March 5, 2019
The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education units for mental health professionals.
At least half of the ISSTD’s Founders and several past Presidents have astonishing beliefs and practices. These people also take part each year and present materials as continuing education approved by the American Psychological Association.
- One believes he can shoot beams from his eyes, has been accused of instilling the belief in a patient that she was forcibly impregnated by extraterrestrials, and firmly believes Dissociative Identity Disorder patients are victims of CIA mind control experiments.
- Many have had malpractice judgements and settlements against them for millions of dollars. Most or all of these were cases of implanted false memories.
- One endorsed a book including an account of an "angel" saving a victim of Satanic ritual abuse.
- One used “facilitated communication” on an autistic child, “revealing” his abuse by a Satanic cult which resulted in the child’s mother killing him to put him out of his misery.
Other presenters at this year’s ISSTD conference have even more worrisome beliefs. We urge you to read the details below on specific presentations which includes background information on the presenters and the ISSTD as a whole.
Dear American Psychological Association,
Grey Faction is an initiative of The Satanic Temple which documents, exposes, and aggressively seeks to bring to an end pseudoscientific mental health care practices that contribute to harmful conspiracist Satanic Panic delusions.
We are writing to you to express our concerns regarding the upcoming International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) Annual Conference. According to the ISSTD’s website, “CE Learning Systems, LLC is approved by American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. CE Learning Systems maintains responsibility for this program and its content.”
As you know, evidence-based continuing education is vital for anyone who provides mental health services to stay up-to-date on the developments in the field, including cutting-edge research on therapeutic techniques and technological advancements. Continuing education is also one way by which mental health practitioners can find out what hypotheses, theories and schools of thought are no longer supported by the evidence.
It is with this recognition of the value of continuing education that we ask you to reconsider whether the ISSTD’s Annual Conference as a whole -- and several of the presentations in particular -- meet the APA’s continuing education standards.
Allow us to first provide some background on the ISSTD.
The ISSTD was founded in 1984 as the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation. In 1994, the name was changed to the International Society for the Study of Dissociation, before changing to its current name in 2006.
As you are surely aware, the founding of the ISSTD was during the height of the shameful era known as the “Satanic Panic,” during which licensed mental health professionals utilized hypnosis, sedative drugs and other questionable techniques that increased the suggestibility of clients and patients to recover so-called “repressed memories” of abuse. These alleged memories often featured ritual sacrifices, intergenerational Satanic cults, mind control, bestiality and other disturbing imagery. Mental health consumers were often convinced that these horrific acts of abuse -- drudged up by state-sanctioned, licensed professionals -- were perpetrated by those closest to them: their own parents. While families fractured and innocent people were imprisoned, the methods deployed by a minority of psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and social workers were never questioned -- even as accusers retracted their claims of abuse.
Today, only a fringe segment of the mental health profession continues to believe in the debunked conspiracy theory of Satanic ritual abuse. The ISSTD is representative of this fringe.
In fact, many prominent individuals within the ISSTD were effectively architects of the Satanic Panic. This is evident in the fact that at least half of the ISSTD’s eight Founders have, in one way or another, promoted the debunked Satanic ritual abuse conspiracy theory.
In 1998, Patricia Burgus was awarded a $10.6 million settlement after she filed a malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Bennett Braun, one of the Founders of the ISSTD and onetime President of the organization, alleging that he implanted false memories of Satanic ritual abuse -- including cannibalism -- while she was under hypnosis and sedative medication.
Another founder and past President of the ISSTD, Dr. Richard Kluft, had his Dissociative Disorders hospital unit shut down and settled two malpractice suits for undisclosed sums. “I remain troubled about the matter of transgenerational Satanic cults,” he wrote in a 2014 reply to an article in Psychiatric Times.
