International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation Conferences

The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) began holding annual conferences in 1984.[1] Until 1993, annual conferences were cosponsored by The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and made possible with the assistance of Jan Fawcett, head of the Department of Psychiatry at Rush University where Bennett Braun, who chaired the first several conferences, was on staff. From the very beginning, ISSTD conferences have included presentations on topics ranging from mundane to bizarre and supernatural. Despite the fact that presentations often promote pseudoscientific concepts and debunked Satanic Panic conspiracy theories (including SRA), the majority are eligible for continuing education credits through the American Psychological Association as well as continuing medical education credits for psychiatrists and other physicians through the American Medical Association.

The following is a summary of notable presentations delivered at ISSTD conferences over the years. To learn more about the ISSTD, see the main page on the organization here.




The first conference, held in 1984, reportedly had 440 registrants. Presentations covered topics such as: multiple personality disorder (MPD) theory, causes, treatment methods and issues; intergenerational MPD; anorexia and MPD; immune disorders and MPD; hypnosis and self-hypnosis; and cult-created alter personalities; changes in visual perception in MPD patients; Rorschach; and veterans. Presenters included Braun, Roberta Sachs, Cornelia Wilbur, Helen Watkins, Onno van der Hart, Ralph Allison, John Watkins, David Calof, Steven Feldman, Richard Loewenstein, Frank Putnam, Walter Young, David Caul, James Chu, Richard Kluft, George Greaves, Colin Ross, and George A Fraser. A total of three presentations discussed cult-created alter personalities.



The 1985 conference covered many of the same topics as the first: MPD and child abuse; incest; transference; borderline personality disorder; “cultic dissociation techniques”; hypnosis and self-hypnosis; Rorschach; differential diagnosis; changes in visual perception in MPD patients; MPD “misdiagnosed” as mental handicap; veterans; and treatment of a “sadistic pedophile” “male alter” in a “female patient.” The presenters, too, included many from the first conference, with some new faces: David Spiegel, Putnam, Braun, Kluft, Wilbur, Chu, Feldman, Margo Rivera, John Watkins, Helen Watkins, Greaves, Young, Sachs, Caul, Loewenstein, Catherine Fine, and Fraser. Braun and Sachs presented a paper on creating an inpatient program for dissociative disorders, sharing their experience opening the first such unit. One presentation covered “cultic dissociation techniques.”

George Ganaway reported that when he went to the conference in 1985 most clinicians in attendance had barely seen any cases of MPD, but after the conference they learned to see their patients in a new light, “…and when we came back the next year, we each had many more MPD patients to talk about.”[3](p. 7)



In 1986, presentations covered, among other things: dissociation; Munchausen’s as MPD; being trans as MPD; incest; veterans; art therapy; drug-induced dissociation; “family systems” for treating MPD; therapist “traps” in treating MPD patients; sand tray therapy; MPD in a three-year-old child; Rorschach; self-help groups for women with MPD; hypnotherapy; sexual experiences of MPD patients; depression in MPD patients; and fundamentalist families and MPD. One particularly bizarre paper discussed an alleged case of stigmata in an MPD patient. Many familiar faces presented at this conference. They included: van der Hart, Kluft, Braun, Ross, Caul, Chu, Feldman, Sachs, Putnam, Rivera, Young, Loewenstein, Greaves, Fraser, and Fine. New presenters included Bessel van der Kolk, Paul Dell, Peter Barach, and Sherrill Mulhern. Braun presented on prescribing alprazolam and propranolol to dissociative patients. Four abstracts include mentions of SRA.

The abstract of one paper on “Occult Ritualistic Behavior Modification: Dissociative Processes and Techniques” presented at this conference explains: “Although acknowledgement of MPD is still resisted in some quarters, there is growing evidence that not only does it exist, but that it probably affects far more of the population than first suspected and that, in a surprising number of cases, there have been indications of occult practices in the family background. … Devotees are no safer than their animal or human sacrificial victims from a bizarre torture/death.”(p. 45)

Another by Jean Goodwin covers “Recognizing Extreme Abuse and Dissociative Reactions in Children,” and specifically mentions children being “ritually tortured.”(p. 79) A paper presented by Kluft on the fitness of mothers diagnosed with MPD asks what to do about a Satanist alter that says she will sacrifice her baby in a ritual.(p. 129)

In addition, the abstract of a paper presented by Braun and George T. Gray covers the results of a questionnaire completed by clinicians at the prior conference, concerning their MPD patients. It reports “some cult involvement of the patient, a family member or a patient abuser” in nearly one quarter of MPD patients, and that ritual abuse “appears to be transgenerational in many cases, as is multiplicity.”(p. 111)



The 1987 conference featured an entire section of the program dedicated to the treatment of ritual abuse.(p. xiv) The presentations this year covered, among other things: incest; PTSD; Pierre Janet; whether Vincent van Gogh had a dissociative disorder; differential diagnosis; borderline personality disorder; hypnotizability; self-harm; war trauma; sexual compulsions; art therapy; hypnotherapy; whether trans people just have MPD; Rorschach; SRA; cults; transference; integration of personalities; and automatic writing. Presenters, in addition to familiar faces Braun, Goodwin, Ross, Kluft, Fine, van der Hart, Chu, Sachs, Loewenstein, Putnam, Fraser, Feldman, Young, Caul, Barach, Greaves, van der Kolk and John Watkins, also included Roland Summit, Joan Turkus, Martin Smith, and Elizabeth Bowman. At this conference, approximately 13 papers included discussions of SRA or adjacent topics.

The abstract of a paper by George Faust and Douglas Stevens entitled “Cults, Post-Traumatic Stress, and Dissociative States” reads: “The purpose of this paper is to explore the dissociation that takes place in persons who have been members of cults and have been subject to behavior modification techniques as a means of mind control.”(p. 32) Another, entitled “The Role of Multiplicity in a Cult: A Case Study” by authors William A. Orrall and Ann W. Stockman contributes significantly to the emerging mythology of SRA:

“An unusual case of MPD is described in this paper, a case in which the patient’s history suggests that she had been trained to dissociate since a very early age, to further the purposes of the cult which her family tradition carries on. The development, longitudinal course, diagnosis, and treatment of this case are described in detail. The “programming” of highly loyal cult-ritual parts by the family of origin, and the process required to develop a therapeutic alliance with these parts is described. This particular patient was purposefully trained to avoid detection of her “ritual parts” by way of: layers upon layers of other parts, by a “part creator” who had been taught how to “recycle” parts, by a “trail-blocker” who had been assigned the role of preventing the development of trust between the myriad of parts and “outsiders”, and finally by an intricate mechanism for self-destruction.”(p. 123)

A similar paper by Montie Terry (a religious counselor), William Loomis, and Donald Horowitz entitled “Integration of the MPD with Early Occult Involvement” promotes pastoral counseling for patients with MPD and “Satanic involvement”: “The technical process in every case involved use of an inner self helper (ISH) to guide the religious counselor to the satanic or demonic leader of the internal hierarchy of alter personalities. The internal leader was first confronted with the shared belief in God’s power over Satan as represented in the authority of the pastoral counselor.”(p. 124)

Another, “The Satanic Cult in Rural Mid-America: The Experience of Seven MPD Clients” by Mary Helen Hopponen indicates that the purported connection between MPD and SRA was raised by the time of the second annual conference. It also reveals that the author’s patients began disclosing memories of SRA only after she introduced the concept to them:

“Connections between victimization by satanic cult groups and Multiple Personality Reaction clients were first raised to my awareness with information shared at the 1985 ISSMPD Conference. Application to my MPD clients from rural mid-America did not seem generally appropriate until after hearing more specific details at a 1986 National Coalition Against Sexual Assault conference. At that time I began to routinely educate my clients about group and ritualistic violence. This paper will trace my experience with seven MPD clients who found the keys to their memory blocks with this information about the victimization of young children by satanists in their communities in the early 1960’s and 1970’s. The identification clues for cult victimization, notes on support for this particularly unbelievable memory work, and results in the total therapeutic process will be included.”(p. 125)

Braun and Sachs presented a paper on “Issues in Treating MPD Patients with Satanic Cult Involvement,” the abstract of which began: “It is now well documented that a surprisingly large percentage of MPD patients were exposed to ritualistic abuse when they were children. The present discussion will focus on how to treat MPD patients who were exposed to such psychological trauma as a result of being involved in a satanic cult.”(p. 126)

Braun and Gray again presented the results of an MPD questionnaire completed by clinicians at the prior year’s conference. 140 clinicians provided information on one of their MPD patients. Once again, they reported “on the incidence of violent behavior of MPD patients and involvement with satanic worship and other cult-related activities.”(p. 144)

“Satanic Cult Worship and Multigenerational MPD” by Kathy Lawson reports on a woman and her young children who, after two years of therapy, were all diagnosed with MPD.

“Within the year, co-hospitalization with all three had been arranged. … As the doctors began to break through her barrier of secrecy, revealed was a history of multigenerational satanic worship, torturous human sacrifices, cannibalism and sadistically cruel abuses of all kinds. … This paper will expand on the satanic occult, symbols, cues, cult death contracts and the inter-marriages in the elite groups to form a high level of blood purity. This high level of blood purity allows entire communities to become “locked in” to a higher system and create “safe pockets” within states or regions.”(p. 177)

“Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Therapist Response to the Horror,” by Jean Olson, Kate Mayten, and Nancy Kowal-Ellis reports on cases of PTSD in “many therapists who treat patients with multiple personality and related dissociative disorders [who] have encountered … individuals who have been victimized by satanic cults. These patients reveal experiences with ritualist practices that seem to exceed the scope of the imaginable. And yet we know that these events have occurred … are occurring. Consistent reports from patients and therapists across the country, as well as beginning media attention to the problem, prohibit us from denying the reality of these horrifying accounts of abuse.”(p. 29)

Another entitled “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by Proxy” by Braun, Mayten, Olson, Gray, and Antoinette Pucci discusses nurses and therapists developing PTSD due to exposure to vivid accounts of traumatic events: “This is particularly evident when the patient has been a victim of the ritualistic forms of abuse seen in certain cults.”(p. 11)

A paper by Gwen L. Dean, entitled “Treatment of a 13 year old adolescent female treated in an inpatient hospital setting first diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder then MPD after an alter presentation,” reports on an alleged case of SRA.(p. 159)

“Clinical Indicators of Satanic Cult Victimization” by Maribeth Kaye and Lawrence Klein discusses the alleged signs and symptoms of SRA:

“Therapists need to learn to identify the often subtle, embedded cues suggestive of Satanic cult experience in order that they might facilitate the abreactive work of their clients. … The presenters will demonstrate a variety of the signs of Satanic cult experience; provide a clinical perspective in which to regard the material; describe the context in which these signs may occur; articulate the clinical sequelae resulting from Satanic cult victimization; and share some of their clinical experiences in working with multiples who have been victimized by Satanic cults.”(p. 178)

“Cultic Conformity-Producing Techniques” by Julia Ladien explains the alleged ways that cults use programming and brainwashing to produce alter personalities that serve the cult’s purposes.(p. 179)

A bizarre paper called “The Differentiation in Multiple Personality Between Real-Life Personality Systems, Occult Systems, and Mystic Systems” by Judianne Densen-Gerber reads:

