The Dr. Phil Show: Exploiting Jenny Hill – Woman with 22 Multiple Personalities (Friday, January 11, 2013)

Dr. Phil is starting 2013 exploiting patients instead of using his airtime to teach people interpersonal skills.

His choice…. his money empire …. your entertainment.

Read Doug Mesner’s “Open Letter to Dr. Phil: “a public mental health menace” at the bottom of the page. http://www.process.org/discept/2012/10/19/open-letter-to-dr-phil-a-public-mental-health-menace/ Reprint with permission.

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English: Phil McGraw photographed for the cove...

English: Phil McGraw photographed for the cover of Newsweek magazine by Jerry Avenaim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friday – January 11, 2013

Bipolar and Mentally Ill Moms

Dr. Phil goes behind the stigma of mental illness to show how it’s affecting two families. Amanda, 24, is a mother of two who says she’s bipolar, and that during manic episodes, she becomes violent and screams, yells and shakes. Find out what Dr. Phil cameras capture at her home. Amanda says that despite her illness, her sister, Rianne, and mom, Lori, are insensitive and mean to her — but they say they believe Amanda may be taking advantage of her diagnosis. Rianne says Amanda acts out and uses her illness as an excuse — including an incident in which Rianne claims Amanda punched her in the face and lied to police about it. What does Dr. Phil think is behind Amanda’s behavior? And, does he believe she is bipolar?

Then, Jenny is a 56-year-old mother of three who says she suffers from dissociative identity disorder, formally known as multiple personality disorder. She says she has 22 “alters,” who she calls “parts of me.” Jenny reveals the traumatic childhood experiences that she believes caused her to take on multiple personalities. And, Jenny’s son, Robert, 30, shares what life was like growing up with Jenny. Then, Jenny’s therapist, Judy, who wrote the book, 22 Faces, based on Jenny’s journals and their sessions together, joins the show to defend herself against accusations that she may be exploiting her patient. Go inside the world of real-life families rocked by mental illness in this all-new Dr. Phil!

Retrieved 01-60-13  http://www.drphil.com/shows/

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Open letter to Dr. Phil: “a public mental health menace”

by  —  October 19, 2012

Dear Dr. Phil,

I write this letter to you with little hope of conveying information of which you were previously unaware. Rather, I write this letter so that the general public may be made aware of what you should already be well aware of, in hopes that they may appropriately measure your credibility following your forthcoming broadcast* related to the topic of an alleged satanic cult conspiracy — an episode which promises to be full of misinformation, delusions, harmful false accusations, and lies.

Specifically, it has come to my attention that you will be airing an interview with Judy Byington, author of a book entitled Twenty-Two Faces which purports to be the true story of one Jenny Hill, an alleged victim of the bizarre and controversial psychiatric condition known as Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID] (formerly listed as Multiple Personality Disorder [MPD]).

However dubious the legitimacy of DID, this diagnosis is by far the least of the problems with Byington’s book. Twenty-Two Faces is openly rife with archaic demonologies, and paranoid conspiracy theories being presented as root causes to the disturbances in Ms. Hill’s troubled mind. That Jenny Hill — a former drug addict and prostitute with a history of mental illness — is troubled seems indisputable, but Byington’s book seeks to expose an alleged satanic government plot behind Hill’s mental malaise that is tantamount to speculation upon who, exactly, is beaming voices into the heads of schizophrenics. Such an ignorant approach to therapeutic practice is harmful to mental health consumers, and your endorsement of such can hardly be of any positive value to your viewers.

The broader harm to the public mental health in endorsing a story as laden with paranoid delusion as Twenty-Two Faces — especially insofar as it is a narrative specifically appealing to the mentally vulnerable — should be clear to a doctor of Clinical Psychology like yourself. In fact, as recently as the 1980’s (and extending into the 90s), stories of non-existent satanic cults — upon which Byington has based her unhinged claims — caused a modern witch-hunt now known to sociologists as the “Satanic Panic”. Books foundational to this panic, and thematically identical to Twenty-Two Faces — particularly Michelle Remembers by Lawrence Pazder and Michelle Smith, and Satan’s Underground by Lauren Stratford — were soundly and thoroughly debunked by investigative journalists. Unfortunately, these debunkings only arrived after sensational talk-shows, promoting these books uncritically, helped create a moral panic that ruined families, resulted in false convictions of satanic crimes, and exploited the most irrational fears of countless mental health consumers. Both of these books are listed in Byington’s bibliography, despite their debunkings, and despite the fact the Satan’s Underground was so thoroughly discredited as to be withdrawn from publication… following which the author changed her name and abandoned her story of Satanic Ritual Abuse to instead pose as a childhood victim of the Holocaust.

