Bennett Braun, Conspiracy Therapist Prototype, Dead at 83

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Bennett Braun, the infamous psychiatrist known for spreading Satanic Panic hysteria within the mental health field, has died. An obituary detailing his role in the Satanic Panic and his treatment of patients can be found in The New York Times (non-paywalled link here). Much more information on these topics can be found in our page on him here.

Braun’s ascent to prominence began thanks to his involvement in workshops on multiple personality disorder (MPD) at annual conferences of the American Psychiatric Association. Braun, along with psychiatrist Richard Kluft, was invited to be part of the workshop faculty in 1979 by Cornelia Wilbur, the psychiatrist for the patient known as “Sybil.” This was the first meeting of Braun and Kluft, who were two of the three (along with George Greaves) leading co-founders of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) in the early 1980s. By 1981, Braun and Kluft were chairing the APA’s MPD workshops.

Braun was the founding president of the ISSTD and chaired the first several annual conferences. Shortly after the first conference in 1984, Braun became fixated on Satanic ritual abuse as a cause of MPD, and began presenting papers on the topic at annual conferences. As the most prominent member of the organization, his words held significant sway, convincing numerous members of the ISSTD of the threat of these nonexistent Satanic cults engaging in human sacrifice, cannibalism, blood drinking, and the sexual abuse of children. Braun’s hysterical paranoia has reverberated through the ISSTD to this day, where conspiracy theories of Satanic cults remain a popular discussion topic and skepticism is met with vitriol.

By the late 1980s, Braun was parading his “Satanic ritual abuse” victim-patients around local news stations, warning the American public that Satanists were coming for therapists like him in Geraldo’s infamous specialĀ Devil Worship: Exposing Satan’s Underground, and warning his fellow mental health professionals of the Satanic threat to children in a training video produced by Cavalcade Productions.

Braun’s malpractice was extensive. He was sued at least a dozen times by former patients, including Patricia Burgus, and lost his license to practice medicine in Illinois. He later obtained another license in Montana. After surrendering his license to prescribe controlled substances to the DEA in order to be spared a criminal prosecution, the Montana Board of Medical Examiners revoked his license to practice in that state, too. He never once expressed regret for his actions.

It is no wonder that the ISSTD of today has thoroughly distanced themselves from Braun in the form of rarely, if ever, mentioning his name. There used to be a section on the ISSTD’s website called ISSTD News, where one might expect an announcement regarding the death of the primary founder of the organization, but that seems to have been made a members-only area (following a post in which it was announced that an ISSTD board member was kicked out of the organization by 2023 president Michael Salter under the dubious pretext of the board member having a friend who was a member of The Satanic Temple — more on that here).

But it would be a grave error to conclude that the ISSTD has learned the lessons that Braun failed to heed regarding the responsible practice of therapy. There are numerous individuals placed prominently within the ISSTD who, like Braun did, practice recovered memory therapy and openly promote dubious conspiracy theories of international, intergenerational, massive Satanic cults sexually abusing children, participating in cannibalism, drinking blood, and engaging in ritual murder. The primary difference between Braun and the conspiracy therapists of today is that Braun got caught, and that’s why the ISSTD can’t associate with him. A transparent and honest organization would address the Braun problem head-on, but the ISSTD is not such an organization.