“To be discussed is a highly intelligent, classical multiple personality who has the presence of a real-life system, which is defined as personalities who interact in a reality set with the world at large, plus an occult system which serves demonic, ritualistic purposes, and a mystic system which is culturally identified with appropriate abreaction formation. For example, the patient had a hysterectomy at the age of 29; the occult system sacrifices several mice each month in order to have a 5-day bleeding cycle. This system, however, does not interact, nor has ever been seen by anyone in the world at large, nor by the therapist. It has only been described by the alter. The occult system is considered essential to maintain the patient as a functioning female as well as to reassure the patient that she has not become pregnant by demonic evil forces at large.”(p. 180)



In his introduction at the 1988 conference, president Philip Coons wrote that membership consisted of 904 members in 47 states and 6 countries.(p. xv) Topics presented at this conference again focused heavily on cults and SRA, with items covered including: cults; outpatient treatment of MPD; inpatient treatment of MPD; schizophrenia’s overlap with MPD; dissociation in prostitutes and exotic dancers; dissociation in adolescents and college students; diagnosing MPD; childhood multiples; MPD in a four year old; hypnosis; family therapy; self-harm; Carl Jung; dream symbology; iatrogenic MPD; abreaction; differentiating MPD from seizures; eating disorders in MPD patients; incest; group therapy; borderline personality disorder; age regression; age progression; and CBT. Notable presenters included many that had presented at prior conferences: Loewenstein, Kluft, Sachs, Greaves, Braun, Ross, Fine, Gray, Dell, Goodwin, Feldman, Fraser, Summit, and Barach. Richard Noll, George Ganaway, and Kathy Steele also delivered presentations. Noll, who later spoke out against the ISSTD’s promotion of SRA conspiracy theories, presented a paper discussing a Jungian analysis of MPD.

Similar to the 1987 conference, the 1988 conference included a section on “adult survivors of ritualistic abuse.”(p. 1) In all, there were approximately 9 presentations on SRA or a related topic.

A paper titled “Eating Disorder as Response to Multimodal Child Abuse” by Goodwin and Reina Attias discussed the presence of eating disorders in incest victims. The abstract bizarrely claims that disordered eating functioned, “1) as a repetition of the abuse, 2) as an actual or fantasied defense against the abuse, and 3) as an expression of or defense against feelings aroused by the abuse.” It further states that disordered eating is a reenactment “for several types of abuse: neglect/starvation; forced fellatio; forced ingestion of toxins or excretions; cannibalism; emotional abuse around meal times or weight; forced vomiting and enemas.”(p. 29)

Another paper, “The Believability Factor” by Kaye, compares disbelieving patients reporting SRA to historical denial of child abuse as a whole:

“The memories of MPD clients, particularly those with satanic cult histories, are often gruesome and unsettling. Hearing the unheard of can evoke resistance in even the most seasoned clinician. When therapists begin to focus exclusively on questioning the believability of the “unheard of”, we may begin to consider the client manipulative and/or delusional which may make it difficult (impossible?) to assist the client in facing and dealing with the horrors of his/her past. … In this paper, I will discuss the believability factor, examining the roots of the dilemma and the ramifications for treatment when believability becomes an overriding issue in therapy. … I will also attempt to share some of what I have learned and observed in working with my clients, many of whom have satanic histories.”(p. 56)

Sally Hill and Goodwin presented a paper entitled “Satanism from Early Rome to Medieval Times: Echoes in Modern Clinical Practice” that attempts to validate patient disclosures of SRA by comparing these disclosures with historical claims of alleged cult activities – without taking into account the context of those historical claims, which would reveal them to be false. The abstract states:

“In working with dissociative patients who report victimization by cults, a major clinical problem has been that these memories feel so alien to normal experience that both therapist and patient have difficulty finding a framework for them. … In this presentation we will juxtapose historical materials … and clinical materials … in order to describe aspects of cult experience. Roman documents from the second century describe in detail the Black Mass practiced by certain Gnostic sects. Revulsion at these practices was a major factor in the Empire’s resolve to outlaw Christianity. Menstrual blood and semen were drunk, infants sacrificed and cannibalized, and orgiastic sex took place involving children as well as adults. Medieval documents describe the concordances and reversals between satanism and Christianity; satanism employs the medieval Christian calendar with Easter and the quarter days (Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas and All Hallows’ Eve) as high holidays. Medieval woodcuts illustrate the role of animal torture, chants, candles, and geometric designs in the ritual and symbolology of satanic cults.”(p. 59)

“Recognition of Possible Cult Involvement in MPD Patients” by Braun and Sachs furthers the cause of determining the signs and symptoms of SRA. The checklist includes:

1. Certain items on the patient’s list of the 10 things of which they are most afraid. Items will be identified which are more common in victims of ritualistic abuse.

2. A history of severe depression or suicidal ideation around certain specific times of year such as, Easter, early August, Halloween, and Christmas.

3. A history of suicide attempts at specific ages (annual or more frequent suicide attempts in adolescence followed a pattern of attempts every five years after age 20).

4. A history of eating disorders which wax and wane in coordination with the times of year mentioned above.

5. Evidence of satanic symbolism in the patient’s art work.

6. References to satanic symbolism in the patient’s conversations or writing, especially if these references occur in the patient’s list of the 10 things they are most afraid of.

7. A history of sexual abuse by both males and females.

8. Evidence of behaviors that have been triggered in the patient by cueing from another individual.(p. 60)

“Outpatient Management of Lethality and Parasuicidality in MPD Survivors of Childhood Cult Abuse” by Steven Feldman discusses,

“the special issues of lethality and self-destructive acting out in the outpatient psychotherapy of cult abused MPD patients. … Amongst childhood victims of cult abuse with MPD, the phenomenon of self-murder, self-mutilation, self-immolation, self-application of caustics, (i.e. oven cleaners, chlorine bleach, etc.) are particularly problematic. This paper will illustrate the relationship between this behavior and the hypnotic like rituals employed by cults and the interpersonal/intrapsychic adaption stratagem employed by MPD patients to cope with this caliber of abuse. Case examples will be cited to demonstrate the linkage between ritualistic abuse, the function of abusive alters, and the objectification and disenfranchisement of the body.”(p. 61)

The abstract of “Issues in the Treatment of Cult Abuse Victims” by Young states that,

“There have been increasing numbers of therapists reporting multiple personality disorder patients with a history of violent ritualistic abuse by cult members. … Alter personality systems are likely to reveal angry and victimized Satanic alters. … Dissociative alters may reflect a variety of processes including traditional defensive alter formation, establishment of alters programmed by cult authority and the internalization of victims the patient has witnessed sacrificed.”(p. 62)

A paper titled “Is Showing Telling? The Value of Art Therapy and Sandplay in the Treatment of Dissociative Disorders” by Terri Sweig includes the following in the abstract: “Slides and discussion focus on material revealed in art work and sandplays which spontaneously emerged despite the prohibitions against telling anyone about horrendous physical, sexual and psychological abuse including Satanic ritual experiences.”(p. 138)

The abstract of a paper by Braun on inpatient treatment of MPD states: “The treatment of MPD on such a specialty unit does, however, present its own variety of treatment issues. Patients admitted to a specialized setting are often those who have experienced the most severe and often ritualistic abuse and represent the extreme end of the MPD spectrum.”(p. 14)

A paper titled “Non-Hypnotic Diagnosis of Multiple Personality: 40 Cases” by Gregory Gillette reports that practitioners of hypnosis tend to have a greater number of MPD patients, though it does not consider that such patients may be produced via iatrogenesis:

“Despite the remarkable growth of interest in multiple personality since 1980, few clinicians have reported personal series of more than a few cases. Reports involving larger numbers of patients have usually involved pooling of cases seen by numerous clinicians, with minimal attention paid to such issues as interrater reliability. Those few clinicians who have reported larger personal series are often specialists in hypnosis. In fact, much of the professional literature has emphasized using hypnosis in diagnosing and treating multiple personality, perhaps leaving clinicians unskilled in this technique believing that they can neither reliably diagnose nor effectively treat this disorder.”(p. 23)

Another paper by Braun, Sachs, and Elaine Shepp on “planned abreactions” includes mention of the use of leather restraints.(p. 85)

During one of these presentations, according to Richard Noll, Braun blamed Satanic cults for the epidemic of MPD cases, further stating that these cults were organized like “communist cells, with local regional, district, national, and international councils.”[7]



The annual conference of 1989 covered many of the usual topics from years prior: SRA; two year olds with MPD; dreams; dissociative disorders in Holocaust victims; inpatient treatment of MPD; movement therapy for “remembering pre-verbal sexual trauma”; art therapy; Rorschach; hypnosis; family therapy; multigenerational MPD; thyroid and cortisol differences in alters; sleep studies; ritual abuse and spirituality; exorcism; sandtray therapy; dissociation in “alternative healers”; group therapy; AIDS; conversion disorder; animal alters; and whether Edgar Allen Poe had MPD (or wrote about it). Predictably, these presentations were delivered by many of the usual notable characters: Braun, Fine, Ross, Putnam, Kluft, Greaves, Ganaway, Hopponen, Goodwin, Hill, Steele, Chu, Dell, van der Hart, and Coons. In addition, D. Corydon Hammond, Suzette Boon, and Frances Waters delivered presentations. According to Greaves, Loewenstein stated at this conference, in reference to MPD: “Never in the history of psychiatry have we ever come to know so well the specific etiology of a major illness, its natural course, its treatment.”[9](p. 81) A total of 18 presentations included mention of SRA or a substantially similar topic in the abstract.

