Genesis and Destruction
October 12, 2012 2:00 PM   Subscribe

"You ended up losing your family over this?” “I did.” Genesis Associates was an Exton, PA-based counseling practice which crashed and burned in the late 90's, leaving a long, scorchingly-painful trail of destruction in their wake. Founded by Pat Mansmann and Pat Neuhausel, Genesis employed the then-controversial, now-largely-discredited recovered memory therapy. Genesis also urged patients to "detach" (cut off contact) from their alleged abusers, as well as any individuals to whom they had become "addicted" - including their own children. In a long, harshly critical article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, a former patient is quoted as saying, "They had me brainwashed ... they get you so worn out, so confused, you can't think straight." A patient estranged from her children wrote, “The Genesis therapists were not only out to implant memories - they were out to destroy families and lives.” (“Betrayed” by Carol Diament; 3/4 of the way down this page). The group's use of detachment and "rage therapy" were also prominently featured in the Frontline special "Divided Memories". Genesis was sued by dozens of former patients (1,2,3); at least nine cases were settled out of court. In 1999, Mansmann and Neuhausel surrendered their licenses to practice in Pennsylvania. Unlike their patients', Mansmann and Neuhausel's relationship has remained tight... they're partners in an entity named "WIC Enterprises", they co-own property in Key West (manual search here) and, as of 2008, they were both members of the "National Center for Crisis Management". Their attorney has since been disbarred. The book they co-authored is still available used on Amazon.
posted by julthumbscrew (36 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Hypnotize this guy long enough and he'll tell you he started the Chicago fire, but that don't mean he did it.
posted by thelonius at 2:02 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Those two ruined a lot of lives and a lot of families with their quackery.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:20 PM on October 12, 2012

Deep inside every psychotherapist there is a psychotherapy patient. By far the craziest people I have ever known were professional therapists.

(Crazy is a vernacular English adjective. I have no credentials that qualify me to diagnose any specific mental disorder.)
posted by bukvich at 2:25 PM on October 12, 2012 [16 favorites]

I'm glad you found another link and re-posted. Thanks.
posted by clarknova at 2:35 PM on October 12, 2012

Oddly enough, I just wrote today about why it's insane that anyone can introduce a talk therapy and sell it without proving that it's safe or effective, but if you're going to use a drug, you need to go through the FDA.

People think that talk therapies can't have side effects and that therapists, unlike pharma, don't have agendas. But bad talk therapies can be as bad as the worst drugs— no one ever got raped by a Prozac, as one doc I talked to for another story I did on this issue put it.
posted by Maias at 3:18 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Deep inside every psychotherapist there is a psychotherapy patient.

In my experience, they aren't usually that deep. A couple of drinks is generally enough to unleash the beast.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:50 PM on October 12, 2012

Memory implantation (accidental and deliberate) is going to be a persistent problem in humanity (this, all the satanic panics, false confessions, etc.) until it becomes accepted and common knowledge in mainstream society that memory is completely mutable -- that even one's conception of self is based on remembering remembrances.

Does "disbarred on consent" mean that their lawyer voluntarily resigned from the bar?
posted by Matt Oneiros at 4:03 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

After only a few sessions with Zoe D. Katz, I was able to finally overcome my fear of mousies.
posted by wobh at 4:13 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Deep inside every psychotherapist there is a psychotherapy patient. By far the craziest people I have ever known were professional therapists.

That's great. Have you by chance had any insights about how cops and criminals REALLY AREN'T ALL THAT DIFFERENT YOU GUYS???

Every therapist I have known, while they may have issues like all human beings, was a smart, creative professional who wanted to help others. By far the craziest people I have ever known were schizophrenics who were ranting and raving on streetcorners. But possibly they were therapists on their lunch hour?
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:34 PM on October 12, 2012 [17 favorites]

This sounds a lot like Scientology.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:44 PM on October 12, 2012

Matt Oneiros: I was wondering about that, too; after cursory research, it looks like "disbarred on consent" means that the state bar warned an attorney, "Hey, we're about to disbar you," and the attorney basically said, "Uh, go right ahead," rather than appealing it.

