Here’s my comment on my friend Joe Burgo’s blogs Afterpsychotherapy.com re the recent upsurge in teenagers pursuing irreversible sex-change operations long before their brains have fully matured.
Joe, I admire your courage taking a public stand on these complexly challenging, deeply distressing and scientifically uncertain issues. I know you well enough personally to know your views are not based on homophobia. I’ve treated only one trans person into mid- transition, so I haven’t the experience necessary to have an informed position. I’m also basically uncomfortable with the definitions of “mental Illness” and official “diagnostic” categories, which change so radically over time. As in so many other issues which seem to me to boil down to personal beliefs and preferences, I really don’t know what’s “right”.
The controversy reminds me of the “false memory” debate over adults’ “repressed memories” of sexual and other extreme childhood abuse. The terrible consequences of a previous generation of therapists’ naive and unintended use of indirect and direct hypnotic suggestion, and their support of clients’ “retrieved” memories is now clear. Michael Yapko’s definitive book Suggestions of Abuse reports the strong scientific research and understanding of the hypnotic phenomena explaining most such “recovered memories”.
Most well trained therapists now avoid the techniques which led to so many unsubstantiated imaginings of incest and ritual abuse, and the consequent family turmoil. I do believe memories of such things can be forgotten and retrieved, and using the highest standards of familiarity with hypnotic phenomena and required supporting evidence have greatly reduced the painful consequences of creation and/or support of such “retrieved memories”. Â Dr Bob