Trauma at the BPS Annual Conference in Brighton
As I unpack my suitcase I hold fondly the book ‘The Trauma Model – A Solution to the Problem of Comorbidity in Psychiatry’ by my favourite Psychiatrist Dr Colin Ross who runs some Trauma clinics in the US and is a prolific writer.
He criticises the ‘medical model’ underpinning traditional Psychiatry and outlines a convincing vision where medication would morph into a very small component of a much wider mental health approach that acknowledges the toxic effect of neglect and abuse in early childhood in the emergence of ‘pathological’ symptoms. When I presented my first ever paper on mental health issues (which happened to be my 100th publication) in Summer 2014 at the ESTD conference in Copenhagen Colin presented in the same session and kindly expressed approval of my ‘Case Management’ volunteer activities:
In Spring 2015 he was well chuffed at the ISSTD (International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation) conference in Orlando when I bought 5 of his books! At the time I joined a ‘low key’ meeting of 2 dozen professionals who exchanged experiences supporting victims of ‘Ritual Abuse’.
If all Psychiatrists were as trauma-informed and competent as Dr Ross child sexual abuse would dramatically decrease. Unfortunately many mainstream mental health professionals have little understanding of complex trauma. In a sinister twist some well-known specialists seem to have abundant expertise about dissociation and trauma but develop and apply this knowledge in a clandestine way. For example a child was experiencing an intensive ‘flash-back’ seemingly remembering painful extreme abuse (i.e. ‘child torture’). In a seemingly ‘empathic’ gesture the specialist organised a ‘Clown’ to appear. Within seconds the child started smiling and laughing with the tears of terror barely dried. The uninitiated nurse was well impressed by this skilful ‘turnaround’! However the reality of the situation may well be that the ‘programming’ of that child involved the use of ‘Clowns’ to ‘condition’ exactly this response in order to quickly obfuscate the childhood traumas that led to the flash-back. I have heard alarming reports of ‘Clowns’ featuring as ‘Entertainment’ at a Trauma Conference – foolish if not outright manipulative!
A minor relationship trauma for me is that Prof Peter Kindermann at the BPS Annual Conference in Brighton stepped down from the volunteer role as BPS President and former President Prof Jamie Hacker-Hugh from being Deputy President. I must have written two dozen emails to them alerting them to the Hampstead case and the Kingston-Wales case that I have been investigating since May 2012. While showing some interest in the matters raised they were limited by the BPS ‘Charity’ status and could only recommend I raise matters with the HCPC and the Police Independent Complaints Commission.
I contributed to Jamie’s initiative to reform the shady Work Capability Assessment practices the toxic effects of which were well illustrated in the gritty movie ‘I, Daniel Blake’. He is assuming a leadership role in a Franciscan order which seems to have humanitarian values similar to my Buddhist organisation SGI.
Prof Kindermann wrote courageously in 2007 about the involvement of mental health professionals in the development of torture programs e.g.:
As BPS President he was lead signatory of an ‘Open Letter about BBC Coverage of Mental Health’:
He authored ‘The New Laws of Psychology: Why Nature and Nurture Alone Can’t Explain Human Behaviour’ (a copy of which enjoyed the trip to the seaside) where he argues that Personality Disorders are social constructs rather than a disease or illness in the medical sense. I hope that the addition of a dimensional model of personality difficulties in DSM-5 will accelerate the demise of old-fashioned conceptions and spell an end to family courts claiming that parents have a ‘Narcissistic Personality Disorder’ based on flaky interpretation of MCMI – a barely adequate tool that in my view should never ever be used in court settings. I was going to make that point in my presentation on Friday afternoon drawing on slides 9 to 13 of an earlier presentation at the ABP Conference 2014 that is available on YouTube.
There were very few sessions on trauma with 4 of the 7 titles featuring the word accounted for by the symposium that I submitted. I was going to listen to Philemon Iyagba presenting on ‘Continuous traumatic disorder and PTSD of sexually abused pre-teenage children, resulting in vesico virginal fistula disorder in Nigeria’ but this was a ‘no show’. The session just before by Shola Apena Rogers was excellent illustrating thoughtful efforts to combat sexual harassment on trains in London (‘Chikan’ in Japanese). I was looking forward to Symposium 7260 ‘Psychologists and the benefits system: Time to get off the fence’ convened by Dr Stephen Weatherhead due to feature promising presentations such as ‘Democide: A Brief Introduction’ by Rick Burgess (Disabled Human Rights Activist) and ‘Speaking truth to power’ by Mad Dog (Recovery in the Bin co-founder). However this promising symposium disappeared by the time the final program was published – perhaps ‘pulled’ by vested interests?
What also disappeared to my alarm was my own Symposium on ‘Trauma, Dissociation & Healing’. I organised a dozen symposia before where I made it a habit to ask for slides a few weeks in advance, provide some feedback and then circulate them to all presenter. As far as I am concerned it is the role of the ‘Symposium Convener’ who organises the submission to manage any concerns that presenters may raise. With mature professionals it should always be possible to reach through dialogue resolution on any points of conflict. Presenters who are uncomfortable with content should in my view withdraw from participation in a timely manner so that a replacement paper can be organised. If a presenter refuses to act constructively (e.g. insisting on showing slides that other find offensive or potentially triggering) I would see it as the prerogative and duty of the Symposium Convener to drop a paper as a last resort. Cancellation of a Symposium at a late stage should be avoided as it is unfair to the researchers, inconveniences the audience and raises questions regarding the competence and ethics of the BPS as an institution.