Additional interesting info that I couldn't find a way to work into the original post: so "The Pats" (or their malpractice insurance?) apparently wound up paying LOTS of money to former patients in out-of-court settlements. Neither one of them appears to have had much of a career to speak of since then (at least not careers which result in any kind of online presence). However, each of them is listed in TONS of public-access real estate transactions in a rather tony area of Key West. WTF? Were they squirreling away a LOT of represed-memory lucre? Are they practicing on the sly? Inquiring minds demand to know, yet can get no satisfaction...
posted by julthumbscrew at 5:49 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The suppressed memory fad and concurrent satanic ritual abuse mythology were very real, and very recent. I am close to someone who was traumatized by nightmarish 'therapies' and still suffers psychologically from them. He as well as multiple members of his family were institutionalized for weeks at a time (he was only 5 or 6 at the time, his brother a few years older). They repeatedly told him that he was "safe" and used a lot of amazingly insidious implications to scare him senseless. They would take his blood constantly, and when he asked why, the nurse told him that his blood was 'bad' so they had to take more. After discovering the facility he was held at and researching it I found out that it had closed down several years later, largely due to allegations of medicare fraud, but that one of the doctors who had worked there during that time period is still an unrepentant "SRS" (Satanic Ritual Abuse) mythology adherent. There will always be a strong connection in my mind between these horrific coercive therapies and the horrors of medicare fraud. There is an assumption by the public that they can trust doctors, nurses, and therapists, but as much as this trust exists, the potential to abuse that trust is also there, and inevitably, such malfeasance occurs.
posted by flyinghamster at 5:59 PM on October 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

"However, each of them is listed in TONS of public-access real estate transactions in a rather tony area of Key West. WTF? Were they squirreling away a LOT of represed-memory lucre? Are they practicing on the sly? Inquiring minds demand to know, yet can get no satisfaction..."

Metafilter investigative vacation 2013?
posted by Matt Oneiros at 6:12 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

YES! That's what I was secretly hoping when I posted it! "If ANYONE can get to the bottom of why these crazy, family-destroying bitches own a handful of houses in Key West while their former patients live miserable and alone in one-bedroom condos, it's the HiveMind!"
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:51 PM on October 12, 2012

The "tough love" private school/prison systems for teenagers born of nutty religious parents are equally horrifying.

There is an over-large creeper/abuser underground. It is good to see it exposed to sunlight, shunned by the majority, and prosecuted for their crimes.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:54 PM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

If MeFiIV'13 is going down, I get to be Daphne!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:56 PM on October 12, 2012

Well well, I was really interesting to read more about this after seeing it on the Longreads members-only list. Thanks!

Also, the '3/4 down this page' link is broken. It should lead here. Flagged for HTML error, but it was my first time flagging and I didn't realise that I couldn't specify where the error was. Sorry mods, and thanks julthumbscrew!
posted by undue influence at 7:07 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's a TED talk discussing mutable memory.
posted by wierdo at 7:29 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

flyinghamster: "There will always be a strong connection in my mind between these horrific coercive therapies and the horrors of medicare fraud. There is an assumption by the public that they can trust doctors, nurses, and therapists, but as much as this trust exists, the potential to abuse that trust is also there, and inevitably, such malfeasance occurs."

This is, I think, one of the best things that facebook/twitter gives us. Because when people start posting all the mundane things going on in their lives, hopefully "My doctor says my stepdad hates me because I am Satan" will raise enough eyebrows that that person can be rescued.
posted by rebent at 7:29 PM on October 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

You know, rebent, that is one of the most fascinating aspects of The Rise of the Internets... it's made it much, MUCH more-difficult for certain things to occur. The Genesis group, for instance - I'm pretty sure that it would've flamed out and died a lot sooner if clients had had Google (and disgruntled ex-clients) at their fingertips. Scientology is one I think of a LOT... I'm almost 100% certain that the decline of Scientology has correlated very, very strongly with the rise of the internet (and the widespread dissemination of Scientology's wackier elements). It's getting a lot harder to run a creepy/destructive scam on a large group of people without getting called out on it post-haste.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:00 PM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Deep inside every psychotherapist there is a psychotherapy patient.