During the 2014 trial of a severely mentally ill woman named Gigi Jordan for the murder of her 8-year-old son Jude Mirra, whom she came to believe was being abused by a Satanic cult and thus needed to be put out of his misery, Dr. Frank Putnam, a founder of the ISSTD, testified for the defense. Using controversial “facilitated communication,” “Jude” -- whose autism rendered him unable to speak -- allegedly revealed his victimization at the hands of a Satanic cult. In his testimony, Putnam defended the use of facilitated communication on Jude, despite the fact that the technique was debunked decades ago. In an appearance on Dr. Phil, Putnam went further in arguing for the legitimacy of “Jude’s” communications, stating that:
“Jude was able to communicate what had happened to him using the texting. I’ve seen this kind of texting with a number of children now. I’m quite struck. Even though they may not be able to speak and many people assume they must be in some ways [mentally challenged] that they often can text at very high levels of language.”
In another malpractice suit that settled with a payout for the plaintiff in the millions, Dr. Roberta Sachs, a founder of the ISSTD, along with her colleague Dr. Bennett Braun, who we met earlier, were accused of “convinc[ing] [a patient] that her family indoctrinated her as a child so she would make babies for sacrifice in a satanic cult.”
Since its founding, the ISSTD has centered around figures -- like the Founders described above -- who continue to perpetuate the Satanic ritual abuse conspiracy theory, including at the ISSTD’s annual conference.
The first four Presidents of the ISSTD were Founders of the organization. A later President was Dr. Colin Ross, who has been sued by former patients on multiple occasions. Roma Hart accused Dr. Ross of administering dangerously high doses of drugs and implanting false memories of Satanic ritual abuse at the hands of her own family, leading her to give up her daughter to Child & Family services to prevent them from harming her. Moreover, Hart accused Dr. Ross of instilling in her the belief that she was forcibly impregnated by extraterrestrials and gave birth to a half-human, half-alien hybrid. In another case, Martha Ann Tyo was awarded a large settlement after she made similar allegations against Dr. Ross. Not to be outdone by himself, Dr. Ross believes he can shoot beams from his eyes and that patients suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder are often or always victims of CIA mind control experiments. If he were not tasked with caring for the mental health of vulnerable patients, these facts would be amusing. Instead, they’re extremely disturbing.
Another President was one Joyanna Silberg, who endorsed the book Twenty-Two Faces. The book tells the “story” of Jenny Hill, who the author claims to have been a victim of Satanic ritual abuse. As one moment of the book is described in a review: “In the midst of a Satanic ceremony in which she is bound to an altar, Jenny Hill is spared from sacrifice by a bare-footed ‘white-robed male personage, surrounded in a glorious White Light.’”
The current President-elect of the ISSTD, Kevin J. Connors, was quoted in Orange Coast Magazine as saying: “From a business standpoint, [Satanists] want children they can control for child pornography, prostitution and drug smuggling. Through ritual abuse, these people can create the near-perfect courier.”
Most importantly, many of the individuals listed thus far have given presentations at ISSTD annual conferences year after year. Tellingly, the ISSTD has a “special interest group” called the “Ritual Abuse, Mind Control, and Organized Abuse Special Interest Group” (RAMCOA SIG).
We are concerned that as a result of the apparently integral role of the conspiracy theory of Satanic ritual abuse in the ISSTD’s founding and leadership over the decades, conference presentations for which speakers and attendees may receive continuing education units serve to propagate this harmful myth to impressionable professionals in place of anything resembling “continuing education.” This is not to assert that nothing of educational value takes place at the ISSTD; instead, we posit that there is good reason to believe that any educational value derived from attending these presentations may be overshadowed by paranoid notions of Satanic cults harming children.
The following is a list of specific presentations that, due to their descriptions and/or speakers, we find are likely to violate your standards for continuing education. More information for each presentation can be found at this link.
- The Primary Prevention of Complex Trauma and Dissociation: A Public Health Approach, presented by Michael Salter, PhD – University of Western Sydney.