An extraordinarily disturbing presentation by Braun discussed “Psychology and Brain Chemistry in the Programming of Human Beings.” Based on his experiences with more than 80 patients reporting SRA, including human sacrifice and cannibalism, Braun claims “there is increasing evidence that these groups are programming individuals to suicide and/or self harm as a means of maintaining obedience and secrecy.” Braun’s evidentiary basis for this claim is patient reports that they were “repeatedly forced to “practice” suicide (via asphyxiation by choking or hanging) from as early as infancy.” Braun suggests that,

“the pairing of pain and pleasure (endorphin release) via Classical and Operant Conditioning is being used by satanic cults in the programming of individuals to suicide or self harm. … It is hypothesized that repeated strangulation during infancy and early childhood is used to sensitize and predispose the individual to addiction to their own endorphins. As the child grows older, the endorphin release is systematically associated with cue phrases, symbols, color and/or sex as a means of self-reinforcement and of gaining the child’s compliance with other cult rituals, such as forced participation in ritual sex, murder and cannibalism.”(p. 11)

A paper titled “An Abuse Pattern Checklist: Rorschach and Dissociation” discusses diagnosing SRA with a Rorschach test.(p. 59)

As a follow-up to their 1987 paper on “Clinical Indicators of Satanic Cult Victimization,” Kaye and Klein present a paper titled “Four Levels of Precaution in the Treatment of Satanic Cult Victims,” in which they “delineate 4 levels of precaution in work with satanic survivors, the vast majority of whom are believed to be multiple.”(p. 24)

Greaves presented a paper on “A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach to the Treatment of MPD Ritually Abused Satanic Cult Survivors.” The abstract states that victims of SRA “commit and witness heinous acts of torture and violence upon others, and [are] made to believe that [they are] the agent of such violence.” In addition, according to Greaves, victims are “subjected to a highly-sophisticated program of conditioning aimed at a) systematically furthering the interests of the cult, b) meticulously protecting its innermost secrets, and c) forever subjugating the victim to the complete will of the cult on pain of torture, complete humiliation, and imminent death.” Moreover, the paper encourages alleged victims “to take walks with friends in a safe environment at the precise moment when one is terrified of being abducted.”(p. 40)

“Summary of Treatment Issues of Behavioral Modification Programs Treating Adolescent and Child Multiples Including Those Ritualistically Abused” by Dean discusses and compares “3 separate hospital units designed to treat adolescents and children and the problems relating to the diagnosis of dissociative disorders, multiple personality disorder and ritual abuse.”(p. 48)

Linda Young and Walter Young presented a paper titled “Ritual Abuse and Spirituality.” The abstract begins: “Survivors of ritual abuse have survived a multitude of abuses, including physical abuse such as torture, sexual exploitation, pornography, prostitution and witnessing sadistic and violent acts in the name of deviant religious beliefs.” It goes on to state that victims, due to their alleged indoctrination into the cult, “come to view themselves not only psychologically defective but as spiritually evil. Dissociated elements often perceive themselves as demons, devils, or as Satan.” The paper suggests that therapists work with these patients to “repair their sense of spiritual damage.”(p. 74)

Hammond presented a paper which synthesized multiple threads of the emerging SRA conspiracy theory. The paper was titled “The Manchurian Candidate: Antisocial Uses of Hypnosis & Brainwashing in Satanic Cults,” and presented “anecdotal data … to document the antisocial uses of hypnosis in combination with extreme “brainwashing” techniques in satanic cults” based on a nationwide survey of therapists and accounts from “cult survivors.” The abstract explains that the presentation will “conceptualize” and “describe” the “[b]rainwashing techniques,” that cults use on children and adolescents. Following this, the presentation promises to explain the “hypnotic methods, illustrative suggestions given in the cults, types of anti therapeutic suggestions aimed at thwarting treatment, “magical surgery,” and conditioned cues that are established in cults.” The abstract boldly claims that “two instances have been uncovered where cults have apparently successfully created a “Manchurian Candidate,” where an alter personality was programmed to perform on cue as a ‘hit man.’”(p. 97)

A paper titled “The Historical Use of Exorcism” by Sally Hill, Reina Attias, and Jean Goodwin was also presented at the 1989 conference. It draws parallels between treatment of SRA and exorcism: “In the treatment of victims of Satanic ritualistic abuse, symptoms and some aspects of treatment, particularly therapist burnout, echo the literature on demon possession. Historically and cross-culturally exorcism has been and continues to be used as the treatment of choice.”(p. 104)

An abstract titled “History, Beliefs, and Practices of Satanism” by Robert S. Mayer explains:

“The treatment of ritually abused individuals is fraught with dangers, difficulties, disbelief, and confusions. Most likely the therapist treating one of these individuals, has not previously had contact with Satan worshipers and has very little if any knowledge of the history, practices and beliefs of this group. In addition the therapist probably has difficulty believing that in modern America there are groups that worship the Devil and practice evil in some medieval way.”(p. 105)

The paper aims to cover Satanism from a “historical and psychological perspective starting with the ‘birth’ of Satin [sic].” “In addition this paper will outline and discuss the major beliefs of these groups, their practices, and their rituals, along with an attempt to understand the psychology of the practitioners.” The purpose of the paper is to educate therapists treating SRA survivors, including those who have “Satanic or ‘evil’ alters.”(p. 105)

This was not the only paper on exorcism at the 1989 conference. “DSM-IIIR and the Book of Exorcism of the Catholic Church: A Comparison of Diagnostic Criteria and Treatment Methods for the Multiple and the Possessed,” by Paul Dambowic (United Nations) and Judianne Densen-Gerber also drew comparisons between MPD and demonic possession.(p. 106)

A presentation on “Triggers, Programs, and Cues in Survivors of Ritual Abuse” by Walter C. Young was also delivered at this conference. As the abstract explains, “patients surviving ritual abuse show unusual response patterns which are the result of repetitive indoctrinations during cult training. These response patterns include programmed responses, triggers and cues. … often [programmed] with the use of torture and electrical stimulation, or other means, to achieve a variety of responses, such as suicide or other cult objectives.” Echoing prior presentations by Braun and Sachs on cult “suicide programming,” the paper claims that cults program victims of SRA to commit suicide when given a particular “cue.” The paper also discusses “implications for treating these phenomena.”(p. 145)

Another titled “Understanding Cult Triggers” by Diane M. Vickery, Kaye, and Klein had an abstract which explains that “[c]ult-active individuals frequently send cards or other items to individuals whom they want to silence. Though some appear benign on the surface, these items have specific, hidden meanings which convey messages to cult-programmed individuals. We will display a selection of these items and discuss the contexts in which they were sent and their hidden meanings.”(p. 146)

The paper “Satanic Programming Designed to Undercut Therapy,” authored by Don Beere, describes the treatment of a patient diagnosed with MPD and SRA, and how the cult “programming” aimed to sabotage treatment: “I began to explore possible ways this person had been programmed to respond to ‘help’ and unearthed an interconnected array of triggers designed to sabotage any healthy growth or the experience of pleasure or esteem. Some of these cues were the words, ‘’therapy’, ‘teacher’, ‘help’, and ‘doctor.’’ Specific alters seem to have been ‘programmed’ to stop what was going on when they heard these cue words.” Further, the paper “explains,” if the “cult programming” didn’t halt therapeutic progress, “another ‘layer’ of ‘programming’ would trigger loss of control to kill the helper, which, if ‘unsuccessful’, would next trigger suicide.” The abstract further explains how the therapist’s treatment method “freed this client to move around these sabotaging cues and into the satanic material.” In other words, the therapist was successful, by his own account, in getting the patient to stop thinking about suicide by working to recover false memories of SRA instead.(p. 147)

A paper by Jamie Lynn Baylog titled “The Creation of Dissociation as an Aid and Benefit to Destructive Cults” states, in the abstract, that “[i]t has been well addressed in past conferences that Multiple Personality Disorder and other Dissociative Disorders are the results of extreme abuse and torture, especially by destructive cults.” Baylog writes that cults create alter personalities “in order to meet the needs of the cult, to continue the abuse of the victim, and keep them silent. This becomes an important aspect to keep in mind as we begin to see clients in treatment who have alters that can still be cued to participate in cult activities.” The paper promises to expound upon the “[feasibility] for a destructive cult to have individuals become split in mind and body from infancy,” using “case material” as evidence.(p. 148)

“Treatment of Adolescents with Multiple Personality Disorder” by Paul F. Dell and James “Ike” Eisenhower warns of “the vulnerability of adolescent multiples to cult involvement due to the wave to satanic-chic in the high schools.”(p. 178)

The abstract of a paper titled “An Integrated Approach to Rage Release in the Outpatient Treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder” by Susan Schrader explains that “[t]his paper will describe a carefully planned abreactive extended session, which combined gestalt, bioenergetic, psychomotor and hypnotic techniques to provide a corrective emotional experience for rage release in a cult survivor.” The paper explains the “profound impact of this work for all alters … in terms of rage release in a safe outpatient context, introjection of positive parental messages from therapist accommodators, and the entire process taking place in a cooperative group setting, which corrects for the authoritarian control of the cult rituals.”(p. 54)

There was also a presentation on “Non-Hypnotic Therapeutic Techniques of Multiple Personality in Children” by Frances Waters. The abstract explains: “This presentation will describe therapeutic interventions with cases of child multiple personality disorder ranging in age from 8 to 13. … Some of the children were ritualistically, sexually abused.”(p. 165)

Finally, the abstract of a paper titled “AIDS Considerations in Dissociative Disorder Patients,” by Teresita McCarty and Kate M. Hendrickson includes the following bizarre statement: “Victims of ritual abuse are not likely to become infected by ingestion of blood or body parts but may be at risk when infected blood, semen or cerebral spinal fluid is applied to an abraded body. Contaminated needles may also be used to inject drugs or obtain blood.”(p. 183)




At the 1990 conference, incoming president Catherine Fine stated that “[t]he consensus of the committee is that the quality of the papers has never been higher.”(p. xi) In addition, she rather cryptically proclaimed that “[s]ome issues which could not have been broached at the Second International Conference had become mainstream by the fifth.”(p. xi) The conference that year included topics such as paranormal experiences; treating psychotherapists with MPD; treating dissociative disorders with naltrexone; age-regression; guided imagery; hypnosis; MPD in French speaking countries; back problems in patients with dissociative disorders; electroconvulsive therapy; voluntary restraint; MPD in males; automatic writing; group therapy with child alters; factitious disorder; addiction; internal family systems; sandplay; integration of alters; therapeutic touch; ceremony; discriminant validity of the Dissociative Experiences Scale; self-mutilation; countertransference; and working with sexualized child alters.

The presenters were predominantly from the usual cast of characters: Putnam, Ross, Ganaway, Kluft, Fine, Braun, Boon, van der Kolk, Coons, Bowman, Loewenstein, Steele, Barach, van der Hart, Sachs, Goodwin, Greaves, Rivera, Fraser, Gould, Chu, Kaye, Feldman, Waters, and Smith. New notable presenters included Oliver French, Judith Peterson, Kevin J Connors, Christine Comstock, and Catherine Gould.

At this conference, Frank Putnam decided to break his silence regarding his skepticism regarding claims of SRA circulating within the ISSTD. To that end, emboldened by the publication of FBI Supervisory Special Agent Kenneth Lanning’s preliminary report on ritual abuse, Putnam invited Richard Noll and Sherrill Mulhern to participate in a panel on the topic alongside Ganaway and Putnam.[11] While Putnam and Ganaway presented “balanced,” “both-sides” type arguments, Noll and Mulhern were strident in rejecting SRA claims.[7] Following the panel, several ISSTD members accused Noll of being a secret witch or a Satanist, and Gloria Steinem – an admirer of Braun’s – attempted to persuade him of the veracity of SRA claims.[7] Putnam claimed there was a “shouting match” and that he, too, was “called a Satanist many times.” He was subsequently alienated from the Society that he helped found, stating, “I got a lot of grief. Some of it very inappropriate – intended to be physically intimidating.”[11]

According to Noll, Braun’s SRA workshop in 1990 included him exclaiming “See the Satanism!” as he pointed to a patient’s red crayon scratching on a sketch pad.[7]

The panel offered an opportunity for the ISSTD to course-correct and stop promoting unfounded SRA conspiracy theories; instead, the conference that year featured nearly as many SRA-promoting presentations as the prior conference. 17 presentations discussed SRA, Satanism, or a similar topic; notably, two were on factitious cases of SRA, and another was largely neutral.

