Recovered Memory Therapy is a rather controversial form of talking therapy which involves a therapist trying to “recover” supposedly forgotten memories from their patient.

This form of therapy has proven controversial, and has largely been discredited in recent years. However, some remain in favour of this form of therapy.

Therapy is often helpful, but can be harmful sometimes

Information about Recovered Memory Therapy

Recovered Memory Therapy was commonplace during the late 1980s and 1990s. Around this time, a mass hysteria developed regarding supposed abuse cases, including in child day-care centres and preschools.

Many cases – such as the infamous McMartin Preschool Scandal, the George Franklin case, the Gary Ramona case, or the Freyd Family – made national headlines, resulting in many people seeking therapy to see if they had memories that could be “recovered”.

Therefore, many people who were seeking treatment for mental distress ended up recovering memories of being abused. Many such cases were dismissed by courts, but some led to convictions.

Many therapists had the belief that unconscious traumatic memories were the root of the mental health problems. Therefore, they engaged in techniques and methods aimed at “recovering” these memories.

This resulted in a huge number of accusations being made. In many cases, it was children accusing their parents. Allegations of satanic ritual abuse also became commonplace.

To those that support Recovered Memory Therapy, they credit it with bringing apparent abuse to the attention of the public, and getting justice for innocent victiums.

What techniques are involved in Recovered Memory Therapy?

The aim of the therapy was to recover memories. A few different techniques were employed to try and recover such memories.

For example, hypnosis was a very common choice for therapists. Free word association, guided imagery, and even the use of so-called “truth serums” like Sodium Amytal were used.

The belief largely was that these memories are stuck in the “unconscious mind” – which is the part of the mind that humans are unable to access.

Therefore, the various techniques outlined above offered therapists a way of trying to recover past memories from their patients.

These various techniques were often linked to Sigmund Freud‘s theory of Psychoanalysis. Freud was a fierce supporter of Repression – which he argued was a defence mechanism that a person’s mind employs to block out a harmful event – like a traumatic experience.

Why is Recovered Memory Therapy controversial?

Recovered Memory Therapy is controversial for many reasons. The topic of memory is highly controversial in psychology.

Many people have suggested that recovered memories are not scientifically possible. Therefore, such accusations could have led to innocent people being imprisoned.

This links in with a general view of many that rather than abuse taking place, such memories were implanted by a therapist.

This has resulted in some people suggesting recovered memory should actually be known as “False Memory“. This term actually led to the creation of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, which was an organisation designed to help those who had been accused of abuse through recovered memories.

However, the False Memory Syndrome Foundation proved controversial, with some arguing that they engaged in victim-blaming, and that they protected criminals.

Esteemed psychologist Elizabeth Loftus was a firm believer in the idea that memory was malleable – and therefore easy to impact. She used a study known as the Lost in the Mall Study – which suggested false memories in childhood were easily created.

Recovered Memory Therapy in the present day

In the present day, Recovered Memory Therapy is largely frowned upon. Its practice has largely stopped in recent years.

Most psychological bodies and associations have largely discredited the idea of Recovered Memory Therapy.

Some therapists though do continue to offer Recovered Memory Therapy – instead believing that it continues to have a role in modern-day psychiatry.

Some sit in the middle. They may be open to the idea of memories being recovered, yet exert caution when examining this area.


The topic of memory is very complex and contentious in psychology. Recovered Memory Therapy plays a key role in this topic.

Its practice has proven controversial. However, while most have moved away from Recovered Memory Therapy, others continue to adopt its use.



This website should be used purely for informational purposes, and does not intend to, nor should it ever, be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.

We strive to keep all of our pages updated, and ensure that our website is full of factual and in-depth information. However, we encourage you to browse this website with care.

As a reminder, this website and all content within it cannot and should not replace the advice of a trained medical professional. You can read our full disclaimer at this link.


If you are struggling with your mental health, help is available. With the right support and treatment, you can make a recovery. For information on helplines, or if you are in a state of crisis, please visit our crisis page by clicking on the relevant link for your geographical location (United Kingdom), (United States), (International). You can also see how to get mental health treatment and the process involved by clicking this link.