Among the supernatural claims put forward in Twenty-Two Faces we have:

  • Prophecy: The protagonist’s birth is foretold by her uncle in exacting detail. Through some other-worldly messenger he is “told” that “this was a special child who would do important things on this earth.”
  • Extra Sensory Perception (ESP): apparently believing that child abuse can prove beneficial to the victim (a position I hope you disagree with), author Judy Byington describes that the protagonist, Jenny Hill, was able to break through certain subliminal barriers, not in spite of, but because of, early humiliations. “In the far reaches of her brain a storehouse of demeaning events evidently opened a door for Extra Sensory Perception experiences to enter.”
  • Divine guidance: desperate and in prayer, Jenny Hill hears “a soft, yet thundering voice”, which urges her to “continue to write down your life experiences, for one day a book will be written.”
  • Levitation: Byington describes a cult “filled with Black Magic, levitation, seances and chanting people”. Jenny Hill is admonished at one point that “[l]evitation and evil spirits weren’t anything to mess around with and certainly not worth the price it [sic] would extract.”
  • Divine intervention: In the midst of a Satanic ceremony in which she is bound to an altar, Jenny Hill is spared from sacrifice by a bare-footed “white-robed male personage, surrounded in a glorious White Light”. (Had this “personage” taken a little effort to arrive just a moment earlier, he could have spared the unlucky girl next to Hill, who is said to have been decapitated… but I’m sure His schedule is as busy as His ways mysterious.)
  • Spirit Possession: Making clear that possession isn’t merely a more primitive cultural interpretation of DID, Byington describes that Hill has suffered both DID and spirit possession, the latter being cured by the prayers of LDS church officials.

Any one of these topics would be a bit much for one episode, and each of these remarkable claims demands remarkable evidence. So what evidence does Byington provide? Incredibly, Twenty-Two Faces seems to rely solely on the “memories of [Jenny Hill’s] multiple personalities and their entries in diaries written since childhood”, as Byington describes in the book’s opening disclaimer. These memories were “repressed”, only recalled later in Ms. Hill’s life in the course of re-integrating her various fractured identities. Setting aside the fact that “recovered memories” similarly serve as the “evidentiary” basis for claims of Extraterrestrial abductions and past life regression, is it appropriate — in your professional opinion as a (former) Clinical Psychologist — to accept such extraordinary claims merely on personal testimony? Do you think it’s appropriate, Dr. Phil, to air fear-mongering claims of an anti-human, ubiquitous secret society on the “evidence” of such an unlikely anecdote?

Even looking past the supernatural propositions, Byington’s book is fraught with inconsistencies, among which we find:

    • Twenty-Two Faces is said to have been constructed from “memories of [Jenny Hill’s] multiple personalities and their entries in diaries written since childhood”, a claim which makes no sense when considering that Jenny Hill is supposed to have been entirely ignorant of the existence of her multiple personalities until having entered psychiatric therapy in later adulthood. How, then, did she account for various unknown individuals writing their own personal, signed entries in her own private diaries consistently throughout her life?
    • Twenty-Two Faces describes that Jenny Hill was oppressed by an unlikely Jewish Nazi who worshipped Satan and was brought to the US from Germany under CIA sponsorship. Ludicrous as this alone is, Byington explains that this over-dramatized villain is careful to conceal his antics from Jenny Hill’s parents — returning her home on-time for supper, making sure her chores are finished before compelling her to return — yet we also learn later that Hill’s parents were in on the whole thing throughout.
    • We are made to understand that Hill begins to experience “lost time” at the age of 4, when her abuse is said to have begun. The lost time is accounted for as episodes during which other personalities took over her consciousness so that Hill might not be troubled with the terrors of the abuse she began suffering at that age. Such episodes, starting at such an early age, would establish an expectation of occasionally lost time, or an acceptance on the part of the protagonist that she had never quite grasped what time is. Not so with Ms. Hill. Not only did she fully grasp the cultural context and broad implications of the depravities that are said to have befallen her at age 4, she is also uncannily aware of the dates and times that eluded her at an age when most children are unable to properly read a clock. Does this match with your own knowledge of childhood cognitive development, Dr. Phil?
    • Hill learns, by means of “recovered memories” that she was raped by her father. She invites her parents to her psychiatric hospital, where she is an in-patient, so that she may accuse him. Apparently heartbroken and outraged, her father storms out. The inconsistency occurs some pages later when it is reported that Hill was saddened to not be invited over for the following Family Christmas.

