This article is reprinted with permission from the author, Doug Mesner. The original is here: http://www.process.org
In Defense of Neil Brick, Psychotherapist
The summons was packed into the mailbox of a previous address — two residencies ago, in fact — on a Wednesday afternoon. The hearing was to be on Monday. It was only happenstance that I found out that the organizer of S.M.A.R.T. (Stop Mind-control And Ritual-abuse Today), Neil Brick, was trying to sue me at all.
As the paperwork, aside from being grossly improperly served, was also dated a couple of weeks previous to its delivery, this seemed like a rather underhanded attempt to avoid my replying to the suit. When I eventually had the opportunity to read over the summons, I could see why this may have been the tactic.
The case was weak. In fact, it was non-existent.
“Defamation” was the claim, and many quotes of mine were pulled from internet sources in an attempt to support it. Even quotes that are not mine at all were included in the summons, though Brick and his lawyer apparently felt confident enough in their origin to attribute them to me. Among these quotes are comments that are no longer online at all! As for the quotes that were written by me… I stand by them, they are founded in fact, and they certainly don’t constitute defamation.
Ironically, this all stemmed from a report I wrote about one of Brick’s conferences where I heard him deliver a speech in which he encouraged vigorous debate with skeptics against his position. It was his own failure to successfully do just that which caused him to seek legal remediation — an injunction to prevent my writing my writing about him or his organization — instead.
Here’s how it went:
Having entered the hotel slightly after the opening speaker of S.M.A.R.T.’s twelfth annual Ritual Abuse, Secretive Organizations, and Mind-Control conference began, I was told by a large woman sitting behind the registration table that I would have to wait until I could be properly registered before entering. I took a seat just outside the open door of the conference room where I could observe the full proceedings within. Brick stood at the podium. As I described him later in my subsequent “defamatory” report, he is a “small man in his 50s with a greasy dark curly comb-over, large thick glasses, and a voice that sounds exacly like Elmer Fudd (without the impediment of pronouncing his Rs as Ws).”
He was delivering the opening remarks. He was wearing a button-up shirt at least two sizes too large for his diminutive frame. (This physical description is important when you consider his claim to have been a type of super-soldier for Black Ops military.) Reading directly from his notes in a mechanical word-by-word monotone, without once looking up, he emotionlessly railed against skeptics who have sought to discredit ritual abuse as well as the validity of “recovered memories”.
“There is overwhelming scientific evidence that recovered memory exists as a phenomenon”, he asserted. He began to quote at length from sources that agree with this position.
A belief in the historical accuracy of recovered memories, as I had already discerned from their website, is vital to S.M.A.R.T.’s belief in a conspiracy of satanic cults and government mind-control. The theory espoused by recovered memory proponents (and well known in popular culture), is that traumatic memories of abuse may be repressed – relegated to some dark corner of the mind – where they unfailingly metastasize into some type of chronic negative emotions, compulsions, confusion, even physical ailments. Preserved in high-definition, and unerring detail, these oppressive unconscious memories must be drawn out, retrieved, relived, confronted, and reconciled within the conscious mind, before the victim can lead a happy and productive life.
Almost all of the self-proclaimed victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse have recovered their memories of victimization while undergoing some type of psychotherapy. For the most part, these memories are the only type of “evidence” they attempt to present in support of the claim that such victimization ever occurred.
The process of digging for repressed traumatic memories through hypnosis or other techniques is most often employed in treatment of the diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), now re-labeled as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). Due to their almost total reliance upon recovered memory evidence, purveyors of satanic cult stories are often also defenders of the controversial multiple personality diagnosis, a condition that itself is dismissed by some psychiatrists and psychologists as a “behavioral artifact… generated by suggestion in vulnerable people.” (See below: Concerned Psychiatrists’ and Psychologists’ letter to the APA’s DSM-V Task Force.)
