The bizarre nature of the lawsuits created a minor, short-lived sensation among the national press at the times of their filings. The first, dated November 21, 2011 — Lisa Nasseff vs. Castlewood Treatment Center, LLC. — alleged to gross malpractice suffered while undergoing “treatment” at the St. Louis eating disorders clinic. To quote directly from the suit:
“defendant carelessly and negligently hypnotized plaintiff at a time when she was under the influence of various psychotropic medications and said hypnotic treatment directly caused or contributed to cause the creation, reinforcement, or increase in plaintiff’s mind, of false memories including the following:
a) Plaintiff suffered physical and sexual abuse;
b) Plaintiff suffered multiple rapes;
c) Plaintiff suffered satanic ritual abuse;
d) Plaintiff was caused to believe she was a member of a satanic cult and that she was involved in or perpetrated various criminal and horrific acts of abuse;
e) Plaintiff was caused to believe that she had multiple personalities at one time totaling twenty separate personalities.”
By November 09, 2012, four total lawsuits had been filed, all of a similar nature, all of which are still yet to go to trial. The allegations claim that among the false memories cultivated under the influence of Castlewood Treatment Center's systematic narcosis “therapy” are disturbed, traumatizing delusions of ritual murder. No doubt, such “memories”, even when recognized as delusions, must exact a severe emotional toll, nor could the intentional cultivation of such delusions be considered anything but malpractice.
(The four lawsuits represent only some patients who now recognize their “memories” of abuse as false. Numerous families — some having started an online support network under the name of Castlewood Victims Unite — claim that they may have forever lost their daughters to false memories of Ritual Abuse that have caused them to withdraw from contact, and reason, entirely.)
But how could such delusions be cultivated in the course of treatment for eating disorders, and for what purpose? According to the allegations, it seems, the theory at the Castlewood Treatment Center is (or was) that eating disorders signify outer manifestations of inner repressed traumas of abuse.
“Repressed”, of course, is to say that the patient does not consciously remember the traumatic event(s). Treatments based on these assumptions always seem to rely on bringing these presumed traumas out into conscious scrutiny. This, we are told, is the only way to neutralize them… the only way to end the outer symptoms these hidden traumas are believed to cause.
Is it credible to think that the co-founders of Castlewood, Mark Schwartz and his wife Lori Galperin — both internationally recognized experts in eating disorders, and both implicated in the suits — could have been reckless enough to lead vulnerable and medicated patients to cultivate absurd delusions of satanic cult abuse, or is something else going on?
In fact, wherever the idea of “repressed memories” and multiple personalities rears its ugly, debunked head, unhinged “memories” of imagined abuse are never far behind. Throughout the 80s and 90s, internationally recognized experts in trauma and dissociation (such as Richard Kluft and Colin Ross) promoted a deranged conspiracy theory of satanic cult abuse based upon accounts that had been “recovered” by their clients.
Multiple investigations debunked the narrative of these accounts entirely, and it became quite clear what was really going on: an irresponsible and unscientific therapeutic practice was being employed to encourage vulnerable mental health consumers to confabulate memories of abuse — and then, in many cases, further encouraged them to insistently believe them. These confabulations, not-so-remarkably, had an enormously high probability of validating the therapist’s assumptions, regardless of how improbable those assumptions may have been.
In parallel to the satanic ritual abuse scare (now known to sociologists as the “Satanic Panic”) the exact same theories of memory retrieval brought us the mythology of alien abduction. Believing they had developed a check-list of probable symptoms of extraterrestrial contact that had subsequently been concealed from memory, “abductologists” used the same techniques employed by multiple personality specialists to draw forth elaborate narratives involving interplanetary visitors.
Interestingly, some professionals of abductology have found, in their probing explorations of their clients’ concealed “memories”, that the extraterrestrials are here to help us — they occasionally intervene in our affairs, but only on our behalf, and with unconditional benevolence and love. This contrasts heavily with narratives revealing a nefarious plot of oddly anal-centric human vivisection and exploitation. Why the discrepancy? I have personally sought out and interviewed a number of the top names in alien abduction research with this very question. In every instance, the answer has been the same: the other guys are doing the therapy wrong. They are interpreting “screen memories” improperly, or they are interpreting fear of the unknown as malice on the part of the extraterrestrials. Both sides assert that if only the other was to “dig deeper”, they would find the truth.