I had planned to comment on half a dozen BPS Guidelines in the light of my advocacy work with abuse victims. The ‘Recovered Memories: Report of the BPS Working Group’ 17 page document is superb and fills me with pride to be a Psychologist:
In the May 1995 issue of The Psychologist there is (besides an interesting note about Lord Woolfe’s reforms leading to a ‘Directory of Expert Witnesses’) a good article on the survey the Working Group conducted:
Interestingly 15% of 1083 mental health professionals who completed the survey had encountered disclosures of ‘SRA’. Nowadays it has become a career limiting or terminating move to make reference to ‘Satanic Ritual Abuse’. In the case of Max Spiers who looked into the Presidio scandal in California (and others closer to home) it seemingly became life terminating. It is high time to repeat this kind of survey to better understand this complex area.
I am extremely uneasy about the Memory & Law guidelines issued in 2008 (revised 2010) by the BPS Research Board of which I am a member since 2016. The picture I uploaded to this blog shows Prof Kindermann addressing a BPS Research Board meeting featuring Research Board Chair Prof Daryl O’Connor (D.B.O’Connor@leeds.ac.uk) and BPS Lead Policy Advisor Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard who sports an ‘Eye of Horus’ Tattoo):
These guidelines were developed, supported by an ESRC grant, under the direction of Prof Martin Conway who is on the Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society (BFMS):
The list of authors and advisors reads like a ‘who-is-who of False Memory’ listing. Early childhood trauma and neglect is barely covered – just a paragraph referring to the ‘Recovered Memories’ report that was published more than 10 years earlier. Why were the UK based authors of the Recovered Memories working group, who are willing to stand their ground in court cases, not part of the ‘Memory & Law’ working group, and what is the value and accountability of international ‘advisors’ who are not eligible and available for court work in the UK?
To make matters worse Prof Martin Conway was repeatedly criticised in Appeal Court judgements in 2010, 2011 and 2012 as I outlined in an earlier blogpost:
I pulled together some further resources in a poster at the EPA 2017 in Florence:
I have heard repeatedly from inmates at Isle of Wight prison that their defence commissioned a report from Prof Conway but that the judge dismissed the report outright. Particularly chilling is that in the case of the ‘Norwich Three’ the report procured from Prof Martin Conway was deemed ‘inadmissible’ by the judge ‘due to appeal court rulings’. Anthony Stadler, who spent his whole career in the insurance industry commissioning medico-legal expert reports, explained to me the significance of Lord Woolfe’s reforms and the importance of instructing the most credible expert witness available. His daughter Marie Black is caged in Ashford prison due to a (very unsafe) conviction of crimes that are unthinkable and unspeakable:
In my view these are actually genuine cases of ‘false memories’ implanted by vested interests. In the Recovered Memories document it describes in the Executive Summary where this is likely to happen:
Sustained pressure or persuasion by an authority figure could lead to the retrieval or elaboration of ‘memories’ of events that never happened.
There is a very useful section ‘4.4 Guidelines for therapists’ where point 7 advises:
If the role of the professional is to obtain evidence that is reliable in forensic terms they need to restrict themselves to procedures that enhance reliability (e.g. use of the Cognitive interview and avoidance of hypnosis or suggestion and leading questions).
In Section ‘6 Overall Conclusions’ the second bullet point states:
With certain exceptions, such as where there has been extensive rehearsal of an imagined event, the source of our memories is perceived reasonable accurately.
I quickly cottoned onto the massive issues in the ‘Norwich Three’ case as I came across a similar case a few months before where the manipulation by inadequate authority representatives was very clear:
How ‘credible’ are the BPS Memory & Law guidelines if court reports by its lead author Prof Martin Conway are routinely rejected by judges? Why do legal representatives continue commissioning reports from him raising false hopes with defendants?
Science is meant to be cumulative i.e. knowledge should get better and insights deeper all the time. However as the response to the Focal Article of Brewin and Andrews (2016) shows False Memory and Complex Trauma positions are almost diametrically opposed.
I personally find expert witness professionals much more credible if they act for prosecution and defence. I am suspicious of experts who exclusively acts for the defence e.g. Elizabeth Loftus, the darling of the False Memory lobby.
In 2012 Forensic Psychology Professor Jane Ireland published an initial report on research commissioned by the Family Justice Board. Across about a hundred psychological assessment reports drawn from UK Family Courts she found that 2/3 were ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
Some of the experts who felt slighted submitted a ‘Fitness to Practice’ complaint that strangely met the HCPC ‘Standard of Acceptance’ even if none of the experts concerned ever had any direct dealings with Prof Ireland. Having been ‘hung out of the window’ for 4 years all allegations against Prof Ireland were dismissed in 2016. Was this a ‘Let’s shoot the messenger’ exercise to intimidate anyone daring to challenge psych assessment malpractice in court settings?
In a flurry various BPS Guidelines appeared in rapid succession. However they appear inadequate, continue the obfuscation of the true causes and nature of dissociative disorders, and inevitably led to travesties.
I submitted a complaint to the BPS CEO Ann Colley. Guess what her response was?