Critics of Recovered Memory Therapy point out that the act of digging for memories assumed to be repressed can have a subtly coercive effect on clients who – knowing what they are supposed to be “remembering” – are at least as prone to confabulating false memories as they are to recalling anything with historical accuracy. Given that such critics of recovered memory therapy often point directly to highly improbable claims of satanic cult abuse as evidence of false memories, it was no surprise that Neil Brick breezily dismissed skeptics as conspirators: “There is [...] a lot of evidence that those attacking the theory of recovered memory may have ulterior motives. For example, they may have been accused of child abuse crimes or may have been connected to mind control research in the past.”
Using “child abuse” interchangeably with “ritual abuse”, Brick attempted to further bolster a position that those who doubt the existence of an international brain-washing coven simply despise tykes: “The media turned on child abuse survivors in the early and mid 1990′s and began to in essence support those that has [sic] perpetrated crimes against children, believing unfounded stories about so called ‘miscarriages of justice.’ Due to the extreme nature of ritual abuse crimes and the psychological need for the public denial of these crimes, it became an easy sell to spin these crimes against children for the public to believe the misstatements about falsely accused perpetrators. After ritual abuse was discredited, then other child abuse crimes could be more easily discredited.”
There you have it. You’re either with Neil Brick, or you’re with the Satanists. You either believe every outrageous claim of demonic doings, or you’re part of the cover-up. At best, you’re simply in “denial”.
Suddenly, the woman at the registration table, who had also been watching Neil Brick through the open door, began to lightly sob. She grabbed a nearby tissue, dried her eyes, and blew her nose.
I stared uncomfortably down at the program in my hands. I came looking for the reasons, the so-called evidence that compels this continued belief in satanic cult crimes… of mind control… to see the self-proclaimed byproducts of the brutal puppet masters said to control the highest reaches of the world governments with an inhuman disdain for life and liberty. Instead – with scheduled lectures entitled “Dissociation and Time Management” and “The DID RA [Ritual Abuse] Family: An Attachment Perspective on a Forensic Relationship” – this conference appeared to be primarily adapted toward defending the DID diagnosis.
According to his biographical synopsis on the program, Neil Brick describes himself as a “survivor of alleged Masonic Ritual Abuse and MK-ULTRA [the CIA's covert mind-control and chemical interrogation project of 1950s - 60s]“. The disclaimer of the word “alleged” in his own biographical description is perplexing…
I mulled over this as Brick eventually concluded his labored lecture. What did it mean?
Brick came out to the registration table during the break following his presentation gripping a briefcase. He scrutinized me momentarily.
I checked out. Given the nod, my attendance was then officially approved.
I stationed myself anonymously in the second to last occupied row at the far left side of the room.
Never, it occurred to me, have I heard anybody describe oneself as an “alleged victim of a mugging”, nor would I expect one to tell me, “I was allegedly harassed by a drunkard last night”. Considering this, I wondered if perhaps Neil Brick himself is uncertain as to whether or not he was a victim of the CIA or Masonic abuse. In fact, despite a veneer of confident assurance that the satanic conspiracy is an unquestionable item of fact, the conference was rife with inconsistency and an undercurrent of doubt…
Anyway, it was the inconsistent, and wildly incredible, content of the conference that I focused on in my writing. And this was no mere point-and-laugh tactic for the amusement of those who cultivate an air of superiority with smug disbelief toward any outside notion. The conference wasn’t merely absurd, I saw it as harmful and exploitative to the attendees — many of whom seemed to imagine it as therapeutic — as well as some of the speakers… some of whom are unfortunately licensed therapists.
It is natural to laugh at absurdity. It would have been difficult to write about the sales booth within the conference room hawking electromagnetic transmission blocking hats without sounding humorous. But I was outright horrified when a 78 year-old woman, who referred to herself as Julaine, sat before the attendees — unable to stand for any extended time — to explain that she had suffered some type of negative diabetic reaction earlier that day, and that her rheumatoid arthritis was causing her no small amount of discomfort. She attributed both of these conditions to a conspiracy of evil. Rheumatoid arthritis and Satanic Ritual Abuse, Julaine posited, are “almost partners”.
