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Try to Remember: Psychiatry's Clash Over Meaning, Memory, and Mind [Kindle Edition]

M.D. Paul R. McHugh
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In this thought-provoking account, McHugh explains why trendy diagnoses and misguided treatments have repeatedly taken over psychotherapy. He recounts his participation in court battles that erupted over diagnoses of recovered memories and the frequent companion diagnoses of multiple-personality disorders. He also warns that diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder today may be perpetuating a similar misdirection, thus exacerbating the patients’ suffering. He argues that both the public and psychiatric professionals must raise their standards for psychotherapy, in order to ensure that the incorrect designation of memory as the root cause of disorders does not occur again. Psychotherapy, McHugh ultimately shows, is a valuable healing method—and at the very least an important adjunct treatment—to the numerous psychopharmaceuticals that flood the drug market today.
An urgent call to arms for patients and therapists alike, Try to Remember delineates the difference between good and bad psychiatry and challenges us to reconsider psychotherapy as the most effective way to heal troubled minds.

Editorial Reviews


“This is the absorbing, never-before-told story of how a cult of Freudian psychiatrists went on a witch-hunt across America … before a small band of scientists risked their reputations and livelihoods to expose the cult for what it was: a wacky pack a quacks.”—Tom Wolfe

(Tom Wolfe)

“America’'s premier pioneering biological psychiatrist Paul McHugh blows the whistle on sloppy and trendy thinking in psychiatry. . . . A must read.”—Michael S. Gazzaniga, Ph.D., author of Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique

(Michael S. Gazzaniga)

Try to Remember is a riveting account of his battle against the repressed memory movement. It is also a passionate plea for psychiatry as a humane science, grounded in evidence, and focused on helping people in the here and now.”—Michael J. Sandel, author of The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering

(Michael J. Sandel)

“Readers of this splendid book will not forget its central lesson: If psychotherapists do not learn from their colossal mistakes, they will surely repeat them.”—Carol Tavris, Ph.D., co-author of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)

(Carol Tavris)

“Of all the mad ideas that have swept through the practice of psychiatry since Freud first undertook to map the unconscious, probably none has resulted in more cruelty to patients and their loved ones than those that led to the Recovered Memory Movement and its adjunct disease, Multiple Personality Disorder. . . . Paul McHugh is a healer.”—Midge Decter, author of An Old Wife’s Tale

(Midge Decter)

“Engagingly written and accessible to a wide audience . . . a gold mine of fresh insights and constructive suggestions concerning how we can improve our system of psychiatric diagnosis.”—Richard J. McNally, Ph.D., author of Remembering Trauma

(Richard J. McNally)

“Never has psychiatry been so simultaneously inundated with real science and with so much pseudoscience. . . . McHugh explains to uninitiated readers how he learned to tell the difference and where many of his colleagues went wrong.”— Alan Stone, M.D. Professor of Law and Psychiatry, Harvard University

(Alan Stone)

“Paul McHugh documents some of the absurd concepts introduced into psychiatry . . . his book is of equal interest to those outside the healing professions as it is to those within them.”— Sir David Goldberg, Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK

(Sir David Goldberg)

"Dr. McHugh has rendered a valuable service by describing the lamentable fa (Theodore Dalrymple Wall Street Journal 2008-11-20)

"As well as admirably empathetic accounts of troubling case studies and enjoyable subtle demolitions of rival 'colleagues,' the book offers a polemical primer on competing schools of thought in psychiatry over the last half-century. Lest the abuses he documents irreparably damage the reputation of psychotherapy, McHugh concludes, his profession ought to take a rigorously empirical approach to mental health, and cast out 'therapies built on suspicion.'"--Steven Poole, Guardian (UK)
(Steven Poole Guardian)

"McHugh's account, by his own admission, is deeply personal. It is also deeply disturbing. Vulnerable patients were drugged, hypnotized and otherwise manipulated into concocting stories. Scientific method was thrown to the wind. And practitioners behaved badly--very badly."--Globe and Mail
(Globe and Mail)

