LAPSED PSYCHOLOGIST IS RECOVERED MEMORY'S DEVIL
by Paula Brook
THE VANCOUVER SUN, Wednesday, February 11, 1998
Tana Dineen is a psychologist who has stopped practising because, as she told me, "it is unethical to practise in this profession." For two years she has been roaming the continent saying the same thing, and more, to judges, lawyers, police officers and criminologists.
She has their ear. Especially now, given the controversy over "recovered" memories and their ravaging effect on families, communities and our justice system. The five-and-a-half year battle a former teacher fought locally to clear himself of sexual assault charges has put a spotlight on the subject locally: The charges Michael Kliman faced were brought by two women who recovered memories of childhood abuse with the help of therapists.
The trials of Mike Kliman say a lot about the growing public skepticism about courtroom psychology. In his first trial the jury based a guilty verdict almost entirely on the weight of the complainants' newly minted memories, despite a paucity of corroborating evidence and stern cautionary words from the judge. Psychology "experts" had been called in to give weight to the memories, and the jury bought it.
Not so the appeal court judges, who ordered a new trial. By 1996 the tide was turning on psychological expertise. The second jury, unable to weight the deficit of facts against the surplus of conflicting theories, deliberated for five days and gave up.
The Crown brought the charges back last year but, significantly, they didn't call any "experts" this time. In light of recent recovered-memory recantations in the U.S. resulting in multi-million-dollar suits against therapists, and in the wake of disclaimers issued by psychiatric and psychological associations across North America and Britain concerning the validity of such therapy, the Crown must have considered it wiser to stick to the women and their memories. But their stories didn't add up, and Kliman was acquitted.
Dineen, speaking to 90 lawyers last Friday at a conference of the Continuing Legal Education Society of B.C., said cases like this have given the justice system a well-deserved black eye. "Trusting psychologists is dangerous, so dangerous that judicial skepticism is not only warranted but urgently needed," she argued.
To Dineen's thinking, the recovered-memory craze is a symptom of a much larger disease called psychology. A pseudoscience with no boundaries, no method and no public accountability, psychology only pretends to be a caring profession, she says. In reality, it's a for-profit industry that creates consumers by manufacturing victims.
That's the title of her 1996 book, MANUFACTURING VICTIMS: WHAT THE PSYCHOLOGY INDUSTRY IS DOING TO PEOPLE, published by Montreal-based Robert Davies Multimedia. Next month the second edition hits the bookstores, and it's even more strident than the first. More provocative, more likely to enrage her colleagues - which is fine from where Dineen sits.
In 1993 she tore down the shingle on her Toronto based psychotherapy clinic and moved to Victoria where she now operates a B&B called Scholefield House.
Make that B, B & B - bombshells. A flak jacket is de rigeur at her website there, you can read all about MANUFACTURING VICTIMS.
If I hadn't sat through several sessions of the Kliman trial, I might dismiss Dineen and her book as so much spleen and sensation. But I saw first-hand the flowering of victim-culture in that courtroom, and observed the toll it took on an innocent man and his family. I heard the lies and saw the devastation and the perversion of justice.
Dineen offers very strong medicine, but she doles it out carefully. She doesn't say there are no legitimate victims. Of course there are - in tremendous numbers - and in need of our full support. But when they come to court toting pop-psych bestsellers such as THE COURAGE TO HEAL, we must tell them to go home and do their healing. This stuff does not belong in a court of law.
The medicine is starting to work. Even the authors of COURAGE, whose book inspired the main complainant to make her case against Kliman, have softened their language in the latest edition. They've been hit by lawsuits and now bemoaning and "anti-survivor-backlash," advise readers to stay out of court: "If you go to court today, you will be entering the legal system at a time when your memories (and your therapist) are likely to be attacked...In hope of proving that the abuse took place, it is unlikely that a trial will result in justice, vindication or healing.
It is shocking to think that a few years ago, there was every hope for such flimsy cases. And it is shocking to think that this "healing" book continues to sell 100 copies for every one that Dineen sells. No wonder she has to shout so loud and drop the odd bomb.