Incidentally, I attended a lecture, just last month, given by one Richard Schwartz, former member of the Castlewood Treatment Center's clinical staff, and creator of a therapy model, used at the Castlewood treatment center, called Internal Family Systems (IFS). IFS asserts that we all have multiple personalities, called “parts”, and by understanding and reconciling these parts, we may find inner peace. Some parts are destructive (suicidal, self-undermining, irrational, etc.) and it is the therapist’s job to find those parts and understand what distresses them individually.
During a Question & Answer segment of Dr. Schwartz’s presentation, I raised my hand:
Q: I worry about the distinction between getting people to recognize naturally occurring “parts” and being blamed [as a therapist] for causing people to contextualize themselves into parts to the point where you’re blamed for [creating] destructive parts. And I know there’s an eating disorders clinic that was using IFS and has lawsuits against it now. I was wondering if they could have done things differently [in their utilization of IFS therapy], or if that’s just a professional hazard?
Dick Schwartz: You know… that one’s a tough one, because what I’ve done — early in my career what I’ve done… The lawsuit’s around false memories — that whole movement’s come back some. Early in my career I had a client who went through all these cult memories. You know, I was really into it. Did some investigating, checked things out. And then, one session, we found a part that was generating all this to keep my interest because I had seen (some interest in her[?]) I’m very, very careful to never lead people toward any kind of… never presume what’s going to come out as they do their own witnessing. Even in ways — when something scary comes out — something like that — [I] say, well, we can’t really know whether this is true or not, but it is what the part needs to show so we’re going to go with it for now and later you can evaluate it, whether it’s true or not. So, it’s not just IFS, but any therapy that goes deep with people will come upon that phenomenon… and not everybody is careful in… those… realms…
Just as with alien abduction, one can always “dig deeper” in the context of IFS so as to re-narrate the entire tale. How do licensed professionals fall for this rubbish? The lecture I attended was delivered to a full-house of professional, credulous rubes in the mental health profession.
In 2009 I attended a “Ritual Abuse/Mind-Control conference” held annually in Connecticut by an organization known as S.M.A.R.T. (Stop Mind-control And Ritual abuse Today). The conference is organized by a licensed Mental Health professional, Neil Brick, from Massachusetts. A vendor booth at the conference was selling electromagnetic-beam blocking hats, and one of the speakers casually lectured us about mind-control and “demonic harmonics”, which “involves using musical tones and quantum physics to open up portals into the spiritual realms.” Brick himself claims to have recovered memories that he was a brainwashed assassin for the satanic cult conspiracy within the Illuminati-controlled CIA. Theories of repressed trauma are used to support the notion that if this type of lunacy can be “recalled”, so too must it all be true.
The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) hosts professional conferences where the debunked diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) (now referred to in the American Psychiatric Association’s [APA] Diagnostic & Statistical Manual [DSM] as Dissociative Identity Disorder) is discussed and elaborated upon. Their last conference found a regular speaker from the annual S.M.A.R.T. conferences co-delivering a lecture on “Ritual Abuse”, a slightly euphemistic term for the conspiracy theory of satanic cult abuse.
The task force chair of the 4th edition of the DSM, Dr. Allen Frances, has recently admitted to the Wall Street Journal that MPD/DID is “complete bunk”, yet the diagnosis remains in the current 5th edition, rolled-out only last week, of the revised DSM. This refusal to acknowledge the harmful realities regarding some of their imaginary disorders surely played a role in the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) decision, announced early this month, to abandon the DSM altogether, along with a statement recognizing that “patients with mental disorders deserve better.”
Indeed they do. The APA must bear responsibility for enabling the quackery endorsed by the ISSTD, who must bear some responsibility for lending any credibility to the delusional assertions of S.M.A.R.T.
…And Richard Schwartz’s IFS must bear some responsibility for the allegations against Castlewood… and Castlewood must bear responsibility for Mark Schwartz and Lori Galperin.
New evidence suggests that Castlewood is trying to distance themselves from that responsibility as much as possible. Both Mark Schwartz and Lori Galperin were recently removed entirely from the Castlewood staff shortly after depositions were taken regarding the malpractice suits. Whether they were allowed to abruptly resign, or were outright fired is unclear at this time.
If the accusations against Schwartz and his wife prove true, let us hope they never practice again… But let us also understand, the problem is far bigger than the both of them, and it is a long way from being resolved.