Clearly, this woman needed real medical attention. To allow her to delude herself — or worse, actively feed her the delusion — that her ill health is a side-effect, and evidence of, satanic conspiracy is beyond irresponsible. Worse, these delusions have apparently encouraged the aged and infirm Julaine to sever ties with the family members who may have been most willing to help her now… You see, Julaine’s family, she believes, is a multi-generational satanic cult. “My sister thinks I’m bi-polar”, she explained. This, of course, is seen as mere denial. “She is lost”.
That Julaine is highly impressionable seemed apparent at the conference, but it was after the conference that this became quite clear.
I was perusing the website of another speaker, deJoly LaBrier, when I came across the transcripts of a lecture she had given at a much earlier S.M.A.R.T. gathering. In it, she told a familiar tale: “[My father] would draw a dot on the wall, and [my siblings and I] would stand at attention with our nose on the dot on the wall, until he told us that we could leave.”
I clearly remembered hearing the story at the conference I had attended, for it struck me as odd… Rotten though this nose-to-the-wall experience would be for any child, I couldn’t help but feel such punishments would be quite over-shadowed by the compulsory initiation into sadistic cult rituals and child prostitution that LaBrier claimed had also taken place… So much so that being made to stand in a fixed position felt rather unworthy of mention.
But it wasn’t LaBrier who told this tale at the 2009 conference. It was Julaine.
Had it occurred to Neil Brick (who is a licensed and practicing “Mental Health Counselor” in Massachusetts), or any other attending therapist, that Julaine may not in fact have been victim to “Moriah, Illuminati… whatever you want to call it” (as she referred to “Them” in her lecture), but rather an incredibly suggestible and vulnerable old woman who has difficulty distinguishing stories she has heard from her own autobiographical memory?
To allow any such questions to encroach on any one of the delusive narratives told would cast doubt on them all… and they all had their own ludicrous tales to defend with nothing more than shallow assertions of recovered memory accuracy.
For this reason, not even the most impossible of claims were met with so much as a raised eye-brow or embarrassed cough. Nobody showed a hint of doubt when a speaker going by the name of “Royal”, at all of about forty years of age, stood before us to claim that she was a personal slave to nazi doctor Josef Mengele. “My experience with Mengele”, Royal explained in a lecture (the gist of which was that Satan uses abortion as a means of traumatic mind-control), “involved much of the trauma-based mind control involving core programming (such as End-Time programming) that is connected to the global take over. He used the Psychic/Spiritual dimensions using, what I have come to call ‘demonic harmonics’, which involves using musical tones and quantum physics to open up portals into the spiritual realms. I also have core programs set up that were created using abortions as a means to develop them and more.”
Despite all this, Neil Brick imagines that my use of the words “paranoid”, and “delusional” are vicious defamations. Further, in his affidavit attached to the summons, Neil Brick states: “His actions have caused me a loss in business, as it appears our conference attendance will be much lower this year due to attendees being afraid someone like him may infiltrate the conference again.” On this, as with everything else, the suggestion that I might even owe an apology is obscene. Take the consumer advocacy view: If I’ve shown the product to be faulty, I owe nothing in compensation for a loss in sales.
Following the publication of the report, Brick went all to pieces, leaving angry comments, penning a “rebuttal”. Oddly enough though, none of his objections confronted my outrage at the absurdity of the very conspiracy theory that underlies the entire narrative framework of the conference, and of S.M.A.R.T., itself. Though claiming I misrepresented the entire affair, he failed to explain how. He failed to answer any questions regarding his own experiences as an “alleged” victim of “Masonic Ritual Abuse and MK-ULTRA”. He failed to answer any questions directly aimed at elaboration upon his belief in a massive satanic conspiracy. He failed to confront any questions regarding the content of the conference to instead assert, again and again, supported with lists of journal article citations supporting the view, that recovered memories are a real phenomenon.
