From Abracadabra to Zombies
reader comments: repressed memory therapy
24 Dec 1999
Let me begin by saying how much I enjoy your web site. I try to check it out at least once per week.
I know you are busy, so I'll keep this brief. I have an idea for a new entry in the dictionary: anatomically correct dolls. I am a master's level social worker who practices in San Francisco, CA. While in grad school, I had the pleasure (and good fortune) to study under Dr. Bruce Thyer at the University of Georgia. Dr. Thyer is renowned (and somewhat notorious) in the fields of social work and psychology for being a radical behaviorist whose research focuses on outcome studies of various psychological and psychosocial interventions. It is Dr. Thyer's belief that social workers and other psychotherapists should only utilize treatments that are supported by empirical research. He spent a great deal of time in class debunking "therapies" like NLP, psychodynamic psychotherapy, hypnosis, etc. During one class, he began ranting and raving about the use of anatomically correct dolls (ACDs) in the assessment of child sexual abuse.
Assessments by social workers and psychologists using ACDs are frequently used in court as evidence against alleged perpetrators of sexual abuse. Dr. Thyer challenged our class to find even one journal article that scientifically demonstrated that this form of assessment was useful. He offered extra credit for the first person who could find such an article. No one was able to do so.
This was the first of several disillusioning lectures delivered by Dr. Thyer. At first, I was quite upset at being disillusioned, because I had envisioned myself becoming a psychotherapist. In hindsight, however, I am quite grateful to Dr. Thyer for dispelling so many of the myths that infest my field. You would not believe some of the nonsense that is presented in graduate level social work classes as "therapy".
Anyway, if you would be interested in exploring this topic, I can provide you with additional information. You can also contact Dr. Thyer at the University of Georgia School of Social Work. I'm sure he would LOVE to contribute to your site. Dr. Thyer is one of the most ardent skeptics I have ever encountered.
Once again, thanks for such an informative site.
(name withheld at author's request)
reply: The author is correct in noting that anatomically correct dolls are commonly used by those who search for evidence of sexual abuse in children. It is not the dolls, however, that are a problem. It is how they are used to lead and badger children until they come up with a story that satisfies their inquisitors.