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The Dilemma of Ritual Abuse

Cautions and Guides for Therapists

Edited by George A. Fraser, M.D., F.R.C.P.C.

  • ISBN 978-0-88048-478-7
  • Item #8478

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Since the mid-1980s, when stories of ritualized satanic or sadistic abuse drastically increased, ritual abuse has become entangled in the controversy surrounding false memory syndrome and recovered memory. Because this debate has not been conclusively resolved, therapists require methods and guidelines for treating patients who present a history that may involve abusive satanic or sadistic rituals.

In The Dilemma of Ritual Abuse, experts in the field offer balanced, carefully considered advice on approaches therapists can use when patients report they have experienced ritual abuse. These qualified clinicians explain and demonstrate their techniques and offer caveats against accepting a patient's recollections at face value. Additional chapters deal with psychological and pharmacological treatment programs that have helped patients whether the reports of abuse were accurate, symbolic, or false. Several illustrations vividly depict the types of abuse that therapists will hear from these patients. For further guidance, an appendix containing the American Psychiatric Association Board of Trustees' Statement on Memories of Sexual Abuse is also included.


  • Clinical Experience.

    A credulous skeptic's approach to cults and multiple personality disorder. Hypnosis and memory: a cautionary chapter. Overview of the treatment of patients alleging that they have suffered ritualized or sadistic abuse. Recognition and special treatment issues in patients reporting childhood sadistic ritual abuse. Satanic ritual abuse: first research and therapeutic implications. Ritual abuse: lessons learned as a therapist. Ritual abuse in European countries: a clinician's perspective.

    Special Techniques and Issues.

    Pharmacological guidelines for sadistically abused patients: from routine to critical issues. Visions of memories: a patient's visual representation of ritual abuse ceremonies. The court system and the problem of hypnotically recovered memories : a forensic psychiatrist's concerns. Teen involvement in the occult. Appendix: Statement on memories of sexual abuse. Index.

About the Authors

George A. Fraser, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa Medical School, and Director of the Anxiety and Phobic Disorders Clinic, Royal Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, Ontario.

[T]his is the book for which many mental health professionals have been waiting. . . . Inevitably, in an edited collection, there is some repetition but it was useful repetition in that it underscored that fact that experts in a wide variety of locations are fairly much in accord on the issues. . . . A great source book and a balanced appraisal of the subject.—Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry

The Dilemma of Ritual Abuse is a good portrayal of many of the clinical issues that arise in the treatment of people alleging ritual abuse histories. . . . [T]he book provides a good overview and it is useful to have all of this information pulled together in one volume.—Bullentin of the Menninger Clinic

The book is intended mainly for psychiatrists but is readable enough to hold interest for therapists of all disciplines, who will benefit greatly from the two sections that deal with clinical experience and special techniques, and with the need for thorough assessments in these cases.—Readings: A Journal of Reviews and Commentary in Mental Health

Dr. Fraser has gathered together a stellar group of contributors for this book. Among the most notable positive attributes are the balanced presentations and the completeness of the overview. I was particularly impressed with the inclusion of chapters such as those pertaining to pharmacological and medical issues, the court system, and the phenomenon of teen involvement in the occult. This book will find a worthy place on every clinician's shelf.—Marlene E. Hunter, M.D., F.C.F.P.C., Assoc Clinical Prof, Dept of Family Med, Univ of British Columbia, Editor, Critical Issues Col, I.S.S.D. Newsletter, Past President, Amer Soc of Clinical Hypnosis

The Dilemma of Ritual Abuse acknowledges the extraordinary difficulties facing clinicians who work with individuals reporting these experiences. This collection of essays is gratifyingly free of facile formulations and pat answers to the thorny problems facing practitioners. The Dilemma of Ritual Abuse conveys to the bewildered clinician the reassuring idea that many others are struggling with the same doubts and confusions. It is the best overall treatment of ritual abuse to date.—Adam Crabtree, Member of the Faculty of the Centre for Training in Psychotherapy, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Author of From Mesmer to Freud

The Dilemma of Ritual Abuse is a much needed antidote to the polarization that has afflicted this controversial area. Written by leading experts in North America and Europe, it provides a clear and thoughtful examination of the clinical problems surrounding the patient's reports of ritual abuse. The authors are neither unduly credulous nor unduly skeptical. They provide a variety of useful guidelines for managing these reports of abuse in the psychiatric care of these patients. Literature exploring the veracity of these reports is explored along with the appropriate clinical stance regarding the truthfulness of these claims. This is a sensible and useful book about a topic that frequently eludes examination.—David Spiegel, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California

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