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In the Press

Cathy Siebold — June 9, 2014

In a recent New Yorker article, research about how memory is stored and reconstructed was described. This article also spoke of ‘new’ exposure and CBT therapies to help victims of trauma cope with their memories. AAPCSW Past President Cathy Siebold's letter reacting to such a claim was published in the June 9, 2014 issue of The New Yorker. As author of this letter, Cathy Siebold has given us permission to reprint it.

Daniela Schiller’s research, demonstrating that traumatic memories can become less painful or even be extinguished, reinforces observations made long ago by psychotherapists. But the discussion about the treatment of traumatic memories should not be limited to cognitive behavioral methods. “Exposure therapy” is but new wine in old bottles. For decades, therapists have been helping patients suffering from traumatic experiences to talk about, or uncover, their memories as a way to ease the emotional power and meaning of the past. The act of remembering requires the construction of new meaning within the context of a relational experience—a fact well appreciated by psychoanalytic theory. Survivors of trauma frequently put themselves in situations that remind them of the trauma they suffered, and this typically has the effect of solidifying the pain associated with these memories. As the psychoanalyst Hans Loewald wrote in 1960, it is by remembering and internalizing new experiences with the therapist that patients can “turn ghosts into ancestors.”

- Cathy Siebold, Cambridge, Mass. in the New Yorker