A paper titled “Hypnotic Strategies Depotentiate Cues and Triggers in MPD Victims of Ritual Abuse,” by Nancy Perry furthers the theory that Satanic cults program victims to sabotage their own treatment: “MPD ritual abuse victims have almost invariably been conditioned to respond to specific cues with behavior mandated by a cult. These behaviors are usually antithetical to treatment of MPD and may be dangerous to both the patient and therapist.” The paper claims that an inability to be hypnotized can be evidence of cult programming. It further describes “strategies” for “breaking hypnotic seals placed by the cult; the use of hypnotic regression to change cult cues; and utilization of an alter personality as a co-hypnotherapist.”(p. 25)

Judith A. Peterson and Cynthia L. Zarling presented a “Case Study of Four Family Members of a Transgenerational Orthodox Satanic Cult with MPD.” The abstract explains that the presentation will explain “typical cult memories and experience,” “compare and contrast” accounts of SRA from geographically separate victims, and discuss “treatment issues with cult produced alters,” and “multilayered communication between cult alters in family members.” According to the authors, “[t]he mother was born into the cult and the involvement can be traced back two generations. … Documentation and commonality of cult memories is an ongoing issue. The major memories as documented nationally by other cult victims were found in this family, including details about human sacrifice, cannibalism, black hole, shock to create alters, marriage to Satan, buried alive, birth of Satan’s child, internal booby traps, forced impregnation and sacrifice of own child.” The paper then compares this family’s memories to the accounts described in the study published by Young, Sachs and Braun in 1988, and claims all four members of the family have MPD. “The internal organization of each family member is different as each had different futures planned by the cult,” the paper alleges.(p. 80)

A presentation on “The Language of Cues and Triggers in Ritualistic Abuse as Found in the Work of Cooper Edens,” was delivered by James Coane and Byron Braid at this conference. The abstract claims that “[t]herapists report the use of books, cards, music and other items commonly available as cueing devices,” to trigger cult programming in SRA victims. “The works of Cooper Edens, an artist and author, have come to our attention from several sources as containing material that produce these responses and reflect these structures and content.” The paper “undertake[s] a detailed analysis of the complete works available of Edens,” and concludes that they contain “a pattern of language and symbols that are consistent with the dissociative structures in patients reporting satanic ritualistic abuse.” The paper concludes by asserting that it “in no way is meant to speculate on the motives or personal beliefs of Cooper Edens or Green Tiger Press.”(p. 85)

Sachs presented a paper on “Ethical Questions in the Treatment of Dissociative Disorders.” The abstract of the paper describes the “ethical concerns .. raised when treating a dissociative disorder patient with previous cult involvement.” These include the patient returning to the cult (which Sachs amusingly describes as “recidivism”), what to do “about reported murders/abuses from the past?”, and what should be done about a patient that enters therapy in order to leave the cult.(p. 107)

A paper on “The Use of Ceremony in the Treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder” by Joyce Vesper includes the following in the abstract: “The use of ceremony is not necessary in the treatment of all multiple personality disorders. However for those persons suffering loss of family members through ritualistic or child abuse, loss of alters through severe trauma or the desire of an alter to “die”, ceremony may be an assistance to the treatment process.”(p. 138)

“Limitations to the Law of Confidentiality as They Relate to Therapists and the MPD Patient” by George H. Faust claims that clinician laws around therapist-patient confidentiality present problems “when it is found that the client has been involved in any type of violence, malevolent mind control, ritual abuse, criminal activity including child abuse and satanic practices.” The presentation promises to explain how the therapist should handle confidentiality in these cases, exceptions to the law of confidentiality, and more.(p. 167)

The paper “Current Allegations of Childhood Ritual Abuse: Working Through the Legal and Child Protection Maze” by Baylog recognizes the primacy of discussions of ritual abuse at prior ISSTD conferences: “We have spent past conferences acknowledging the plight of the adult survivor of ritualistic abuse.” In addition, the paper claims, “[w]e are beginning to … see active cases of child ritual abuse, or suspect that our clients’ children may in fact be subjected to the same types of abuse the client experienced as a child. As a helping profession we are mandated to report any suspected child maltreatment to the proper state authority.” The paper goes on to explain the struggle to get child protection agencies to take reports of SRA seriously: “when the child protection worker arrives the child may appear normal and not say a word, when police become involved one may experience a jurisdictional problem, and if a case gets into court the subject of ritual abuse can be disbelieved or in some cases thrown out.” The abstract of the paper states that the author “privately consults on suspected cases of active ritual abuse of children.” The paper explains how to work with state agencies to find an outcome “that would benefit all parties” in SRA cases. “We have taken the first step of educating ourselves to the issue of ritual abuse. Now that we have the knowledge, we are faced with the challenge of recognizing and preventing further ritual abuse of children,” the paper demands. “These same children, if they are indeed heard, lose their voice during the legal process. It takes time to make a system move, however, one must be willing to start the process.”(p. 169)

Young presented a paper titled “Deceptive Practices in Satanic Cults.” The paper claims that Satanic cults practice deception on young victims, using “highly confusing indoctrination techniques, including torture, electric shock, isolation, under stimulation and over stimulation combined with drug use and other forms of mental confusion … to disorient cult victims.” According to Young, patient accounts of SRA, “may reflect actual memory or may reflect a deceptive practice” used by the cult. “Deceptive practices also enhance the magical and powerful image of the satanic cults leaders who appear to have super-natural powers and capabilities beyond the ordinary.” The paper promises to differentiate between the deceptions and the actual experiences of SRA victims.(p. 182)

A paper by Martin Smith, titled “The Addictive Nature of Perpetrators of Ritual Abuse,” argues that perpetrators of SRA are addicted to abusing children.

“The basic premise is that perpetrators of ritual abuse are addicted to behaviors and substances which serve to mask primitive feelings of horror and fear. These feelings result from emotional scarring in their own childhood, usually by their family of origin or the cult in which they were raised. … Periodic involvement in ceremonial activities serves only to deaden buried feelings for short periods. As soon as these activities are over, they need to re-engage in additional addictive and dissociative patterns in order to avoid being overwhelmed by feelings of panic and despair.”(p. 183)

The paper further makes the fascinating yet nonsensical claim that SRA perpetrators commit “ceremonial abuses .. to produce a state of negative excitement … [which] becomes part of an overall dissociative pattern that is used to keep memories of early traumatic experiences from coming into conscious awareness. Thus children in cults become objects of abuse, used by perpetrators to dissociate from their own pain.” (p. 183)

Goodwin presented a paper titled “Sadistic Sexual Abuse: Illustrations from the Marquis de Sade.” The abstract of the paper begins by describing “problems” with the term “ritual abuse,” which include that it “may lead to conspiracy theories.” An alternative term, “sadistic sexual abuse,” is proposed. Goodwin uses “vignettes from The 120 Days of Sodom, written by the Marquis de Sade in 1784 while he was incarcerated in the Bastille for sadistic sexual acts” to provide examples that she believes parallels “common ‘ritual abuse’ practices reported in recent pre-school cases. … DeSade’s illustrations reenforce the sexual nature of extreme abuse, an aspect for which child victims may be developmentally oblivious. Linking ritual abuse with recreational, psychopathological and political forms of sadistic sexuality may help us cope with credibility problems in the field.”(p. 112)

Dale McCulley and Bruce McCulley presented on “Ritual Abuse: Disinformation, Media Manipulation and Public Perception.” The abstract states that “[t]herapists working with patients suffering from dissociative disorders are likely to have firsthand experience treating the sequalae (sic) of ritual child abuse. … For both therapist and survivor, the lack of public (and in some cases professional) acceptance of the phenomenon of ritual abuse complicates an already difficult healing process.” The abstract concludes: “The presenter has been involved in the research and production of four professional training videos on ritual child abuse and ritual crime,”(p. 114) most likely referring to the series of VHS tapes produced by Cavalcade Productions, a company the authors incorporated in 1981.[12]

A presentation on “The Use of Play Therapy with Child and Adult Survivors of Ritual Abuse,” by Vicki Graham-Costain and Catherine Gould claims that “[p]lay therapy is the primary way in which most ritually abused children will be able to resolve the trauma of their abuse. Feelings will be abreacted and a sense of mastery over the trauma can be established through play therapy.” The paper also recommends play therapy for adult victims of SRA who have child alter personalities. “This presentation will outline the rationale for structured play therapy; specific strategies and materials useful in treating ritual abuse survivors; and differences between the treatment of children and child alters of adult survivors. Drawing upon personal treatment experiences and consultations with other therapists, concrete examples will be presented. Slides will be used to illustrate symptomatology and techniques described.”(p. 130)

Another paper reports on an alleged case of familial SRA. “Intergenerational Ritualistic Abuse: A Case Study of a Family” by Lora Matz and Susan Phipps-Yonas describes a case in which an 8-year-old boy in therapy for the previous 5 years for domestic abuse “was seen along with his parents and sister (now age 5).” Though he initially presented as potentially autistic, the abstract claims, his younger sister, at age two, “disclosed ongoing sexual abuse perpetrated by the father upon her and her brother.” According to the paper, the father admitted guilt and during his incarceration “described the ritualistic aspects of his abuse of his children, the manner in which he taught them purposefully to dissociate and to achieve altered states of consciousness, and the nature of his programming. He disclosed, too, his own involvement, as a child, in an international satanic cult and the specific rituals which he re-enacted with his children.” The father was subsequently diagnosed with MPD, as was the 8-year-old boy. Both the boy and his sister were hospitalized. The paper concludes: “This case study is unique. It is one of the first to consider disclosures from both the victim and the perpetrator. Furthermore, in raising critical developmental questions, it broadens the way in which we conceptualize MPD in children.”(p. 150)

To their credit, the 1990 conference did include two papers that involved the discussion of false claims of SRA. “Satanic Abuse: A Factitious Case With Suggestions for Diagnostic Evaluation” by Philip Coons describes a case in which a patient, according to Coons, fabricated claims of SRA or otherwise suffered from false memories of such abuse.(p. 79) Braun and Sachs also presented on “Factitious Reports of Satanic Ritual Abuse”; the abstract explains that “the authors have seen and expect to see an increasing number of patients who present false reports and misinformation concerning their alleged histories of ritual abuse as a result of satanic cult involvement. Six such cases will be discussed and the reasons which led the authors to rule out satanic cult involvement will be examined.”(p. 113) It should be noted, however, that these “factitious reports” were significantly outnumbered by the number of cases of SRA that Braun and Sachs believed to be legitimate.

In addition, the paper “Satanism and the Demonization of Heresy I: Gnosis” by D. A. Begelman warned against attempts, such as that undertaken by Hill and Goodwin at the 1988 conference, to draw parallels between historical accounts of Satanism and recovered memories of SRA in patients. In particular, Begelman claims, such an attempt relies “on a cultural record that is actually a contaminated data-base,” rife with fabrications, hoaxes, and witch-hunt impulses.(p. 111)

1990 was also the year of the Second Annual Eastern Regional Conference on Multiple Personality and Dissociation in Alexandria, Virginia.[13] Although it is unclear if these regional conferences were put on by the ISSTD, the faculty included many ISSTD members, including: Christine Courtois, Comstock, Fine, Ganaway, Burgess, Kaye, Kluft, Loewenstein, Putnam, Rivera, Ross, Sachs, Torem, Turkus, van der Kolk, and Helen & John Watkins. Notably, “cult expert” Steven Hassan was also on the faculty. Pre-conference courses included a workshop on clinical hypnosis and an introductory-level course on “Identification and Treatment of Ritual Abuse Survivors.” Other courses included treating MPD with hypnosis, “managing abreactions,” “combatting cult mind control,” “Advanced Issues in the Treatment of Satanic Cult Ritual Abuse Survivors” and a workshop on ego-state therapy.(p. 4)



The proceedings of the annual 1991 conference were not published in the database of the American Psychiatric Association, so the nature of the presentations delivered at that year’s annual conference are presently unknown to us. This section will be updated when we obtain the conference proceedings.