This made it incomprehensible that Neil Brick would actually ask to take this court, where he might have no choice but to face those very questions.
Interesting, I thought… Even if I weren’t being summoned, I’d want to watch this court-room comedy.
Alas, it was not to be. Whether they experienced a moment-of-clarity, or the whole thing had been a mis-guided and ineffective measure meant to spook me away, neither Neil Brick nor his lawyer actually showed up to the hearing. Neither did I, for that matter (as I wasn’t actually legally summoned). But my lawyer did.
The case, not surprisingly, was dismissed, but my lawyer was heard anyway. The Judge, I am told, was nonplussed by the Plaintiff’s actions.
I’m nonplussed, too. But there was, it turns out, one item in Neil Brick’s affidavit that, if true, moves me to outrage on his behalf. He claims that: “To the best of my knowledge, everyone in my field knows about [Douglas Mesner’s] attacks against me and many have avoided contact with me due to the fear that he will attack them also, as he has done to several already.”
If by “attack” he means “directly confront them with their own incredible narratives, question their defense of such narratives when told by others, while asking clarification on where the demarcation between recovered memories and delusions can be found (unless we are to unquestioningly accept all stories of satanic conspiracy, alien abduction, and past-life regression)”, then this fear is well-founded. But if these people, this “everyone”, within Brick’s “field” agree with his notions of Satanic Ritual Abuse and Mind-Control, and if they feel that this is a position that is evidence-based and rational, then my scrutiny should not be an object of fear. It should be welcomed, and the answers to any such questions should be forthcoming. If instead, they choose to distance themselves from Neil Brick only to conceal a position that is not supported by evidence, can not be justified by facts, only so that they may hide their delusions behind the professional veneer afforded to repressed memory theory by way of poor retrospective surveys and bad data… then they are a craven lot indeed, and would be fully deserving of Neil Brick’s scorn…
If only he’d acted any differently himself…
* * * * * * * * *
Concerned Psychiatrists and Psychologists Letter to the DSM-V Committee
A Group of Concerned Psychiatrists and Psychologists
c/o Dr. Paul McHugh, MD
Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry
Johns Hopkins University
April 11, 2009
Dr. David J. Kupfer, MD
Chair of DSM-V Committee,
Dr. Thomas Detre Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry
Professor of Neuroscience, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic
5811 O’Hara Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15215
RE: Dissociative Identity Disorder and DSM-V
Dear Dr. Kupfer:
We are writing to you to express concern with respect to the continuation of Dissociative Identity Disorder as an approved diagnosis within the forthcoming DSM-V. We believe that the identification of Multiple Personality Disorder, and later its name change as Dissociative Identity Disorder, has been harmful to the good sense and reputation of psychiatry, not to mention the cause of grave ill-effects to large numbers of patients and their families. In the attached document we maintain that the diagnosis should be removed from DSM-V and we provide the basis for our request. If either the Task Force or Council is unable to agree on removing DID completely from the 5th Edition we suggest that at the very least it should be placed in Appendix B as an experimental criterion set requiring further investigation.
(Please see Appendix A)
To: DSM-V Task Force &
Work Group on Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum,
Posttraumatic & Dissociative Disorders
The need to remove Dissociative Identity Disorder from DSM-V or place it in Appendix B
The evidence supporting this diagnosis as a distinct mental disorder is modest whereas much suggests it to be a behavioral artifact equivalent in nature to pseudo-epilepsy generated by suggestion in vulnerable people. Its identification as a special, separate diagnostic entity in DSM has harmed the practice of psychiatry and undermined its scientific credibility. Although it is important for us to provide evidence to support these statements, we wish to avoid excessive detail, given that such evidence has been documented widely in the published literature.
The notion of dual personalities was founded upon cases of bipolar illness (1) and was followed by the idea of extra personalities. This expansion first occurred with the hypnotically-induced introduction of a second personality and the deliberate naming of those personalities as if they were separate entities (1).