About the Author

Paul R. McHugh is the University Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University. He formerly was director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and psychiatrist-in-chief at John Hopkins Hospital. He is the author or coauthor of five books and has published over 200 articles in journals and publications such as the Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chronicle of Higher Education, and Commentary.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
"Try To Remember" is a devastating indictment of the recovered memory and multiple personality disorder fads that infected psychiatry in the 1980s and 1990s. The book describes psychiatric theory and practice in an engaging and understandable way, and contains numerous case studies and historical examples that provide a human context. It is a page turner.

This book has a personal relevance for me because my mother was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder when I was about 10 years old. I did not see any evidence of alters before she entered therapy, but the longer my mother was in treatment, the more personalities she developed, until she had dozens that created chaos in our lives. This went on until we moved to a new location, my mother stopped seeing doctors, and the alters just disappeared. They went away on their own, never to return.

Prof. McHugh describes this exact treatment path in numerous case studies in his book, and notes the common catchphrase that multiple personality disorder patients need to "get worse before they can get better." I remember those exact words from my mother's doctors, but she just got worse and worse, becoming delusional, abusive, and suicidal. The only thing that made my mother better was getting away from psychiatrists. My mother now believes that she was brainwashed with drugs and hypnosis, and I agree completely.

So, how did this all happen? Why was my family put through all of that misery? My mother saw many doctors in three states, so no one bad-apple practitioner was responsible. There was some widespread, systematic problem with psychiatry.
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Book February 6, 2009
The average person, reading "Try to Remember", would probably not have a clue as to why this book brings such a profound sense of relief to those who have suffered from the decades-long misadventures of "repressed memory" therapists. Using unscientific theories and backed by a society trying to help children from abusing parents, too many psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers were caught up in a self-righteous, but uncritical, labeling of innocent people as incestuous "perps". The accusers -- those who had gone to professionals for help with their problems -- were betrayed by the methods used, and their families were often devastated. The huge numbers of family members involved are usually grossly underestimated, since for the accused to speak up (against general societal sympathy for the "victim") could mean leaving question marks in the minds of their friends and acquaintances -- "where there's smoke, there's fire!".
McHugh, a well-respected leader in the field of psychiatry, cuts through this web of passionate, but unscientific, theory and practice in a very lucid and readable book. He shows how it fits within a larger framework of the two main theoretical "camps" among psychiatric professionals, including the compromise between them in agreeing on superficial symptomatology, rather than underlying etiology, as the basis for the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual). This is no minor matter, since the DSM, the official classification of mental/behavioral disorders, is the basis for the treatment prescriptions arising from these diagnoses, as well as payment for the professionals.
On top of all this, he gives a clear recommendation about how to go about choosing a therapist. It is a superb book, tying together how the main streams of psychiatric thought produced an unscientific DSM, how the "repressed memory" craze arose from one of those streams, and how to find a more realistic therapist in a sometimes nebulous field.
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19 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Book December 16, 2008
This is a brilliant book by one of this country's foremost psychiatrists. Doctor McHugh exposes some of the "quacks" behind "recovered memories" scam that plagued the the fields of psychiatry and psychology in the 1980s and 1990s by providing an historical account of similar scams. Drawing on his own experience as a clinician, he then goes on to explain how this technique caused irreperable harm to both patients and to other victims who were falsely accused of sexual abuse. If McHugh stopped here, he would have written another good expose. But he goes further. He offers the reader rock-solid guidelines on how to avoid the pitfalls of psychiatry--how to avoid the "quacks" who are always out there ready to ensnare the unwary. This is a MUST-READ for anyone concerned with finding a psychiatrist who can truly helped to heal them or anyone who has already fallen into the clutches of a "quack" and seeks to escape from them. I have learned from this book an invaluable lesson in how to navigate the confusing healthcare system for qualified psychiatric care. Prior to reading this book I was completely in the dark as to how to find a truly good psychiatrist who could help me with my problems rather than the "phonies" that I had dealt with in the past.