However, another Eastern Regional Conference on Abuse and Multiple Personality[14] took place that June, again in Alexandria, Virginia. Many ISSTD members were among the faculty, including: Burgess, Calof, Chu, Courtois, Feldman, Fine, Ganaway, Kluft, Loewenstein, Putnam, Ross, Summit, and Turkus. Classes again included managing abreactions (taught by Kluft) and “Issues in Satanic Cult Ritual Abuse: An Overview” led by Kathy Snowden. In addition, Kluft and Fine delivered a course on using hypnosis to treat MPD.(p. 4)



In the introduction to the 1992 conference Moshe Torem stated that there were 2,641 members of the ISSTD at the time. He warned, perhaps a bit too late, that “[w]e must be careful not to become a ‘cult’ of believers in MPD and dissociation that rejects anyone who ‘has not seen the light.’”(p. xv) A special program in honor of Wilbur, who passed away that April, was arranged for the conference.(p. xvi)

The topics at the 1992 conference included: misdiagnosis; inpatient treatment; cost analysis of MPD treatment; art therapy; lesbianism; inpatient therapy; sandplay; play therapy; partial hospitalization; the Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule; utilizing clergy in therapy; autohypnosis; differential diagnosis; treating partners of abuse survivors; horticultural therapy; couples counseling; suicides in MPD patients; factitious/malingered MPD; and abreaction. The theme of the conference was health insurance coverage and cost effectiveness of dissociative disorder treatment. A total of 9 papers which mention SRA or a similar topic in the abstract were presented at this conference.

Predictably, notable presenters at the conference consisted of the usual dramatis personae: Braun, Kluft, Sachs, Putnam, Goodwin, Gould, Greaves, Young, Fraser, Chu, Barach, Rivera, Boon, Ross, Bowman, Olson, Smith, Turkus, Connors, Peterson, Coons, Feldman, van der Hart, Smith, and Fine. In addition, Peter Maves, Steven Jay Lynn, Jerry Mungadze, and Eve Carlson presented at the 1992 conference.

A paper by Nancy E. Perry titled “Secondary PTSD in Therapists Treating MPD Patients who Report Sadistic Abuse” promises to “explore and define the effects upon therapists of doing therapy with [MPD] patients reporting sadistic ritual abuse.” Perry describes using “[p]ersonal interviews with 14 experienced clinicians who treat these patients,” concluding that treating SRA victims raises “[i]ssues of physical safety and threats involving both therapists and their families.” The paper concludes by describing the importance of “understanding the possible personal cost to therapists treating this patient population,” and offering “guidelines” for such therapists.(p. 21)

A paper titled “Basic Treatment and Program Neutralization Strategies for Adult MPD Survivors of Satanic Ritual Abuse,” authored by David W. Neswald and Catherine Gould, was presented at this conference. The abstract explains: “Treatment of the [SRA] patient with [MPD] is a comparatively new field, as well as an enormously complicated endeavor. Perhaps most challenging is the neutralization of cult mind-control programming.” The purpose of the paper is to provide “basic treatment strategies” for therapists treating MPD and SRA, in order to combat the alleged mind-control programming. These “strategies” included “recruitment of cult-loyal alters” and “identification of internal programmers.”(p. 22)

Robin Grant-Hall and Laurie Anne Pearlman presented “A Theoretical Framework for the Treatment of Ritual Abuse.” The abstract claims that “[f]or treatment purposes, it is important for therapists to conduct a thorough assessment and construct a flexible treatment plan rather than be carried along by the sensational elements of ritual abuse.” However, the paper promises to focus on the “unique elements of trauma induced by ritual abuse.” In addition, “examples are provided as to how satanic cults systematically work to destroy a child’s sense of self. The sequelae often observed in ritual abuse survivors, such as difficulty being alone, intense self-loathing, and the inability to tolerate intense affect is addressed.”(p. 23)

“The Devil and the Inquisition: Satanic Cult Abuse in the Basque” by Begelman discusses a 1610 Spanish tribunal created “to investigate reports of Satanic cult activity.” The activity allegedly included “[d]evil-worship, murder, sexual orgies involving adults and children, secret nocturnal rites regulated by a Satanic calendar, infanticide, cannibalism, vampirism, punishment of defectors or apostates, renunciation of Christianity, Black Masses involving inversions of Catholic ritual, the use of drugs, and the ceremonial abuse of children. All rites were allegedly conducted in covens or aquelarres (“fields of the goat”) which gathered in meadows.” Begelman lauded the work of one inquisitor, Alonso de Salazar Frias, for his “reflective perspective on reports of Satanic cult activity. He pioneered newer canons in the scientific treatment of this theme, despite the then prevailing atmosphere of panic and hearsay.” Begelman claims the case and Salazar’s investigation has a “modern ring.”(p. 24) Given Begelman’s prior presentation warning against comparing historical accounts of Satanic cult activity and alleged modern-day SRA, it’s unclear if Begelman’s paper is promoting a recreation of Salazar’s inquisition to tackle an imagined horde of Satanists.

A paper titled “Art Therapy, Horticultural Therapy, and Verbal Psychotherapy: Parallel Processes in an MPD Inpatient with Alleged Satanic Ritual Abuse” by Mindy Jacobson, Ron Durham, Nadine Kenline, and Jack Gomberg was also presented at the 1992 conference. The paper discusses the inpatient treatment of a “fourth year psychiatric resident diagnosed with [MPD]” who allegedly suffered from SRA. The SRA diagnosis came about as a result of “the patient’s art therapy and horticultural productions,” which were eventually linked to “material she was exploring with her psychiatrist,” after which the patient disclosed alleged memories of SRA.(p. 87)

Kevin J. Connors presented on “Memory, Trauma and Meaning: Treating Ritualistically Abused Clients.” The abstract acknowledges that recovering SRA memories often results in a patient’s mental health worsening: “Treating patients alleging ritualistic abuse is often a difficult and arduous task. Traditional treatment strategies often result in an increase in PTSD symptomology, acting-out behaviors and suicide attempts. Memories, that are seemingly successfully abreacted, arise months later to continue to plague and intrude on our patients’ lives.” The evidentiary basis for the paper consists “primarily” of “observations gathered by the author in both out-patient and specialized in-patient psychiatric settings while treating over 75 patients alleging ritual abuse.” Connors also used material from “anecdotal reports” provided by “other clinicians treating similar clients.”(p. 139)

Walter Young and Linda Young presented a paper titled “Manchurian Hysteria and Therapeutic Impasses in Treating Patients Reporting Sadistic Ritual Abuse.” The abstract recognizes the “absence of any large scale independent validation” regarding SRA. The paper warns against therapists concluding too much about patient claims of SRA, leading them to “bend interventions and make recommendations which are disempowering to the patient and have little to do with the overall therapeutic goals.” Further, the paper claims: “Many patients have re-enacted, or set up, scenarios that would appear cult related” but are not. “Therapists need to remain aware of how little actual data yet exists to help us understand SRA,” the paper says.

“Cults in Court: Forensic Implications of Ritualistic and Satanic Abuse” by a Dr. Ondrovik and a Dr. Hamilton claims that many MPD patients are reporting, with “increasing frequency … ritualistic and/or Satanic worship as an element” of their alleged abuse. The abstract states that, “[i]n the clinical setting, these ‘memories’ can be abreacted and processed in a non-judgemental, supportive and therapeutic environment.” It also downplays the importance of verifying that these memories are grounded in reality. The paper claims that, “[i]n a criminal prosecution, or in a tort action for civil damages,” MPD patients may have their memories “challenged by brutal cross examination and allegations suggesting fantasy, malingering, therapeutic iatrogenesis, even lying.” Further, “[w]hen MP/DD diagnoses are coupled with accusations of cult abuse the forensic complexities are compounded.” The paper “explores the evidentiary problems” and “burden of proof difficulties” that go along with SRA claims in a court of law.(p. 140)

Jerry Mungadze’s presentation covered “Scripts and Screen Memories in Victims of Ritual Abuse: Etiological and Treatment Implications.” The abstract begins by recognizing the controversy over the validity of SRA memories but assures the reader that articles supporting the SRA conspiracy theory are numerous – referenced articles include the Hill and Goodwin (1989) article published in Dissociation, and a 1987 article authored by Gould. The paper expounds upon prior theories presented at ISSTD conferences regarding false memories implanted by Satanic cult members to cover up their real crimes: “It has been the experience of the author and other clinicians that there are memories and experiences reported by victims of SRA that are nothing but scripts written for the victim’s alters to play out and screen memories fed to the alters for trickery and torment.”(p. 142)

The 1992 Eastern Regional Conference[16] was held in June in Alexandria, Virginia. Conference faculty included: Barach, Braun, Burgess, Calof, Chu, Courtois, Fine, Hammond, Kluft, Loewenstein, Peterson, Ross, Mark Schwartz, Steele, Torem, and Turkus. Courses included topics such as hypnosis for treating MPD (led by Hammond), retrieving repressed memories (by John Briere and Courtois), managing abreactions (by Peterson), and therapy with survivors of ritual abuse (Steele and Joanna Colrain). Keynote speakers were F. Gonzalez-Crussi and Ann W. Burgess. Special events included a video festival and a “town meeting” on “the ritual abuse controversy.”(p. 4) It was at this conference that Hammond delivered the infamous “Greenbaum Speech[17].” The speech, which would become the central folklore of the Satanic Panic, baselessly argued that techniques used to install mind control programs were brought to the United States by a Satanic Hasidic Jewish Nazi named Dr. Greenbaum.



The introduction to the proceedings of the 1993 conference, delivered by then-president Colin Ross, states that conference attendance is usually in the range of 800-1000.(p. v) He also announced that MPD would be renamed to dissociative identity disorder (or DID) in the DSM-IV.(p. v)

Presentations at the 1993 conference included topics such as: MPD as “metaphysical deviance”; abreaction; the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF); legal issues; forensic psychology; therapeutic methods; eating disorders; false memories; exorcism; MPD and lesbian identity; restraints and seclusion; Paul McHugh; hypnosis; SRA; EMDR; and survivor clients who are perpetrators of SRA. 7 presentations covered SRA-related topics.

The presenters included: Braun, Sachs, Greaves, Young, Ross, Goodwin, Chu, Kluft, van der Hart, Putnam, Boon, Connors, Klein, Faust, Turkus, Feldman, Peterson, Maves, Rivera, Coons, Steele, van der Kolk, Bruce McCulley, Dale McCulley, Loewenstein, Bowman, Smith, Hill, Courtois, and Spiegel. There were a few new faces as well, including Linda Meyer Williams, Steven Frankel, John Curtis, and Sandra Paulsen.