You should be aware of serious problems with Byington’s book — the inconsistencies, improbabilities, and supernatural propositions — not least because you should be aware of the book’s contents before you endorse such material on your show, but also because I personally reached out to your producers to warn you of them. Your producers were surely also warned regarding Byington’s problematic narrative when in contact with Jenny Hill’s sister, who was also asked to appear on your show along with Mrs. Byington. Apparently, your producers — doing “entertainment” at the expense of good psychology — chose to ignore us both.

The material above covers some problems that any rational person could pick out merely from reading the book, but there are further problems with Twenty-Two Faces that are apparent to anybody who bothers to do a little research:

    • The book carries an endorsement from Robert Kroon, an esteemed former foreign correspondent for Time Magazine. However, Kroon had been dead for over 5 years at the time of Twenty-Two Faces’ publication. Suspiciously, Tate Publishing, the publisher of Twenty-Two Faces, uses a similar endorsement, allegedly from Kroon, on another book published 2 years after his death.
    • Judy Byington has not had a license to practice therapy in around 10 years, yet she explicitly describes continuing to conduct therapy sessions with Jenny Hill only months ago (listen to this interview at 15:45: http://kcpw.org/blog/cityviews/2012-08-07/cityviews-8812-one-woman-multiple-personalitiesbullets-and-belles/). Judy Byington also offers “therapy” over the phone or via Skype at $25 per session. Do you, Dr. Phil, endorse this type of unlicensed, not to mention grossly irrational, “therapy”?
    • Jenny Hill remains mentally tormented and has a history of bearing false witness. Twenty-Two Faces describes an episode in which Jenny Hill fled from Judy Byington for a time believing that she had observed “the mark of cain” somewhere on Byington, indicated that Byington was involved, somehow, with satanic cults… yet it never seems to have occurred to Byington that any other paranoid claims of Jenny’s may have been rooted in suspicious delusion, rather than fact. In a very telling exchange (that can be read here: http://dysgenicsreport.blogspot.com/2012/10/replies-to-22-faces-claims-hard.html#more) Jenny Hill’s sister questioned Byington regarding why it is Byington unquestioningly believes many of Jenny’s unprovable claims, while knowing that Jenny has made various unfounded claims in apparent fits of panicked paranoia: “Did you believe her when she said your husband was coming on to her sexually? I have heard that allegation too many times about other men to take it seriously. […] [H]ow many times has she called you in the middle of the night to come rescue her from some drama only to find her asleep and not knowing she had called or claiming she was being held hostage and you come with police to find her watching TV[?] …” Judy Byington proved unwilling or unable to answer these questions of Jenny Hill’s sister. Was she able to answer such questions of you? Did you even ask? If not, why not? These facts were available to you before you filmed your interview with Mrs. Byington.

I hardly expect to see that you have asked any difficult, yet terribly obvious, questions of Judy Byington in your soon-to-be-aired interview, as Byington’s own website now proudly displays your endorsement:

“Dear Judy,

Thank you for taking the time to come to our show. I wish you great success with your book documenting the life of Jenny Hill and look forward to working with you in the future. God Bless!

Dr. Phil, Paramount Pictures Hollywood”

That this makes you complicit in purveying a delusional conspiracy theory is unfortunate, but hardly disputable. Judy Byington herself makes clear that she considers Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder synonymous with Satanic Ritual Abuse, and you can hardly talk to her about one without addressing the other. To be clear, when Judy Byington talks of multiplicity and dissociative trauma, she is talking about a debunked conspiracy theory of satanic mind-control plots. That you should give such hysterical claims air-time — allowing a conspiracy theory to be presented as a diagnosis — on your widely viewed show is beyond irresponsible. It makes you a menace to the public mental health.

I have no illusion that you will correct your errors, or that you might pull the episode before it airs. Rather, I am simply posting this time-stamped letter to you here — which I will also send to you directly — so that neither you, nor your producers, may possibly claim ignorance in the near future when Judy Byington meets with the critical assault that will inevitably follow when sensible people see fit to read her work. I want it to be perfectly clear, now and in the future, that all the facts were available to you at all times. It is my feeling that your credibility should greatly suffer, and it is my wish that you should soon find yourself as bankrupt financially as you are ethically.

    Acrimoniously yours,

        Douglas Mesner

        http://www.process.org

 *Note, original reports stated that this episode would air October 31, 2012. As of October 27, this episode is not on Dr. Phil’s broadcasting schedule. Hopefully, Phil wises up and pulls the interview entirely, however, yesterday Judy Byington left a comment online that the episode should air “soon”. This open letter has been slightly modified to reflect the sudden uncertainty of the broadcast date.