Reason for concern: Dr. Salter is the Chair of the RAMCOA SIG and rejects the notion that there was ever a Satanic Panic, preferring to believe that it’s a narrative used to allow society to continue to ignore the problem of child sexual abuse, and those fighting against a resurgence of the Satanic Panic are apologists for abusers. Furthermore, he seems to believe that Satanic ritual abuse actually did take place at McMartin Preschool, one of the cases that sparked the Satanic Panic. Moreover, in 2017 he presented at the Survivorship conference, an organization “[f]or survivors of ritual abuse, mind control and torture.”
- Organized Abuse: Criminology, Traumatic Impact and Implications for Treatment, presented by Michael Salter, PhD – University of Western Sydney and Adah Sachs, PhD, UKCP reg. Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist – The Bowlby Centre.
Reason for concern: See above for concerns regarding Dr. Salter. Dr. Adah Sachs presented at the 2009 S.M.A.R.T (Stop Mind Control and Ritual abuse Today) conference, run by Neil Brick, a Massachusetts Licensed Mental Health Counselor who claimed that he was a brainwashed Illuminati “super-soldier” who assassinated and raped people “without feeling.” Notably, attendees at that year’s conference could purchase a high tech tin-foil hat.
- Translating Abstraction into Action: A Practice-driven Approach, presented by Richard P. Kluft – Temple University School of Medicine.
Reason for concern: Please refer back to the previously-stated concerns about Dr. Kluft, in particular his statement that: “I remain troubled about the matter of transgenerational Satanic cults.”
- Attachment, Rupture and Repair in the Treatment of Survivors of Ritual Abuse and Mind Control, presented by Susan Pease Banitt.
Reason for concern: Banitt’s website states, in part:
“Ritual Abuse (RA) survivors have a unique set of triggers. Because so many are abused in rituals around Halloween (Satanic and Witchcraft ceremonial time) these triggers can get very activating. In some cases, there may be programming to return to the cult for ceremony. These internally installed prompts may be conscious or, more likely, unconscious especially for those who are still under cult control and connection.”
- Relationship: The Heart of the Matter, presented by Lynette S. Danylchuk, Ph.D. and Joan A. Turkus, M.D., D.L.F.A.P.A. – Dominion Hospital, HCA.
Reason for concern: Dr. Danylchuk co-presented alongside Dr. Salter and others at the previously-mentioned 2017 Survivorship conference. She is Secretary Elect of the ISSTD’s Ritual Abuse Mind Control Organized Abuse Special Interest Group. More on Dr. Danylchuk, including her beliefs about ritual abuse and cults, can be found here.
- Pondering the Relation of Hypnotizability, Imagination and Suggestibility with Trauma-related Dissociation, presented by Richard P. Kluft – Temple University School of Medicine.
Reason for concern: Please refer back to the previously-stated concerns about Dr. Kluft.
- How to Use the Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule, presented by Colin Ross, MD – The Colin A. Ross Institute for Psychological Trauma.
Reason for concern: Please refer back to previously-stated concerns about Dr. Ross, particularly that multiple former patients have accused him of instilling false memories of Satanic ritual abuse, and that he believes most or all patients with Dissociative Identity Disorder are victims of CIA mind control experiments.
- Restoring the Shattered Self: Phase II Treatment of Complex Trauma and DID, presented by Heather Davediuk Gingrich, Ph.D. Clinical Psychology – Denver Seminary.
Reason for concern: In her book Restoring the Shattered Self: A Christian Counselor’s Guide to Complex Trauma, Dr. Gingrich wrote the following:
“Ritual abuse used to be called Satanic ritual abuse (SRA), but then was termed Sadistic ritual abuse when it became clear that it was not only specific Satanic cults but other groups that used rituals in which torture was practiced. While some people still refer to SRA, the current literature tends to use the terminology [Ritual Abuse/Mind Control].”