Yeah. But only because the post/supra-human credentialing process is a nightmare.
posted by space_cookie at 8:46 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

And the other side of the "OH NOES THEY'RE GIVING EVERYBODY ABUSE MEMORIES" issue, in case anybody wants to read it.
posted by edheil at 9:05 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

This was disproved by Elizabeth Loftus, one of the most famous experimental psychologists of all time (I think she was an expert on neural networks in memory). Loftus was dragged in and out of court for years, hounded, and even accused of being a child molester herself. Previously, she had shown that asking leading questions in court could create "false memories" of how events happened. Eyewitnesses asked "how fast were those cars going when they crashed?" would estimate a faster speed. Apparently she worked really, really hard to disprove the notion of false memory.
posted by kettleoffish at 9:54 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

[fixed the html error; thanks, undue influence! ]
posted by taz (staff) at 10:02 PM on October 12, 2012

Elizabeth Loftus wasn't "dragged in and out of court for years," she worked as an expert witness for wealthy parents accused of molesting their children, convincing juries that there was literally an epidemic of implanted memories of child abuse sweeping America -- a concept which was entirely invented by the FMSF, an advocacy organization for parents accused of child molestation, which presents itself as a medical/scientific organization.

See the link I just posted for more interesting questions about this organization.
posted by edheil at 10:56 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seeing this really crystalizes, for me, the idea of Genesis Associates being part of the wave of 60s/70s/80s psychotherapy movements that gradually degenerated into cults, or rose into practices, EST, Scientology, and the like.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:04 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

"It seems like you'd have to be brainless to let this happen," said Johnson, of Linfield. "It was just the opposite. Most of the clients were bright, intelligent, professional people, but they came in with a wound. They were vulnerable.

I'm no expert, but in the cases of both cults and bad therapy I have the impression that actually intelligent people are more vulnerable. You get given this promise of feeling better if you can get your mind in line with certain rules (which generally don't sound destructive at the outset), and from there, it's mostly emotional pressure to convince yourself. The smarter you are, the more knots you can tie in your own mind in response to this pressure and the more you can rationalise your discomfort.
posted by Kit W at 11:50 PM on October 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Thanks so much, julthumbscrew - I remember watching Divided Memories at college, and have always wondered what happened to some of the people in the film: the Genesis people and the opera singer from the first film stuck in my head because their stories seemed so sad. I'm glad to hear that at least some of the Genesis people got some recompense for their suffering. I am still hoping that the opera singer is also fine nowadays.
posted by Wylla at 1:19 AM on October 13, 2012

Florida homestead exemption - the reason people with judgements against them own Florida properties.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:09 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

And the other side of the "OH NOES THEY'RE GIVING EVERYBODY ABUSE MEMORIES" issue, in case anybody wants to read it.

I should note that this article doesn't say that psychologists/therapists have never 'implanted' a memory. It's arguing against the idea that we can make a scientific diagnosis of 'false memory syndrome' based pretty much solely on the fact that an adult who remembers being raped doesn't want to talk to her alleged rapist, and furthermore that we can even tell a 'false memory' apart from a real memory. It's saying that FMS is basically the 1990s equivalent of "Parental Alienation Syndrome."

My impression is that, like always, the truth is somewhere in between "all those kids were getting raped" and "all those kids were victims of predatory psychologists." A lot of kids get molested by family members, and possibly repress it until adulthood. Clearly some (and I should probably say a very few) psychologists act improperly/unethically towards their patients, with disastrous results.
posted by muddgirl at 5:35 AM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Um, that article doesn't say that "doesn't want to talk" was ever used as a criterion by anybody. That's a red herring.

