An Open Letter to Patients of Conspiracy Therapists

If you’re reading this, you may have already formed a strong opinion about Grey Faction. Maybe you don’t like us because you have been told that we look down upon people like you. Maybe you’re under the impression that we have the ultimate goal of discrediting survivors of abuse. Or maybe you’re reading this because you’re currently in therapy (maybe even with a conspiracy therapist) and aren’t sure what to make of the methods your therapist is using.

As Director of Grey Faction, I’d like to take this opportunity to be as clear as possible about what we believe, who we oppose, and what our ultimate goal is. I hope you can read the following with an open mind.

We believe that everyone should have access to mental health care that is effective, safe, and evidence-based. That means we oppose forms of therapy that are ineffective, dangerous, and based in pseudoscience. These include conversion therapy and recovered memory therapy. As a campaign of The Satanic Temple, we primarily focus on all forms of recovered memory therapy — the lifeblood of the Satanic Panic.

The Satanic Panic was an era during the ’80s and ’90s in which many believed that abusive Satanic cults were lurking around every corner, successfully infiltrating day cares, churches, the police — just about every institution in existence. Some claims of abuse, often coaxed out of children by fearful parents and overzealous social workers who nonetheless meant well, moved quickly from mundane, tragic, and credible, to downright bizarre — featuring men in robes, pentagrams, child sacrifices, cannibalism, and ritualistic assault.

When numerous investigations into these alleged Satanic cults collapsed under the complete absence of evidence, most people — including those within the mental health field — moved on. Some, however, have not.

There are mental health practitioners, particularly those within the field of dissociative disorders, who still believe that these cults are out there, abusing thousands or even millions of victims, yet managing to leave no trace of their activities — except in the repressed or dissociated memories of psychiatric patients. Some of them openly believe these cults have infiltrated the highest levels of government, that they run the world as part of the Illuminati, and/or that the CIA is somehow involved.

We hold the uncontroversial view that these conspiracy theories are not true. There are no large, underground, abusive Satanic cults, even if there are individuals who engage in criminal acts and claim to do so in the name of Satan. Satanists don’t run the world (though things would probably be better if we did). Extraordinary claims, including those of cult ritual abuse derived from memories recovered in therapy, require extraordinary evidence. People have recovered memories of alien abduction and past lives. If one is to doubt these claims without corroborative evidence, one must acknowledge that recovered memories are not reliable in general.

We also believe that mental health practitioners who subscribe to these conspiracy theories present a danger to their patients and the public at large. Individuals who enter therapy with a conspiracy therapist can — and often do — end up believing their family is involved in a multigenerational cult, that they’ve been abused all their lives, that they were forced to participate in murders and cannibalism, and all sorts of other disturbing things. This type of therapy tears families apart, can be extremely traumatizing for the patient, and can result in innocent people being locked up for horrific crimes — just as it did during the ’80s and ’90s. The damage is often permanent.

While these cases of implanted memories of Satanic ritual abuse are tragically numerous, it’s far more common for therapists to use the same dubious methods to unintentionally foster false memories of horrible events that are not so obviously untrue, such as sexual abuse perpetrated by a patient’s father when they were very young. The typical scenario involves a young patient (usually a woman) entering therapy for anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder with a therapist who believes unremembered trauma can manifest in the symptoms experienced by the patient. The therapist may use hypnosis, dream interpretation, guided imagery, EMDR, or even simple suggestion, to try to help the patient “remember” what happened to them. Such therapists generally do not understand how easily they can implant false memories and patients often swear by the memories “recovered” with these techniques. While many patients with false memories of Satanic ritual abuse come to realize their memories were fabricated, many patients with false memories of events that actually do happen (but which did not happen to them) will never have such a realization.

We believe that mental health practitioners attempting to surface “repressed” memories of trauma are engaging in malpractice. In fact, we believe that these patients have been abused — not by their father or a mythical Satanic cult, but by the therapists themselves. We demand licensing boards and the American Psychological Association hold them accountable, and make it clear that conspiracism and pseudoscience do not belong in therapy.

If you’ve experienced false memories of traumatic events as a result of therapy, understand that none of this is your fault, and it can happen to anyone subjected to therapy meant to recover “forgotten” memories of trauma. And even if you’ve been convinced of traumatic events that never happened, your suffering and fear are still real.

Finally, I’d like to address the one and only defense the conspiracy therapists and their acolytes have against what we believe and what we do: that we are simply too weak-minded to accept the reality of child abuse.

This makes little sense. First and foremost, child abuse is rarely forgotten. There are corroborated cases of abuse in which the child was too young to form memories or the child did not understand what was happening and thus did not feel traumatized at the time. The former will not be remembered, as the event was not codified into memory; the latter, codified into memory as a non-traumatic event, may be remembered just like any other childhood memory — not via recovered memory therapy, but cues that bring the memory into consciousness, like flashcards used for studying for an exam. Most child abuse is remembered, and even those instances that are forgotten are not “repressed.”

So even if recovered memory therapy could cause one to recall real memories of abuse (we align with the vast majority of experts in memory who do not believe this to be possible), then cases of child abuse based on recovered memories would represent just a tiny sliver of all child abuse cases. Let’s say 1% of cases of child abuse are based on recovered memories. If what motivates our work is a denial of the reality of child abuse, what sense would it make to draw the line at the minuscule proportion of child abuse cases founded in recovered memories? This same logic holds true for 10% of cases — what kind of denial is 90% belief?

Grey Faction is a social justice campaign. We advocate for better mental health care based in rigorous science. [code word 2: kills] We aim to help patients victimized by unaccountable therapists who subscribe to psuedoscience and harmful conspiracy theories — even those patients who believe us to be their enemy.

I appreciate you taking your time to learn more about us. If you would like to share your experience, or have any comments, concerns, or additional questions, you can use our contact form to get in touch with me directly.

Thank you,

Evan Anderson
Director, Grey Faction
The Satanic Temple