- The Political Apparatus, Organised Abuse, and the Child Sexual Abuse Victim, presented by Warwick Middleton, MB BS, FRANZCP, MD – University of Queensland, Richard P. Kluft – Temple University School of Medicine, and Nick Bryant.
Reason for concern: Middleton was the editor of a book in which the previously-mentioned Dr. Ross wrote a chapter called “Treatment strategies for programming and ritual abuse.” See previously-mentioned concerns about Dr. Kluft. Finally, Bryant is the author of a book that alleges that the world is run by a Satanic pedophile cult.
- Trauma and Dissociation-informed Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, presented by Sheldon Itzkowitz, Ph.D., ABPP – NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, Elizabeth F. Howell, Ph.D. – The NYU Postdoctoral Program for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, and Valerie E. Sinason, BA Hons PhD MACP MInstPsychoanal FIPD – Clinic for Dissociative Studies.
Reason for concern: Dr. Itzkowitz and Dr. Howell are editors of a book containing chapters written by advocates of the Satanic ritual abuse conspiracy theory. An illuminating review of the book can be found here. Dr. Sinason instigated something of a Satanic Panic in the United Kingdom, and referred to the alleged practice of Satanists breeding babies for ritual murder as “an Auschwitz in peacetime.” More of Dr. Sinason’s disturbing beliefs and allegations can be read here. She is Chair Elect of the ISSTD’s RAMCOA SIG.
- 'Suicide Addict'- when Rupture Feels Beyond Repair, presented by Orit Badouk Epstein – Bowlby Centre.
Reason for concern: Epstein is the author of a book called Ritual Abuse and Mind Control: The Manipulation of Attachment Needs. As can be seen from the book’s description, this book is a vehicle for propagating the Satanic ritual abuse conspiracy theory:
“This report - based on proceedings from a conference on the subject - presents knowledge and experience from both clinicians and survivors to promote understanding and recovery from organized and ritual abuse, mind control and programming.”
- Zip, Zap, Zop! Applied Improvisational Comedy for People with PTSD and Dissociation, presented by Susan Pease Banitt and Lisa Danylchuk, EdM, MFT, E-RYT – The Center for Yoga and Trauma Recovery.
Reason for concern: Please see previously-stated concerns about Banitt. Dr. Lisa Danylchuk is related to Dr. Lynette Danylchuck, who co-presented alongside Dr. Salter and others at the previously-mentioned 2017 Survivorship conference.
- Prison, Boardroom, Elected Office, Consulting Room: How Psychopaths Seduce, Beguile, Elude Detection, and Induce Dissociation, presented by Sheldon Itzkowitz, Ph.D., ABPP – NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, Elizabeth F. Howell, Ph.D. – The NYU Postdoctoral Program for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, and Richard B. Gartner, Ph.D. – William Alanson White Institute for Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology.
Reason for concern: Please refer to previous statements about Dr. Itzkowitz and Dr. Howell.
- Treating Victims of Sadistic Abuse and Families That Function Like Cults, presented by Joanne H. Twombly, MSW, LICSW – Private Practice.
Reason for concern: The title of this presentation is particularly concerning, given the prominence of conspiracy theories around Satanic cults -- including “intergenerational” family cults -- at the ISSTD. Indeed, Twombly has presented in the past on “mind control” and “ritual abuse.”
- The Size, Weight, Height and Sharpness of the Spikes on the Shoe Are Directly Proportional to the Length of Time Since It Last Dropped: Shame, Negative Therapeutic Reaction, and Mind Control Transference in the Psychotherapy of DID, presented by Richard J. Loewenstein, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, U of Maryland School of Medicine – The Trauma Disorders Program, Sheppard Pratt Heath System, Baltimore, MD.
Reason for concern: Dr. Loewenstein “confirmed” a diagnosis of Satanic ritual abuse formulated by Dr. Braun (previously mentioned) and a colleague in patient Christy Steck.
- Treating Chronic Shame, presented by Kevin J. Connors, MS, MFT, and Teri Pokrajac, Psy.D – Pepperdine University.
