The action stems from the first case of its kind in Oregon involving repressed memories and claims of abuse by Satanic "cults."
By Erin Hoover of The Oregonian staff
The Oregon psychologists board intends to revoke the professional licenses of two psychologists who convinced a client that she was a victim of ritualistic sexual torture and that a "cult" was abusing her children.
The case marked the first time the State Board of Psychologist Examiners waded into the murky waters of repressed memory therapy and Satanic ritual abuse.
Jennifer Fultz, her attorney, her ex-husband and his parents, and three Portland-area psychologists interested in the case filed the complaint against two Portland-area psychologists, Sophia A. Carrand Chyril J. Walker,in December 1996.
"The Fultz case represented a warning shot to that spectrum of the psychological community which believes in preposterous notions such as that their patients are repressing a decade or more of Satanic ritual abuse," said the attorney, Michael J. Dwyer.
Dwyer represented Fultz when she, her former husband and in-laws sued Carr and Walker in Multnomah County Circuit Court after Jennifer Fultz realized in 1994 that she and her sons had not been abused. In 1996, they settled with Walker for $1.15 million and with Carr for an undisclosed amount. Neither therapist admitted wrongdoing.
The court case was apparently the first in Oregon in which a client sued a therapist for repressed memory therapy.
Repressed memory theory holds that people can completely forget painful events and remember them years later, usually through therapy. Some repressed memory therapists and their clients believe that the clients were raped and tortured as children by a Satanic "cult" that programmed the person to keep the "cult" a secret.
Repressed memory therapy, popular in the 1980s, is being increasingly challenged in the psychological community. And the FBI has found no proof of a highly organized, secret Satanic "cult" that molested, tortured and even murdered children through periods of years.
"The questions about the validity of the whole notion of repressed memory is probably at this point overshadowing the people who say this phenomenon is a true phenomenon," said Rhea Farberman, director of the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C.
Farberman advised extreme caution when dealing with memory, which can be highly fallible.
The Oregon psychologist board accused Carr and Walker of numerous violations of the ethical rules that the profession uses to police its conduct.
Carr and Walker have the right to contest the board's revocation decisions before a hearings officer. Both therapists have been on leave from their practices for more than a year. They could not be reached for comment.
The psychologist board's decisions this week pleased the Fultz family.
"It's good news," said Jennifer Fultz, 33. "It's just something that needs to be done. They shouldn't be practicing, and we need to send a message out to other psychologists who are practicing this way that it's dangerous and it does destroy lives."
Ruth Fultz, Jennifer Fultz's former mother-in-law, who Jennifer Fultz came to believe was involved in a "cult" that was abusing her young sons, said the board's decision was something "I've been waiting to hear for a long time. I think that (the board) is becoming aware of the problem of psychologists creating false memories in their clients."
Sessions start in '91
Fultz sought treatment from Carr for depression from 1991 until 1994. Carr was practicing at the now-defunct Clackamas Family Counseling Services, as did Walker, and also had an office in Beaverton.
Carr told Fultz during her first session that her psyche had split into multiple personalities and that she at times distanced herself from reality. Carr said such problems always stem from sexual abuse, according to the board's written orders.
Carr then helped Fultz search for memories of abuse and introduced her to a system of beliefs about a Satanic "cult" that abused her. Fultz was led to believe that her husband, all members of her family and her husband's family had molested her and/or her children through Satanic infiltration.
Carr took advantage of Fultz's vulnerability to suggestion by telling her that "sometimes people just don't remember," the board order said. Carr did not corroborate the memories through any other source or in any way test the memories and dreams that Fultz eventually began reporting to Carr.
At one point, Fultz believed she gave birth at the age of 12 or 13 because of stomach cramps that Carr told her were "body memories," the board said.
The board indicated that Carr herself feared that a "cult" would kill her.
The board said Carr fostered Fultz's alienation from her family, demanding that she get restraining orders against her relatives and contributing to the breakup of Fultz's marriage. Carr threatened that if Fultz did not follow her orders, she would commit Fultz to a mental hospital or have her children taken away. She told Fultz to trust her "like you trust Jesus," the board order said.
Walker treated Fultz's sons. The board accused Walker of assuming sexual and ritual abuse despite lack of corroboration and in conflict with evaluations by other mental health professionals clearly indicating no signs of current abuse or in the past.
Walker's beliefs in Satanic "cults" is documented through interviews with the Oregon State Police and a Lake Oswego police detective, the board order said.
Walker instructed Fultz to guard against the "cult" breaking into her home and kidnapping the children.
Fultz now lives in Beaverton, where she and her ex-husband share custody of their two sons, Sean, 8, and Chris, 7. She is attending community college classes and hopes one day to pursue a nursing career. She said she finally is coming to terms with her experiences with therapy but often feels angry at the damage to her life and her marriage.
Fultz said Chris remembers little of his experiences in therapy. But she said Sean sometimes will ball up his fists, beat on his bed and scream "I'm really mad at those doctors for lying to us."
The psychologist board has investigated at least one other repressed memory case, according to James Edwards. Edwards of Santa Barbara, Calif., filed the complaint against a Portland psychologist who treated his daughter from Roseburg.
But in January, the board found no ethical violations, according to its letter to Edwards, which Edwards gave The Oregonian.
The board's decision angered and saddened Edwards, who says he has had to live for eight years with his daughter's beliefs that he sexually abused her as a child.