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21 Comments

  1. Let me first state that I absolutely believe that this so-called therapist”, Judy Byington, is nothing more than a xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. That being said, you Doug Mesner, along with the individual who posted this for you, seem to xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx possess the trait that many associated with the field of Psychology/Psychiatry /Mental Health possess. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. It wasn’t so much the content that I found troubling, Doug. Rather, it was the fact that xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. There is a vast universe full of knowledge that was once viewed as nonexistent and so many opinions have been presented and accepted as “fact” when in truth, they were not. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. This disturbs me not because I oppose your views, but xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.xxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxx x xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

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    • Jeannette Bartha

       /  05/11/2013

      Hi Becky, Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

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    • Becky — As you don’t directly reply to anything I’ve said or written, it’s difficult to know how to approach your criticisms. I have no idea what you base your own assumptions on (or even what you’re really objecting to), but you seem to possess the “very fatal, all too familiar and especially unfortunate character trait that many associated with” the mythology of Dissociative Identity Disorder possess: that all statements of fact are nothing more than “opinions” and that all opinions hold equal weight in any dialogue, no one is any more credible than the other in the end. Of course, it is not my “opinion” that Byington’s book suffers the credibility problems that it does — it is a fact. Nor has Byington been able to xxxxx address these credibility problems. Nor is it merely my “opinion” that Byington claims to be a consultant for the Utah Attorney General’s Office, while the Utah AG insists that she is lying. This is a fact.

      And then you accuse me of making assumptions based on “limited information” while also adding, “I am sure that you do not view yourself as having limited information, however, that is all relative.”

      Perhaps you would care to explain what you mean, and how that relates to my open letter to Dr. Phil? My point in the letter was that the author, Judy Byington, presented many claims of fact based upon no evidence at all — and many of these claims are highly outrageous, subject to verification, and should well have left evidence to support them. The fact that we are left with such “limited information” is a problem of the author’s, not mine. She seems to have intentionally worked from limited information, ignoring that which did not fit her narrative.

      And then you go on to this xxxxxx digression: ” It’s simply a farce to maintain that your views are a matter of fact-based public knowledge. You speak in absolutes when you have no authority upon which to do so. This disturbs me not because I oppose your views, but because I oppose your approach and tone of superiority and/or authority. You possess neither.”

      For this to be part of any productive dialogue at all, you’ll have to specify which of my views I maintain are “a matter of fact-based public knowledge” that you disagree with. Where have I spoken “in absolutes” and how do you know I have “no authority upon which to do so”? Where have I spoken outside of my authority, and where would such authority come from, in your mind?

      Oddly, you start off by saying that you feel Byington is “nothing more than a money hungry, fame seeking charlatan”, but end by saying that you oppose my views. Which views? But then in the next sentence you seem to be saying that it isn’t my views you disagree with, but my “approach and tone of superiority and/or authority.” Well, which is it? You disagree with my views, or you simply feel that your xxxxx sensibilities were affronted by the way in which I presented them?

      A line like this makes me seriously worry about your critical thinking skills: “There is a vast universe full of knowledge that was once viewed as nonexistent and so many opinions have been presented and accepted as “fact” when in truth, they were not.” What is this supposed to mean? Again, is this the “all opinions are of equal value” approach that is employed all-too-often by those who have no idea how evidence is weighed, measured, and scientific value established? Is this the anything-could-be-true-so-every-assertion-is-equally-plausible approach that is often the hallmark of delusional minds?

      I think you may find this article helpful: http://www.examiner.com/article/repeal-the-opinion-entitlement-how-the-right-to-an-opinion-cripples-debate

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    • Becky — feel free to comment on my open letter to dr. Phil on dysgenics.com where it is also published and, I believe, you are already registered. I respect Jeanette’s commitment to civil dialogue, but I’m personally quite amused when somebody hurls insults in alleged objection to my tone!

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      • Jeannette Bartha

         /  05/11/2013

        Doug, I don’t know that this policing my blog is going to work. I feel like mommy-referee.

        It was interesting to compare Becky’s comment to yours. She was trying to insult both of us – that was clear. You, however, stayed true to the facts and steered from character assassinations. Well done!

        I’d like feedback. I don’t like having to police what people say. I don’t like editing as I find it a form of censorship. On the otherhand, my blog has been used as a platform to slam others and I don’t like or appreciate it. The time required to redact posts will be time-consuming as well.