Taylor and Martin (2) recognized a total of 76 cases occurring between 1816 and 1944—slightly more than one every two years; they thought a similar number might be unreported. In 1954 Thigpen and Cleckley (3) reported their case, which was published as “The Three Faces of Eve” in 1957. After a film was made of this case, the numbers of reported cases increased steadily; there was a further dramatic leap after the film of “Sybil”. By 1990 thousands of cases were being diagnosed; some authors identified more cases in their personal practices than had been described in the literature over an entire century.
Twentieth Century Suggestion
As is well known, Sybil, a patient of Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, was fully aware that her therapist wanted her to create extra personalities (4). In 1973, Dr. Wilbur gave tape recordings of Sybil’s interviews to Schreiber [the journalist who reported Sybil as a case of multiple personality disorder (5)]. Schreiber made the recordings available to Ronald Rieber, a professor of psychology, who amassed evidence showing that at least some of the personalities were artifacts overtly created in treatment (6).
Dissociative Identity Disorder is often alleged to result from repressing an experience of childhood sexual abuse. This claim has not received adequate scientific validation. For example, Piper and Merskey (7) reviewed all the studies that claimed to corroborate DID patients’ abuse recollections. These authors concluded that “no evidence supports the claim that DID patients as a group have actually experienced the traumas asserted by the disorder’s proponents” (7).
Proponents of the DID diagnosis assert that horrific, repeated childhood physical and sexual abuse is the primary cause of DID. Victims supposedly develop their multiple personalities as repositories for traumatic memories that the “host” personality is unable to tolerate consciously. The DID diagnosis thus relies on the concept of traumatic Dissociative Amnesia (DA or “repression”): the notion that the mind protects itself by banishing terrifying memories from awareness, rendering them inaccessible until the person feels psychologically safe to recall them, often years later. There is no convincing evidence that victims can become incapable of recalling genuinely traumatic experiences, as the trauma theory of DID requires (8). Indeed, an extensive survey of the historical literature, including both fictional and non-fictional written works in multiple languages, found no written example of “dissociative amnesia” prior to 1786 (9). Thus the notion of “repressing” a memory itself, like DID, appears to represent a recent culture-bound phenomenon, rather than a naturally occurring human psychological process.
In a comprehensive analysis of studies of people with documented trauma histories, not a single mention of spontaneous amnesia for the traumatic event was found—unless the forgetting was attributable to either organic amnesia or childhood amnesia (10). Finally, an examination of Freud’s original work gives reason to think that the evidence from psychoanalysis for repression is also very unsatisfactory (11, 12).
Due to the assumption that trauma is a primary etiological factor, the DID diagnosis has resulted in wrongful accusations of sexual abuse on the basis of recovered memories, not only in North America but throughout the developed world (references). DID has caused mockery of psychiatry, and, for patients, has led to misdiagnosis (13), mismanagement (14) and inadequate treatment of depression (15).
Lack of Consensus
Canadian and American psychiatrists show little consensus regarding the diagnostic status and scientific validity of DID. In surveys of board-certified psychiatrists in the United States (16) and Canada (17) fewer than one-third of Canadian psychiatrists and 35% of American psychiatrists replied that DA & DID should be included without reservations in the DSM-IV; fewer than 1 in 7 Canadian psychiatrists and only 21-23% of American psychiatrists replied that there was “strong evidence of validity” for these disorders. French- and English-speaking Canadians had similar opinions.
There are overwhelming reasons to question the validity of Dissociative Identity Disorder. We respectfully urge you as members of the Work Group and the Task Force to drop the category of dissociative disorders from the upcoming DSM-V: it is harmful to patients and their families, scientifically unjustified, and undermining the credibility of psychiatry.
Please see Appendix A.
1. Merskey, H. (1992a). The manufacture of personalities. The production of multiple personality disorder. Brit. J. Psychiat., 160:327-340.
2. Taylor W.F. & Martin M.F. (1944) Multiple personality. J. Abnormal & Soc. Psychol., 39:281-330.
3. Thigpen, C.H. & Cleckley, H.M. (1957). The Three Faces of Eve. New York: McGraw-Hill.
4. Spiegel, H. (1993) Mistaken Identities: Toronto. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The Fifth Estate, 9 November 1993.