Probably the strongest criterion it does list is "the memory didn't exist/wasn't consciously available before therapy". Memories of any kind seem to weaken if they're not consciously rehearsed, and there's neurological support for that. A memory that's not consciously available will not be rehearsed. So it's going to go away. If it's not there any more, anybody claiming to "bring it back" has some explaining to do. The article actually mentions "forgetting" as if it were something that could just be reversed by magic... and it's not.

"Repressed memories" were more or less dreamed up by Freud, and casual allusions to them as a real phenomenon are suspect. Where's the hard evidence that anybody ever represses a memory of anything, traumatic or otherwise?

And "psychologists act improperly/unethically" mischaracterizes the allegations. The allegation is that, for the most part, the psychologists legitimately believe that they are uncovering real memories, and are using techniques they legitimately believe work for that. The false memory people are just claiming those therapists are wrong; you're trying to insinuate that the claim is that they're evil.

I will admit that, according to the article, in addition to the strong "never remembered it before" indicator, the "repressed memory people" are also using some pretty cheesy indicators of falsity, including the attitude of those accused of abuse. Those are weak at best and the article is right to question them.
posted by Hizonner at 6:18 AM on October 13, 2012

Elizabeth Loftus wasn't "dragged in and out of court for years," she worked as an expert witness...

And, according to Wikipedia, was physically attacked, received hate mail, and yes, was suspended by her employer for 21 months during, yes, a court case, because of accusations (found to be groundless) of breach of privacy by one of the people convinced that they had been abused.
posted by alasdair at 8:48 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ahh. Psych. One month into my required Gen. Psych class I realized the students taking it to fulfill a course requirement were relatively sane. The students taking it as an elective, not so much.
posted by notreally at 9:22 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

As for calling the two Pats...crazy, family-destroying bitches, that should be beyond the pale -- call them monsters, yes, but let's drop calling women bitches, OK ?

That aside, this is a drum I have been beating ever since reading Dorothy Rabinowitz's article in Harper's thirty years ago about The Little Rascals Day Care Case,not to mention countless articles by Debbie Nathan in the Village Voice on that and too many other day care sex abuse cases.

And, I, too, had a friend who was convinced by her therapist that she was a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her father and broke off all communication with him, almost until the day he died. She came to repudiate her recovered memories but the whole affair unhinged her to the point that she started hallucinating that her therapist was broadcasting messages about her over PA systems in malls and stores.

So, yes, monsters is the fit word. So many people's lives were destroyed by these sort of claims.

The same sort of thing happened with 'facilitated communication' where at least one 'interpeter' holding the hand of a severely autistic man typed in horrific accounts of sex abuse on a computer keyboard at the hands of the man's father, who actually arrested and tried before the whole case was thrown out of court when 'facilitated communication' was proven impossible. There was a Frontline about 'facilitated communication' that included the the case, as I recall.

It is a stain on the history of feminism that so many prominent women got on the bandwagon of repressed memories and ritual abuse. If all these people. mostly children, were and in many cases still are convinced they suffered horrific, who is guilty of abuse in these cases, who should be tried, who should pay damages ? I can think of two names already.

Oprah, for instance, went on a spree of programs about day care sex abuse. On one program she had on children from the McMartin preschool who were convinced they were abuse. The audience cheered for them but screamed at the one child who appeared, behind a curtain, and defended Raymond Buckey as a kind man. Another the time she had on Gloria Steinem with a woman who swore she had born babies for Satanic ritual sacrifice.

I have heard of no retractions on the topic of recovered memories from either of those two.
posted by y2karl at 1:14 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

FWIW my sister hasn't spoken to anyone in our family for nearly 20 years after starting counseling sessions with a counselor who was into the whole 'repressed memories' thing. She never actually 'remembered' anything. But the line was, 'You have certain feelings and systems and those MUST have been caused by abuse, therefore you must have been abused.'

She never did actually 'remember' anything, at least as long as she was still maintaining any contact with us--after that of course I can't say for certain what happened. But despite the lack of any memory of the 'incident(s)' at all, she became completely convinced that she had been sexually abused by one certain family member all based on this 'evidence'.