Klein’s presentation, titled “Perpetration Issues in the Treatment of Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse,” suggested therapists might wrongly think their patients who are survivors of SRA perpetrate such abuse on others only by force.(p. 142) In other words, therapists should consider whether their patients are willing participants in SRA.

Greaves presented on “The Expert Witness Role in Cases of MPD, Recovered Memory, and Ritual Abuse.” The abstract underscores the increasing importance of expert witnesses in MPD and SRA cases. “The role of the expert witness,” according to Greaves, is to help attorneys “clarify quite vexing issues of perplexing testimony.” The abstract points out that opposition counsel will attempt to impeach an expert witness promoting SRA based on ignorance of the case, use of hyperbole in testimony, contradictions, lack of knowledge in supposed field of expertise, and “[i]nability to intelligently grapple with claims made by previous expert witnesses.” Greaves writes that “[p]sychiatrists and psychologists (but not them alone) are notoriously poor expert witnesses, because they have a tendency to be confused between what is factual (empirical) and what is theoretical (hypothetically explanatory through a chain of contingent propositions).” However, the presentation emphasizes how therapists can “deliver unimpeachable forensic testimony,” including in SRA cases.(p. 17)

A paper titled “The Next Ten Years: Legal and Ethical Standards” rather hyperbolically proclaims that if the FMSF “succeeds” in eliminating the disreputable practice of recovered memory therapy then “psychotherapy can be destroyed.”(p. 19)

“Multiple Personality Disorder as Deviance,” by Charles Barton addresses “[t]he plausibility of reports of cult abuse and ritual sacrifice. Although such reports are often viewed as improbable, in fact they do not reflect startling variations from known patterns of deviant behavior already common in the United States. In addition, patterns of disappearance of both adults and children are at least consistent with the failure to uncover ritual sacrifice.”(p. 12)

Walter Young and Linda Young presented a paper titled “True, Not True, and the False Memory Syndrome.” The abstract decries the work of the FMSF, disputing “that therapists create SRA accounts following suggestion or hypnosis.” The paper offers a rather bizarre suggestion: “Since all memory is false to some degree, therapists need to understand those factors that distort the memory process, and allow the creation of false realities that are viewed by the client or therapist as virtually real.”(p. 71)

The McCulleys’ paper was titled “False Prophets of the False Memory Syndrome: A Present Danger to Clinicians.” The abstract offers a stark warning: “The formation of the [FMSF] represents the most serious threat in our time to the practice of psychotherapy. Capitalizing on the gullibility of the media, this group is busily painting a picture of a profession whose members are systematically implanting bogus recollections of sexual and ritual abuse in the minds of their suggestible clients.” The paper suggests various ways therapists and survivors can “fight back” against the FMSF.(p. 72)

“Reality Constructs: A Frame of Reference for Sorting Out the Validity of Ritual Abuse Memories” by Rachel Downing proclaims that “[r]itual abuse survivors report memories of extreme violence including torture, bizarre medical rituals and homicide.” The paper aims to provide a framework “to sort out the validity of these memories … developed from clinical case material and discussions with therapists and law enforcement.”(p. 73)

A paper by Connors, titled “Trauma, Beliefs and Recovery,” argues that “experienced clinicians recognize the underlying dynamics of extensive and sophisticated mind control” present in bizarre memories of abuse. “Patients with organized abuse/mind control histories tend to skew the meaning of events, either twisting experience to reinforce previously held beliefs or not assimilating new information into their world view.” By “[c]onceptualizing a more extensive view of the dynamics and needs of ritualistically abused clients,” a therapist can “more effectively generate a broad range of treatment interventions tailored to the individual client.” As in Connor’s prior presentation, the paper’s claims are based on “phenomenological observations … while treating over 90 patients diagnosed as MPD/DDNOS,” with additional anecdotal reports from “other clinicians treating similar clients.”(p. 135)

Bowman’s paper was titled “Clinical and Spiritual Effects of Exorcism in 15 Patients with MPD” and, as the title makes clear, discusses the use of exorcism on patients diagnosed with MPD. The abstract points out that “[r]ecently some authors have suggested that persons with MPD may concurrently be demon possessed and benefit from exorcism, but cite no data to determine the outcome of exorcism in this group.” The purpose of the present paper, the author writes, is to fill in this gap in the literature:

“This study was undertaken to determine the spiritual and clinical sequelae of exorcising or telling an MPD patient that she is possessed. The subjects were 15 women with MPD, ages 23-54 (mean 39.5 years) who had felt or been told they were possessed or had undergone exorcism. Consecutive subjects were recruited by contacting local therapists who treat MPD. Subjects were given a semi-structured interview to assess the impact of experiences of being told they were possessed or of being exorcised.”(p. 79)

Of the 15 subjects, the paper claims that all but two had already believed themselves to be possessed, with a total of 14 allegedly having been,

“told by others they were possessed, usually before their diagnosis. … Fourteen subjects had undergone exorcisms which occurred outside of their current therapies and were nearly always performed by clergy or lay religious persons. … The initial reaction to exorcism was negative in about 80% of hosts and alters and was positive in 14% of hosts and 9% of alters. Emotional reactions to exorcisms remained fairly stable over time. … The exorcisms functioned as traumas and resulted in severely dysphoric feelings (87%), symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (53%), hospital admission (60%), a need for more therapy to repair the damage (73%), self-mutilation (43%), and suicidal ideation (43%) or attempts (36%).(p. 79)

Without any apparent awareness of its application to MPD or SRA, Bowman included the following sentence in the abstract: “The subjects’ desire to please exorcists led them to produce auto-hypnotic alterations which were viewed temporarily as relief from ‘demons.’” However, to its credit, the paper does suggest therapists not put MPD patients through exorcism.(p. 79)



After 1993, conference proceedings were much briefer, with no introduction or acknowledgement sections and very few presentation abstracts. This decision to keep the goings-on of their conferences secret may be a result of growing pushback against recovered memory therapy and SRA conspiracy theories, both of which were promoted heavily at prior conferences.

The 1994 conference was still sponsored by Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center and Rush North Shore Medical Center’s Departments of Psychiatry, but the proceedings notably omit mention of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, which had cosponsored all prior conferences.(p. 2) Rush sponsored Continuing Medical Education credits for physicians at this conference, and non-physician attendees were provided a certificate of attendance to submit to their professional association to obtain continuing education credits within their field.(p. 2)

Keynote speakers at this conference included Gloria Steinem, who spoke about “Making the Invisible Visible.”(p. 4) Plenary speakers were Braun, Coons, Torem, Ann Burgess, Jon Conte, David Finkelhor, and Glen Gabbard. Additional speakers mentioned in the brief conference proceedings included Loewenstein, Kluft, Joyanna Silberg, John Watkins, Helen Watkins, and Ross. However, an order form[20] for the catalog of all 1994 presentations on audio tape indicates additional presentations by Calof, Kenneth Pope, Alan Scheflin, Hammond, Courtois, Olson, Turkus, Fine, Goodwin, Mark Schwartz, Sachs, Steele, Young, and Waters. Program committee and workshop faculty included Barach, Boon, Braun, Burgess, Carlson, Chu, Comstock, Coons, Faust, Fine, Fraser, Goodwin, Kluft, Loewenstein, Olson, Rivera, Ross, Sachs, Silberg, Robert Simandl, Torem, van der Hart, and John & Helen Watkins.

Scheflin and Hammond held a program on “Clinical Hypnosis and Repressed Memory in the Courts”; Philip Kinsler presented on “Avoiding and Coping with Misconduct Allegations”;(p. 2) Brian Alman discussed “Teaching Self-Hypnosis to Abuse Survivors” and “Clinical Hypnosis for Incest Survivors”; Francine Shapiro (the creator of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy) and Fine held a “master class” on EMDR for dissociative disorders; Hammond presented an “Introduction to Clinical Hypnosis with Dissociative Disorder Clients”; Fine discussed “Management of Abreactions”; Sachs covered “Clinical Hypnosis in the Treatment of MPD”; and Burgess, Scheflin, Young, and Turkus discussed “Organized Sadistic Abuse.”(p. 3)

Braun, Loewenstein, and Susan Mirow held a workshop on outpatient treatment of dissociative disorders; topics included the use of medication, hypnosis, abreaction, and “specialized techniques.”

Braun and Kluft delivered a four-part workshop on “advanced issues” in the dissociative disorders, again heavily focused on hypnosis but also covering “forensic issues” and “sadistic abuse and traumatic memory.” Kluft also held a “town meeting” style “response to the siege,”(p. 2) likely in reference to the growing backlash against recovered memory therapy.

John and Helen Watkins held a two-day workshop on “ego-state therapy.” The workshop description explicitly states that this form of therapy involves differentiating “the various ego states which occur in a ‘family of self.’” These ego states “are usually covert and become manifest only under hypnosis.”

John Watkins also delivered a presentation titled “The ‘Hillside Strangler’ Case Revisited, True Dissociative Identity Disorder or Faking Sociopath: A 15-Year Follow-up,” referring to Kenneth Bianchi, who successfully fooled Ralph Allison and others into believing he had MPD.[19](p. 5)

Harvey Harris, Joanne Parks, and Braun held a mini-workshop on “Therapists and the Law,” a topic on which Braun is either tremendously knowledgeable or recklessly ignorant, depending on how one looks at it. Topics included “informed consent,” “chronic suicide,” “courtroom testimony, organization memberships, and the media.”(p. 7)

While the 1993 conference included seven presentations which discussed SRA and related topics, there were no references to SRA in the 1994 conference proceedings or audiotape recordings order form. There were, however, numerous mentions of treating dissociative disorders with hypnosis. If the apparent reduction in mention of SRA was a result of backlash, it is interesting to note that the primary method for recovering memories of SRA – that is, hypnosis – remained an extraordinarily popular topic at ISSTD conferences.

In addition, the Fifth Annual Southeastern Regional Conference on Dissociative Disorders took place that March in Atlanta, Georgia, and was presented by the Ridgeview Institute.[21] Conference faculty included Barach, Chu, Comstock, Coons, Fine, Ganaway, Kluft, Steinberg, and Torem. Chu led a post-conference workshop on “The Therapeutic Roller Coaster: The Treatment of Complex Cases of Survivors of Childhood Abuse.”(p. 4)

After 1994, Braun and Sachs were no longer organizing annual ISSTD conferences.



We currently do not have access to ISSTD annual conference proceedings for 1995 and 1996. These may be added in the future.

The ISSTD held a Spring conference in Amsterdam in 1995.[22] Topics included trauma, memory, amnesia, DID, and eating disorders.



The 1997 conference included[23] a joint session with the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Pre-conference workshops that year included[24] presentations from Kluft, Fine, John O’Neil, John and Helen Watkins, Torem, Fraser, Waters, Richard Chefetz, Su Baker, and Ruth Blizard. Mini-workshops included[25] one from Goodwin on how “The Body Speaks About Childhood Trauma” and “The Dilemma of Repressed Memories” by Fraser. Joint workshops with ISTSS focused[25] largely on treatment issues in patients diagnosed with dissociative disorders. The joint symposium with ISTSS covered[25] issues relating to diagnosis, epidemiology, traumatic memory, and treatment, with presentations from Kluft, Bowman, Steinberg, Coons, Chu, and Torem.



