of four articles. The first, by Donald A. Eisner, explores the history of the false memory debate. It explores recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse and the various ways to assess the validity of false memories. The second article, by Courtney Eisner, provides an illumination of experimental research on memory distortions. This study demonstrates that words as well as emotional pictures can be used to affect memory. Next, a PowerPoint presentation (also available as pdf) offers a summary of the above study. Finally, the last article provides online resources for both sides of the repressed memories debate.

Educational Objectives

This course will teach psychotherapists to:

1.    Appraise the underlying methodology that assesses false memory.

2.    Integrate clinical and laboratory studies on false memory.

3.    Define the differing views on the false memory debate.

Course Syllabus

  • False memory and trauma: Methodical and forensic implications
  • Overview of the false memory controversy
  • Various scenarios that examined false memory
  • Remembering emotional pictures
  • In depth evaluation of the DRM techniques
  • Resources
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