After trying and trying and trying to remember the 'lost' memories, she still couldn't--because of course nothing had ever happened and she was at least honest enough with herself to not make up anything out of whole cloth. But no problem--they had an explanation for that, as well. The incidents had happened when she was too young to remember, before the age of 1.

Ah, yes. It's like the less evidence, the better.

So now we have exact abuser, exact abuse, exact time frame. All based on exactly nothing, except that she had some pretty complicated feelings about her parents. She was adopted, and to me it's not very surprising that an adopted child might have some pretty complicated and difficult feelings about both her birth parents and her adoptive parents. Part of the attraction of this approach for patients, I believe, is that it allows them to wallpaper over some really complicated and difficult feelings they might have, and put all the blame on someone else as the 'abuser'. Instead of spending their energy working through their feelings and problems, they can transfer all their energy into anger and blame.

From the family's perspective, the thing is, you want to (and, of course, we need to) believe people who say they were victims of abuse. She starts coming to us with these stories about, "My counselor is certain I was abused because I have all the symptoms, but I can't remember who or when. Who could it have been?"

So, you know, we start to think. You just can't guarantee with any child that there was *never* the opportunity for them to be abused. Any babysitter, any friend, and neighbor, any family member, any relative, any fellow church member, any teacher or school worker--anyone who had contact with her as a small child, really--COULD have been an abuser, completely unknown to us. You might have been with someone 99.9% of their first year of life, and something could have happened in that other 0.1%. There is just no way to know for sure.

So, a witch hunt. But in her case, all for naught because of course the abuse never did happen and there was never any evidence of any sort--not even fake recovered memories--that it did.

Nevertheless, the impact on all our lives, and particularly hers, has been huge. From her point of view it's as if she actually has been abused, even though in reality she hasn't. Her anger and blame towards her non-abuser--and by association all the rest of us family members who are 'covering up'--are exactly as powerful as though she actually had been abused and we actually had covered up.

Her counselors weren't associated with Genesis, but they were very obviously inspired by the same methods and ideas--repressed memories, separation therapy, and all the rest of the same malarkey.

As for my sister, I hope she's somehow moved on and is living a good life. But those counselors can burn in the nethermost regions of hell for all I care. We're putting abusers in jail--but how about those whose 'counseling' is the equivalent of abuse?
posted by flug at 3:55 PM on October 13, 2012

Beth's Story: The Process

Editor's Comment: Beth Rutherford, Springfield, MO went for counseling at age 19 due to stress from her work as a nurse in a cancer unit. The first time she went into the counselor's office she was certain that she had a wonderful family and childhood. However, during 2 1/2 years of therapy with a church counselor, she began recovering "memories" of being sexually abused by her father between the ages of 7 and 14. Allegations were made against her father (a credentialed minister). She accused him of many things including impregnating her twice and performing a coat hanger abortion on her. If prosecuted, he would face 7 years to life in prison. A series of events over many months brought Beth to the realization that these "memories" were false memories. Beth later retracted and rejoined the family. Upon being medically examined, Beth was found to be a virgin. She now is speaking out to help prevent what happened to her from happening to others.

How did the reconstruction of my childhood and supposed recovery of "past memories" occur in therapy?

It was a _process_. It happened slowly, and I never stood back and looked at 'A to Z' all at once. I was absorbed into this process one "letter" at a time. The following is a general overview of the process:

P - Putting doubt in my mind about my family, our relationships, my childhood, and my own memory.

R - Remembering my childhood.

O - Omitting the good and focusing on the perceived bad.

C - Commitment that dreams and ideas are "true memories" and flashbacks of reality.

E - Emotionalizing the memories and establishing loyalties to my therapist.

S - Separating from my parents and from all those who did not believe me. Then taking....

S - Steps of accusation and confrontation.

Each one of these phases was groundwork for bringing me deeper into believing that terrible sexual abuse had actually happened to me. In my conversations with other victims of this therapy, this process seems to be a common thread in all of our experiences with Age Regression/Recovered Memory Therapy
From Retractors Speak: The Therapys
posted by y2karl at 5:23 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

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