The 1998 conference included a plenary session with Chris Costner Sizemore, the patient known as “Eve.” Another plenary session promised to reveal “The Cellular Biology of Traumatic Memory.” Laura Brown discussed how to “survive” as a “Trauma Specialist in the Age of False Memory Litigation,” revealing the organization’s growing preoccupation with being sued by former patients for implanting false memories of abuse. Jennifer Freyd, daughter of Peter and Pam Freyd who founded the False Memory Syndrome Foundation following Jennifer’s accusations of sexual abuse by her father, delivered a presentation on “Trauma and Attachment.” Scheflin’s lecture explained “How Professional Organizations Can Affect the Media and the Courts,” demonstrating the ISSTD’s fixation on regaining control of the narrative about trauma and memory in the wake of the backlash against recovered memory therapy.

A workshop by Randy Noblitt covered the “Clinical and Forensic Considerations” of SRA.[27]



A conference took place[28] in the Spring of 1999 in the United Kingdom. Mary de Young, a sociology professor who would later publish two books on the Satanic Panic, presented on the “social construction” of SRA diagnoses. Thorsten Becker and Joan Coleman presented, presumably, the opposite perspective in their presentation titled “Ritual Abuse: An European Cross-Country Perspective.” Interestingly, Ralph Allison made an appearance, presenting on “Internalised Imaginary Companions.” This conference took place approximately nine months after Allison lost his license for refusing to undergo a psychiatric examination ordered by his licensing board.[29]

The 1999 Fall conference included[30] many of the usual topics from the typical characters: Baker, Rivera, Fraser, Boon, Steele, Putnam, Barach, and Peterson, among others. Alison Miller, a proponent of SRA conspiracy theories of the most extravagant variety, held a workshop on “Special issues in therapy with survivors of abuse by organized criminal groups.” Board complaints and lawsuits were again[31] top of mind, as reflected by a double symposium on “Dissociation and the Law” featuring Peterson, Steele, and Frankel. Another workshop promoted the use of both EMDR and hypnosis in treating DID. H. Jane Wakefield presented a paper on “Variations on the Boardroom for Cult, Ritual Abuse, and Mind – Control Survivors.”




The conference in 2000[32] was held in San Antonio, Texas, and included presentations on “Contextual Therapy of a ritual abuse survivor with DID” by D. Weiss, J McIninch, and S. Morris;(p. 1) “Sadistic Ritual Abuse” by G. F. Rhoades;(p. 3) “Introduction to body-energy therapies” by G. Peterson;(p. 4) and “Iatrogenesis as related to the psychology of recanting” by J. Peterson (likely arguing that false claims of false memory implantation by therapists are iatrogenic, or something to that effect).(p. 5)



The 2001 conference was again jointly held[33] with the ISTSS. A paper by Tanya Hall looks at “Rorschach indices of dissociation.” The usual cadre of presenters discussed the typical topics. Few, if any, focused on SRA.



The 2002 conference again[34] featured a presentation entitled “Sadistic Ritual Abuse: Overview and research review” by Rhoades. Additional topics included PTSD, borderline personality disorder, OCD, and diagnosis and treatment of DID. Lynn Crook discussed “inadequate legal representation of therapists accused of implanting false memories” and Peterson covered “issues and lessons learned” regarding therapy and false memory “proponents.” One day of the conference was a joint session[35] with ISTSS. A religion oriented symposium covered “God and dissociation,” “Committing to God,” “Healing Priestesses: Trauma, dissociation, and spirit possession in Sri Lanka,” and “Dissociative experience in the history and practice of Christian Science.” A mini workshop by Gary Peterson discussed the integration of EMDR and “energy healing” in DID treatment. Another paper[36] by Wakefield and Rebecca Beardsley explained the healing and recovery of “survivors” of SRA.



The 2003 conference was held[37] in Chicago, Illinois. It contained many of the usual presentation topics from the typical presenters, with none referring explicitly to SRA in the title. In line with recent prior conference presentations, Gary Peterson presented on “treating DID with energy psychotherapies.”(p. 7)



The 2004 conference included[38] what had by then become a staple presentation on “risk management” – in other words, how to avoid getting sued by your patients.(p. 1) Rhoades presented a literature review and an offering of “current perspectives” on SRA.(p. 2)



The 2005 conference was once again[39] held jointly with ISTSS. The theme[40] of the conference was “dissociation across the lifespan,” including in babies and toddlers. A paper by Sandra Baita reviewed a supposed case of DID in a 4-year-old girl. Allison, despite losing his license to practice medicine in 1998, was again invited[41] to present at the conference.



The conference in 2006 included[42] a workshop by Noblitt, Rhoades, Dana Raphael, Thorsten Becker, and Frances R. Yoeli on “Ritual abuse as a mitigating factor in dissociative disorders.”(p. 8) The workshop’s “objectives”[43] were: (1) “recognize commonly alleged practices of ritual abuse and corresponding dissociative behaviors and experiences,” (2) evaluate the meaning and credibility of ritual abuse allegations,” and (3) “formulate diagnostic and treatment planning options.”(p. 13) A plenary session by van der Kolk discussed “traumatic stress, dissociation and other mental disorders.”[42](p. 4)



The 2007 conference was held in Philadelphia, PA. A half-day workshop by David Grand and Lisa Schwarz promoted “brainspotting” for treating trauma and dissociation.(p. 14) Heather Davediuk Gingrich and Jocelyn N. Laverinto presented on the allegedly successful treatment of a client presenting as possessed by a spirit.(p. 15)



The conference in 2008, the ISSTD’s 25th, was held in Chicago, IL. One paper, presented by Carol Schickel and Jennifer Baldwin, looked at “Self as “sacrificeable” victim: A theoretical look at the role(s) of ritual in dissociated self-injury” which appears to have been about SRA in the form of self-harm.(p. 14) There were many presentations discussing the use of hypnosis in therapy with DID patients. A panel by Thomas Carlton, Kluft, and Miller asks, regarding patients alleging victimhood of SRA, whether mental health professionals have “thrown the baby out with the bathwater.”(p. 16) Another paper, by Wanda Karriker, was about “Understanding ritual trauma,” though it is unclear if this is in reference to SRA.(p. 17)



A mini workshop, by Gingrich and Victoria Tucker, in 2009 discussed “The role of religious and spiritual transformation as components of healing from [DID] associated with [SRA].”(p. 17) Another, by Gingrich, suggests “psychological exorcism” as a treatment for “spirit possession.”(p. 17) There was, as in previous conferences, a heavy focus on hypnosis as a treatment method for DID.




The 2010 conference included a special plenary presentation by van der Kolk on “developmental trauma disorder.”(p. 11) Miller presented on the “basics” of treating “clients reporting histories of ritual abuse or mind control,” from “deliberately induced false beliefs” to “alters performing trained behaviors.” The workshop promised to help attendees, among other things, gain an “understanding” of “demonic and other threatening alters.”(p. 39) Another, by Wakefield, covered the “dilemmas” or working with patients who are victims of SRA or “mind control.” This presentation included a discussion of the “ethics of working with perpetrators outside of a penal system,” likely in reference to patients who are not only victims of SRA but who supposedly perpetrated it. Objectives included the ability to “describe the interactional trance states that occur between therapist and client.”(p. 59) In addition, a forum discussion featuring Ellen Lacter, Miller, and Adah Sachs openly discussed “Torture-based mind control: Psychological mechanisms of installation and continued control.” The forum referenced MKULTRA as an example of a successful mind control operation and included an analysis of “coercive covert hypnosis.”(p. 63) As in previous conferences, all Special Interest Groups held a meeting. For the first time, however, the conference program in 2010 specifically mentioned the meeting of the Ritual Abuse and Mind Control Special Interest Group.(p. 62)



In contrast to the year prior, the 2011 conference did not appear to feature any presentations about SRA or “mind control.”



The 2012 conference again featured a staple of the ISSTD’s annual conferences around this time: a workshop on hypnosis for the treatment of DID, presented by Kluft. This conference also included a presentation by Valerie Sinason on “Computers, demons and animals: Working with externally created dissociative states who do not believe they are human.” Another, by Crook, argues that false memory is a “myth.” Lacter and Sinason presented a paper on “Therapists reporting histories of ritual abuse trauma.”



This conference included[50] a paper presenting a case series of “possession disorder” in South Korean patients. It also included[51] a basic training in hypnosis, by “special cooperative arrangement with American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.” A plenary session[52] on Polyvagal Theory was provided by Stephen Porges.



The 2014 conference again[53] featured basic training in hypnosis. A plenary session by Freyd discussed the topic of institutional betrayal. A list of the papers presented at this conference was unable to be found. A presentation[54] by Rachel C. Thomas examined the narratives of clients subjected to “mind control torture” that produced their DID. In particular, she discusses a client who “reported lizard-alien abduction and torture on board a UFO,” exploring the “symbolic and literal complexity” of such claims. The alien abduction was a “real but hallucogenic [sic]” type of “trickery” employed by unnamed perpetrators aboard the “military vessel.”



The 2015 conference included the usual hypnosis workshop and numerous presentations on dissociation and trauma. It does not appear that any presentations focused on SRA took place.



A program listing all presentations that took place at the 2016 conference was unable to be found. However, a listing[56] of the pre-conference presentations shows the typical lectures expected from ISSTD conferences.



A program listing all presentations in 2017 was unable to be found. A list[57] of plenary sessions and pre-conference workshops[58] reveals a focus on trauma, borderline personality disorder, hypnosis, and substance use, among other topics. A regional conference in Anchorage, AK, took place in 2017; the program included[59] a lecture in which the “treatment of a 12-week old baby, 22 month old baby, and an adult” were discussed. How one provides trauma treatment to a 12-week old baby is left to the reader’s imagination.

In October 2017, a “RAMCOA” (ritual abuse, mind control, and organized abuse) webinar[60] took place, featuring presenters Eileen Aveni, Lynette Danylchuk, Miller, Michael Salter, and Sinason. This webinar appears to have been Salter’s first ISSTD presentation. The abstract of Miller’s presentation boldly proclaims: “Victims of organized abuse, in particular mind control and ritual abuse, frequently have deliberately designed personality systems with parts trained to maintain the security of the perpetrator group.” Aveni’s portion of the webinar promises that viewers “will be introduced to both government (Monarch/MkUltra) and cult mind control programming.” It also warns that SRA and mind control can be “misdiagnosed” as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Objectives of the presentation include being able to identify “at least five presentation clues that indicate a possible diagnosis of ritual abuse, mind control, or organized abuse” and “describe some hallmark features of Monarch mind control.”



A presentation[61] at the ISSTD conference in 2018 included the topic of “prenatal” trauma. Another presentation, by Aveni, covered a “new approach to mind control treatment in ritual abuse clients,” referencing “Monarch programming, generational satanism, witchcraft groups, and others” as “common [mind control] systems.” Aveni’s “approach”[62] is called “the migration model,” which involves “migrating” alter personalities away from “the dark side” and towards god. (In other words, away from “Satanism” and toward Christianity.) Another presentation by Sinason (who was introduced by Salter) discusses the “occult holidays,” such as Halloween and Christmas, during which she claims people who have been victimized by Satanic cults have a more difficult time. A “learning objective” of the presentation included being able to “name the key dates in the year that have been shown to have the most impact on clients alleging [SRA].”