A patient in Massachusetts
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15 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lawyer's Perspective December 20, 2008
As a lawyer I recommend McHugh's latest book to any attorney who takes a case involving recovered memory that will turn on "expert testimony." Over one hundred years ago, common law judges observed that "experts come into court speaking of some profession or science in which they are supposed to have more skill and knowledge than the average judge or juror." (Ferguson v. Hubbell, 97 N.Y. 511)

Dr. Paul McHugh is the former director of the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. McHugh is recognized as an expert in the field of "recovered memory." Over the last 17 years he has testified against the widespread use of the therapy to bring out the patients' subconscious memories of some sexual abuse perpetrated by adults at a time when they were children. There are formidable defenders of this practice and theory of "recovered memory," both in the medical community and the popular media.

McHugh, however, is appalled and disgusted by the bullying and demeaning practices that are used to bring out forgotten trauma. Patients are repeatedly instructed to "try to remember," and sometimes their memories are aided by hypnotism and auto-suggestion. The description of these practices reminds me of the Hubbard Electropsychometer used by the Church of Scientology, in which the person who is wired to the meter talks to the auditor and follows his directions. A typical result of this "auditing" is the case of a woman who remembered that she was in the crash of a rocket ship 2000 years ago on another planet. Eureka! The cause of her mental illness is found and she is now "cleared" to live a normal life.

Lawyers might want to Shepardize the US Supreme Court decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow (509 US 579 [1993] "the most important Supreme Court case you never heard of.") A judge cites Daubert when he dismisses a case which affords a significant triumph to Dr. McHugh's side. Read the book - it's a legal thriller.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish more people saw the horrible effects of the false memory syndrome...
Wish more people saw the horrible effects of the false memory syndrome accusations of the '90s. Wonderful expose of a sad time in America's past when the public believed every... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Alldaylongidreamaboutquilts
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, an eye opener and a cautionary tale.
Great book adressing the dangers of unfounded commitment to pseudo-scientific practices and what can happen when professionals close their mind for taking in new discoveries and... Read more
Published 6 months ago by John Ekare
5.0 out of 5 stars AN EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT BOOK !!!
Paul R. McHugh makes more sense out of psychiatry than anyone else. This book explains how and why psychiatric "fads" that are actually harmful arise due to the... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Susan Love Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Fad Needs to Expire - Iatrogenic DID Continues
I had the honor of meeting Dr. McHugh years ago. He is a very humble, no-nonsense, highly intelligent man. Read more
Published on January 31, 2013 by Sheri J. Storm
1.0 out of 5 stars Fuzzy-minded clap-trap
This book is a shocking display of such egocentric thinking that the irrationality of its theories and conclusions is completely invisible to its supposedly brilliant and highly... Read more
Published on January 11, 2011 by Dr. Sally Mc Collum
1.0 out of 5 stars A Good Laugh If Not For My Tears
McHugh's disregard for an actual disorder is heinous. Did anyone notice he only focused on the far distant past for most of the book? Read more
Published on May 29, 2009 by Kate Eriksen
5.0 out of 5 stars A Devastating and Courageous Book
Dr. McHugh writes in a relentlessly calm and clinical style about the Recovered Memory fiasco in psychiatry. Read more
Published on May 5, 2009 by Doug Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
This is a great book about the tragedies caused recovered memory therapy from a reknowned scientist.
Published on April 27, 2009 by M. Leddy
5.0 out of 5 stars demolishes the dangerous psuedo-science that has motivated modern...
An absolute masterpiece. McHugh demolishes the dangerous psuedo-science that has motivated modern psychotherapy, specifically the Freudian nonsense that spawned the "repressed... Read more
Published on February 5, 2009 by Adam Thierer
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