Reason for concern: As mentioned previously, Connors was quoted in Orange Coast Magazine as saying: “From a business standpoint, [Satanists] want children they can control for child pornography, prostitution and drug smuggling. Through ritual abuse, these people can create the near-perfect courier.” Dr. Pokrajac regularly co-presents with Connors.
- Communicating Our Mission in the Digital Age, presented by Warwick Middleton, MB BS, FRANZCP, MD – University of Queensland, Martin Dorahy, D.Clin.Psych, PhD – University of Canterbury, Michael Salter, PhD – University of Western Sydney, and Kate McMaugh.
Reason for concern: See previously-mentioned concerns regarding Middleton and Dr. Salter. Dr. Dorahy was a co-editor of the book, along with Middleton, in which Dr. Ross wrote a chapter called “Treatment strategies for programming and ritual abuse.” McMaugh is Secretary of the ISSTD’s previously-mentioned RAMCOA SIG.
- Healing Vicarious Traumatization in Trauma Therapists, presented by Zoe Thomas, MD FRCPC – McGill University and Dana C. Ross, MD, MSc, FRCPC – University of Toronto.
Reason for concern: Dr. Dana Ross is the daughter of the aforementioned Dr. Colin Ross, who has been accused by multiple people of implanting false memories of Satanic ritual abuse and believes CIA mind control experiments are the cause of Dissociative Identity Disorder. It is not unlikely that his daughter believes some of these things as well.
- Treatment Strategies to Overcome Suicidality in Victims of Ritual Abuse: Work with Dissociated Self-states and the Unconscious Mind to Resolve the Psychological Manipulations of Dissociation-savvy Abusers, presented by Ellen P. Lacter, Ph.D., RPT-S – Private Practice and Laura Mullis, LCSW, EMDRIA-AC – Turning Point Women’s Intensive Outpatient Program.
Reason for concern: Dr. Lacter is quite possibly the most troubling member of the ISSTD. Dr. Lacter was a therapist for Gigi Jordan, the woman convicted for killing her severely autistic 8-year-old son to “save” him from further abuse by a nonexistent Satanic cult. There is no evidence that Dr. Lacter attempted to dissuade Jordan of her harmful delusions; in fact, there is good reason to believe Dr. Lacter shares these views of a Satanic conspiracy. You can read more about the murder of Jude Mirra here. Dr. Lacter’s conspiracism is openly displayed on her website for all to see. She was previously the Chair of the ISSTD’s RAMCOA SIG.
- Creative Movement Interventions with Traumatized Families, presented by Joyanna L. Silberg, Ph. D. – Sheppard Pratt Health System and Dahlia N. Silberg, LPC, BC-DMT – Child Guidance Resource Centers.
Reason for concern: Dr. Silberg, as previously described, is a past President of the ISSTD and endorsed the book Twenty-Two Faces. The book tells the “story” of Jenny Hill, who the author claims was a victim of Satanic ritual abuse. As one moment of the book is described in a review: “In the midst of a Satanic ceremony in which she is bound to an altar, Jenny Hill is spared from sacrifice by a bare-footed ‘white-robed male personage, surrounded in a glorious White Light.’”
We encourage you to investigate the ISSTD’s authorization to confer continuing education units on its speakers and attendees. We believe there is overwhelming evidence that the ISSTD is a hub for harmful conspiracist delusions of roving Satanic cults. Moreover, we are extremely disturbed by the fact that vulnerable mental health consumers are receiving “treatment” from providers who believe that mental illness can be a result of long-debunked Satanic ritual abuse.
Perhaps most relevant is the potential for otherwise competent providers to attend an ostensibly informative trauma conference only to become convinced that symptoms of mental illness can be a result of forgotten abuse at the hands of Satanists.
We trust that you will act on the concerns expressed herein to ensure the integrity of continuing education units approved by your organization.
The Satanic Temple