A webinar[63] by Sue Richardson discussed “clinical supervision of work with RAMCOA: an attachment-based perspective.”



The 2019 conference included[64] a presentation by Adah Sachs and Salter titled “Organized abuse: Criminology, traumatic impact and implications for treatment.” During the presentation, in reference to the daycare cases that ignited the Satanic Panic, Salter argues that “the evidence is pretty good that sexually abusive groups did start daycare centers for the purposes of producing child abuse material in the eighties.” He also credulously repeats numerous SRA tropes as fact, including people chanting in robes, bestiality, drinking blood, electroshock, ingesting feces, and the debunked claim that there were tunnels found beneath McMartin Preschool. In addition, he endorsed the notion that perpetrators of SRA utilize “specific tortures” to create “specific personalities” in their victims.

Another presentation, by Susan Pease Banitt, discusses “Attachment, rupture, and repair in the treatment of survivors of [SRA] and mind control.” The program description states[65] that “[s]urvivors of ritual abuse and mind control are stepping forward in unprecedented numbers on social media and revealing themselves in therapy settings,” and that “[i]n some cases their handlers (abusers) have mimicked psychologists and/or psychiatrists.” Learning objectives for this lecture include responding “compassionately” to “unbelievable disclosures.” Another presentation, by Joanne H. Twombly, discussed victims of “sadistic abuse” and cult-like families.

In October[66], another “RAMCOA” webinar took place, this time with Banitt, Susan Hykes, Ross, and Salter as presenters. The description of Banitt’s presentation appears to be identical to that of her conference presentation earlier in the year.(p. 1) Ross presented on “The documented reality of CIA and military mind control,” apparently in reference to his debunked theories about MKULTRA and related attempts to develop mind control programming. The description proclaims that “Manchurian Candidates have been used operationally by the US military since World War II,” and that, although it may be difficult or impossible to validate patient claims of being victims of CIA and military mind control experiments, “they are usually consistent with many of the techniques described in CIA documents.” Inexplicably, however, this “coincidence” is meant to “help therapists maintain therapeutic neutrality” when patients describe SRA and mind control.(p. 2-3) Salter presented on the “invisibility of ritual abuse” and its “intergenerational transmission.”(p. 3) There should be little doubt this presentation was a mere rehashing of the usual SRA conspiracy theories dressed up in academic language to make it sound “scientific.”




In early March the ISSTD held[67] a London Regional Conference dubbed “A Day with Professor Michael Salter.” It included a presentation on “ritual abuse, prolonged incest and the intergenerational transmission of sexual violence” chaired by Sinason. The presentation discussed “the role of ritual in familial cultures of abuse.”

The 2020 annual conference, derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, took place[68] virtually in the Fall. It does not appear that any presentations focused on SRA in particular, though it very likely came up in several presentations. Just before the annual conference, the ISSTD Board unilaterally changed the name of the Ritual Abuse, Mind Control, and Organized Abuse Special Interest Group to the “Organized and Extreme Abuse Special Interest Group,” a decision that outraged members of the group. In their letter to the group, the Board of Directors acknowledged that the name change was in large part due to an effort to protect their ability to confer continuing education credits for their conferences.

An individual using the aliases David Kaye, David Sarikaya, and Ali Davut Sarikaya, was originally scheduled to speak at the annual conference. However, he was quietly removed from the list of scheduled speakers after Grey Faction revealed his history of multiple convictions of fraud and falsely representing himself as a psychiatrist. In fact, he holds no credentials whatsoever relating to the practice of psychology, mental health, or psychiatry.

October again included[69] a webinar featuring Warwick Middleton, Sinason, Johanna Schroder, and Salter. Middleton’s presentation managed to assert the Jeffrey Epstein case as a proof of SRA.(p. 1) Schroder discussed alleged cases of SRA in Germany.(p. 2)



The 2021 annual conference did not[70] appear to include[71] any presentations focused on SRA. In October, a “Half Day Webinar Series[72]” was provided by Miller and Salter. Miller’s presentation focused on “jobs” assigned to SRA and mind control victims, and how survivors can “stop doing perpetrator-assigned jobs.”(p. 1)



The 2022 annual conference did not[73] appear to feature presentations on SRA.


See also



[1] ^ a b Braun, B. G. (Ed.) (1984). Proceedings of the First International Conference on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States. Department of Psychiatry, Rush University. Chicago, Illinois.
[2] ^ Braun, B. G. (Ed.) (1985). Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States. Department of Psychiatry, Rush University. Chicago, Illinois.
[3] ^ Acocella, J. (1999). Creating hysteria: Women and multiple personality disorder. Jossey-Bass. Available on the Internet Archive.
[4] ^ Braun, B. G. (Ed.) (1986). Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States. Department of Psychiatry, Rush University. Chicago, Illinois.
[5] ^ Braun, B. G. (Ed.) (1987). Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States. Department of Psychiatry, Rush University. Chicago, Illinois.
[6] ^ Braun, B. G. (Ed.) (1988). Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States. Department of Psychiatry, Rush University. Chicago, Illinois.
[7] ^ a b c d Noll, R. (2014). Speak, memory. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved on 2023-01-22. Archived here.
[8] ^ Braun, B. G. (Ed.) (1989). Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States. Department of Psychiatry, Rush University. Chicago, Illinois.
[9] ^ Hacking, I. (1998). Rewriting the soul. In Rewriting the Soul. Princeton University Press. Available on the Internet Archive.
[10] ^ Braun, B. G., & Carlson, E. B. (Eds.) (1990). Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States. Department of Psychiatry, Rush University. Chicago, Illinois.
[11] ^ a b Middleton, Warwick. (23 May 2019). “An Interview with Frank Putnam, Part II.” ISSTD News. Retrieved on 2023-01-22. Archived here.
[12] ^ California Secretary of State. (n.d.). Business Search.
[13] ^ Cover, table of contents. (1989). Dissociation: Progress in the Dissociative Disorders, 2(4).
[14] ^ Cover, table of contents. (1990). Dissociation: Progress in the Dissociative Disorders, 3(3).
[15] ^ Braun, B. G. & Carlson, E. B. (Eds.) (1992). Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States. Department of Psychiatry, Rush University. Chicago, Illinois.
[16] ^ Cover, table of contents. (1991). Dissociation: Progress in the Dissociative Disorders, 4(3).
[17] ^ Hammond, C. D. (1992). “The Greenbaum Speech.” Delivered at the Fourth Annual Eastern Regional Conference on Abuse and Multiple Personality, Alexandria, Virginia. Transcript available here.
[18] ^ Braun, B. G., & Parks, J. (Eds.) (1993). Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States. Department of Psychiatry, Rush University. Chicago, Illinois.
[19] ^ a b International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (1994). 1994 Annual Conference Guide.
[20] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (1994). 1994 Annual Conference Tapes Order Form.
[21] ^ Cover, table of contents. (1993). Dissociation: Progress in the Dissociative Disorders, 6(1).
[22] ^ Cover, table of contents. (1996). Dissociation: Progress in the Dissociative Disorders, 9(4).
[23] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “ISSD 14th International Fall Conference.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[24] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “ISSD Pre-Conference Workshops.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[25] ^ a b c International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “ISSD Symposium Workshops.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[26] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “PRELIMINARY SCHEDULE.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[27] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “CONFERENCE AGENDA.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[28] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “ISSD Spring-Conference 1999: THE SPECTRUM OF DISSOCIATION.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[29] ^ Medical Board of California. (23 November 1998). Decision and Order.
[30] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “ISSD 16th International Fall Conference – Detailed Program.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[31] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “ISSD’s 16th International Fall Conference – Audiotape Ordering Form.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[32] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “ISSD’s 17th International Fall Conference – Audio Cassette Tape Order Form.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[33] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “2001 Schedula at a Glance.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[34] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “Program Details – Monday.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[35] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “Program Details – Sunday.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[36] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “Program Details – Tuesday.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[37] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “ISSD 20th International Fall Conference – Preliminary Confernce Program.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[38] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “ISSD 21st International Fall Conference – Audio Cassette Tape Order Form.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[39] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “ISSD 2005 Conference Brochure.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[40] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). No title. Original unavailable. Archived here.
[41] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “Program Details – Monday, November 7.” Original unavailable. Archive here.
[42] ^ a b International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “Preliminary Program.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[43] ^ International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (n.d.). “Objectives for 2006 Conference Presentations.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[44] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “Preliminary Program.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[45] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “Preliminary Conference Program.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[46] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “Final Program.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[47] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “ISSTD 27th Annual Conference – Final Program.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[48] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). 2011 Conference Schedule. Original unavailable. Archived here.
[49] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “Preliminary Schedule Information.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[50] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “2013 Schedule-at-a-glance.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[51] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “2013 Pre-Conference.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[52] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “2013 Plenary Sessions.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[53] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “2014 Plenary Sessions.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[54] ^ Thomas, Rachel C. (2014). Screenshot of presentation abstract from EventScribe (1 of 2). Available here.
[55] ^ “2015 ISSTD Annual Conference Full Schedule.” (n.d.). Retrieved on 2023-01-23. Archived here.
[56] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “2016 Pre-Conference.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[57] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “ISSTD 34th Annual Conference Plenary Sessions.” (n.d.). Original unavailable. Archived here.
[58] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “ISSTD 34th Annual Conference Pre-Conference.” (n.d.). Original unavailable. Archived here.
[59] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “2017 Anchorage, Alaska Regional Conference – Program Details.” (n.d.). Original unavailable. Archived here.
[60] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “In-Depth Exploration of RAMCOA: Five-In-A-Day Webinar Series.” Original unavailable. Archived here.
[61] ^35th Annual ISSTD Conference Full Schedule.” (n.d.). Retrieved on 2023-01-23. Archived here.
[62] ^35th Annual ISSTD Conference Full Schedule.” (n.d.). Retrieved on 2023-01-23. Archived here.
[63] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “Past Webinar Library.” Retrieved on 2023-01-23. Archived here.
[64] ^Schedule at a Glance.” (n.d.). Retrieved on 2023-01-23. Archived here.
[65] ^Schedule at a Glance.” (n.d.). Retrieved on 2023-01-23. Archived here.
[66] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “Webinars.” Retrieved on 2023-01-23. Archived here.
[67] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “London Regional Conference.” Retrieved on 2023-01-23. Archived here.
[68] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “2020 Fall Virtual Conference.” Retrieved on 2023-01-23. Archived here.
[69] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “Webinars.” Retrieved on 2023-01-23. Archived here.
[70] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “2021 Virtual Conference.” Retrieved on 2023-01-23. Archived here.
[71] ^2021 Virtual Conference.” (n.d.). Retrieved on 2023-01-23. Archived here.
[72] ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). “Organized and Extreme Abuse Half Day Webinar Series.” Retrieved on 2023-01-23. Archived here.
[73] ^ “Full Schedule.” (n.d.). Original unavailable. Archived here.


Last updated: April 15, 2023. Have more information to add or want to suggest an edit? Please contact us.