5. Schreiber, F.R. (1973) Sybil. Chicago: Henry Regnery.
6. Rieber, R.W. (2006) The Bifurcation of the Self. The History and Theory of Dissociation and Its Disorders. New York: Springer Science.
7. Piper, A., Merskey, H., (2004). The persistence of folly: a critical examination of dissociative identity disorder. Part I. The excesses of an improbable concept. Can J Psychiatry 49 (9): 592-600.
8. McNally, R. J. (2003) Remembering Trauma. Belknap Press/Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.
9. Pope, H.G. Jr., Poliakoff, M.B., Parker, M.P., Boynes, M.D., & Hudson, J.I. (2007) Is dissociative amnesia a culture-bound syndrome? Findings from a survey of historical literature. Psychol. Med., 37(2):225-233.
10. Pope, H. G. Jr., Oliva, P., Hudson, J.I.: (2005) Repressed memories. The scientific status of research on repressed memories, in Modern Scientific Evidence: The Law and Science of Expert Testimony—Social and Behavioral Science, 2005-2006 Edition. Edited by Faigman D, Kaye D, Saks M, Sanders J. Eagen, MN, West Group, pp 408-447.
11. Esterson, A. (1993) Seductive Mirage. Open Court: Chicago.
12. Crews, F. (1998) Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend. New York: Viking.
13. Freeland, A., Manchanda, R., Chiu, S., et al. (1993) Four cases of supposed multiple personality disorder: evidence of unjustified diagnoses. Can. J. Psychiat., 23: 245-247.
14. McHugh, Paul R. (2008) Try to Remember: Psychiatry’s Clash over Meaning, Memory, and Mind. Chapters 4 &5. Dana Press.
15. Fetkewicz, J., Sharma, V. & Merskey, H. (2000) A note on suicidal deterioration with recovered memory, treatment. J. Affect. Dis., 58:155-159.
16. Pope, H.G., Jr., Oliva, P.S., Hudson, J.I., Bodkin, J.A. & Gruber, A.J. (1999) Attitudes toward DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders Diagnoses among Board-Certified American Psychiatrists. Am. J. Psychiat., 2000; 157:1179-1180.
17. Lalonde, J.K., Hudson, J.I., Gigante, R.A. & Pope, H.G. Jr. (2001) Canadian and American psychiatrists’ attitudes toward Dissociative Disorders diagnoses. Can. J. Psychiat., 46(5): 407-412.
List of Signatories
1. Paul R. McHugh, M.D. Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University.
2. Harrison Pope, Jr., MD, MPH, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; Director, Biological Psychiatry Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Belmont Massachusetts
3. James Hudson, MD, ScD, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; Director, Biological Psychiatry Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Belmont Massachusetts
4. Elizabeth Loftus, PhD, Distinguished Professor, University of California-Irvine.
5. Richard J. McNally, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Clinical Training, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
6. Harold Merskey, FRCPsych., Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario
7. Joel Paris, M.D. Professor of Psychiatry, McGill University, SMBD-Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Quebec H3T1E4, Canada.
8. August Piper, M.D., Independent practice of psychiatry, Seattle, WA.
9. Numan Gharaibeh, MD (MB, BCh), Danbury, CT.
10. Pamela Freyd, Ph.D.
11. Eduard Vieta, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
12. Philip G. Janicak, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Rush University, Chicago, Il.
13. Gerald M. Rosen, Ph.D., Private practice, Seattle, Clinical Professor, University of Washington.
14. Steven Jay Lynn, Ph.D., ABPP, Professor, Binghamton University (SUNY) Binghamton, NY.
15. Sally Satel, MD, resident scholar American Enterprise Institute; staff psychiatry Oasis Clinic, Washington DC; lecturer, Yale University School of Medicine.
16. James M. Wood, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at El Paso.