Literature Review and Consensus Guidelines on Recovered Memory

PACFA has published new guidelines for practitioners for working with recovered memory together with an accompanying Literature Review.

The Consensus Guidelines for Working with Recovered Memory, now available at the PACFA website, provide information and guidance to PACFA members, and members of Member Associations, when working with clients who recover or have recovered memories of historical traumatic events. The intention of the Guidelines is to inform clinical practice, thereby providing safeguards for clients and therapists.

Whilst much of the literature into recovered memory has specifically examined childhood sexual abuse, the Consensus Guidelines are relevant for all situations where recovered memory is a focus of clinical practice.

The first section in the Consensus Guidelines provides position statements on recovered memory; the second section provides consensus guidelines for working with recovered memory, the third section outlines ethical and legal aspects of working with recovered memory; and the fourth section provides recommendations for further research. These position statements and guidelines are compiled from the outcomes of review studies, guidelines of other professional associations, and draft guidelines produced for PACFA in 2005. The sources consulted in the development of these guidelines are provided in the reference list.

The first draft of the Consensus Guidelines was developed for PACFA by Professor Margot Schofield and Dr Jon Kettle in 2005. The current version of the Consensus Guidelines has been written by Ms Ann McDonald.  The related publication to the Consensus Guidelines is Recovered Memory of Childhood Sexual Abuse: An Overview of Research Evidence and Guidelines (McDonald, 2017), published by PACFA as an occasional paper. The Consensus Guidelines are annotated with links to relevant sections in the review.

Practitioners are encouraged to review the Consensus Guidelines as they provide important information on working with recovered memory should this issue come up in clinical practice.

The Consensus Guidelines are accompanied by a new literature review, written by Ann McDonald, which provides an overview of the contentious debates in the literature about recovered memory and therapy. The paper, titled Occasional Paper on Recovered Memory of Childhood Sexual Abuse: An overview of research evidence and guidelines, is available for download at the PACFA website.

The literature review is intended as a resource for practitioners working with traumatised clients. This paper outlines the fierce debates about recovered memory of childhood sexual abuse. The history of these debates is complex, with societal, therapeutic, legal, ethical and individual factors entwined. After twenty-five years of significant research and discussion, there are significant areas of agreement, as well as continuing divisions, about the validity of recovered memories and how memory functions under stress and trauma. The various stakeholders in this debate are researchers, clients, practitioners, associations and foundations. The review presents and compares position statements and guidelines developed by relevant professional associations on appropriate therapeutic practice with clients with recovered memory.

The PACFA Research Committee recognises the importance of counsellors and psychotherapists having access to research evidence in the field of historical child sexual abuse to inform their clinical practice.