        Frankly, I’m tired of character assassinations but don’t want to spend my day being mommy and trying to teach people good manners – it’s boring. But, this is not going to be an alternative to Amazon book reviews.

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        • I understand the conundrum: moderating for civil dialogue while also trying to stay true to an open discussion. To be sure, if Becky was going to go over to Dysgenics to level hysterical ad hominem assaults upon you — I would not allow that to happen. I’m letting her know, however, that if she wants to senselessly insult me on my own webpage, she is free to do that. Hopefully though, she is willing to be specific about her complaints and explore the real issue, instead of persisting with some vague appeal to a nebulous outrage.

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          • Jeannette Bartha

             /  05/11/2013

            Interesting, Doug. On your blog you just let it fly? That’s what I did for probably 2 years here but it got waaaaay out of control. Well, I’ll try this for a bit and see how it goes. Maybe it will encourage people to come here for discussions of topics instead of ranting and spitting at each other.

            Major newspapers and magazines moved in this direction over 6 months ago – guess they got tired of it too.

            Regarding the second part of your response. It seemed that the intent was to have a controlled rant because statements were amorphous and there was clear indication that a preconceived notion about me was made i.e. the “I dare you to post this” comment that came after.

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  2. “Hooking”, I’ve heard that term before.
    Jeanette in this context does it mean surreptitiously attaching a legitimate diagnosis like bi-polar along with a fabricated diagnosis of DID in an underhanded effort to legitimize the DID diagnosis ?

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    • Jeanette Bartha

       /  01/10/2013

      Well, Roma that’s what I think. The other issue is hooking – or attaching other diagnosis as the primary one like PTSD which has legitimacy as if it’s a component of Dissociative Identity Disorder.

      Regarding Dr. Phil. We can only waste our time on speculating what his warped mind will do in the name of the almighty dollar. I hope Jenny Hill isn’t further injured and that the therapist/author finds some ramifications to her beligerent behavior regarding how she is exploiting a patient for profit. Hum… isn’t that unethical?

      Will you get the show where you are?

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      • I highly doubt you will post my comment currently awaiting “moderation” aka censorship at it’s finest. However, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, it would certainly lend credibility to you and speak highly of your journalistic/reporting credibility.

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        • Jeannette Bartha

           /  05/11/2013

          Hello Becky,

          Now that your comments have been approved, all will automatically be posted unless they have a link – then wordpress sends them to moderation or spam. Just a heads-up.

          p.s. Due to vial and threatening posts received on this blog, I no longer allow people to use this blog to spew hate speech. Therefore, posts may be redacted. In which case the poster will know exactly what was removed because the redacted text will be replaced by XXX.

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        • Jeannette Bartha

           /  05/11/2013

          Becky, After reading Doug’s response to your comment, I re-read yours to better understand his response to you. On reflection, I find your comment biting and many phrases unnecessary to make your point.

          I will be redacting your comment based on the fact that the manner in which you choose to present yourself and your opinions brought out negativity in Doug rather than fostering a respectful argument. Character assassinations, as far as I’m concerned, have no place on my blog because I consider it hate-speech.

          You are welcome to return and post remarks and/or opinions. I ask that you be respectful to my readership in the future, thank you.

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    • Jeanette Bartha

       /  01/10/2013

      Duh, just got what you said…hooking, yes it’s an old psychological term.

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      • Oh yes, I’m watching it tomorrow for sure.

        I was also wondering about “hooking” in the context of which diagnosis is written on the patient insurance forms. How is that done ?

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        • Jeanette Bartha

           /  01/11/2013

          I’ve never filled out an insurance form. What I know is that therapists can bill for one diagnosis and treat another. I think that’s what DID therapists do. I have yet to find a multiple with one diagnosis – that of multiple personalities. Most have the diagnosis of PTSD, anxiety, eating disorders, Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. Therapists can bill for any one of them. I think it unlikely that DID would be reimbursed. Don’t know.

          My former art therapist, for example, ran for the hills when I sued my psychiatrist and the hospital where she was employed. She was an up and coming star and wrote many papers about treating multiple personalities using art.

          Now she is treating eating disorders – yet remains a member of the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation (ISST-D). She is an intelligent and creative woman and loved treating multiples. Am I to believe she isn’t doing that anymore?

          “Hooking” is just a word I used – are you pulling my leg or is it just that you aren’t American? ;).

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  3. I’ll be watching. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to say after the show airs. Since my open letter was published, it was also brought to my attention that Judy Byington (author of 22 Faces, the exploitative, ridiculously fictionalized biography of Jenny Hill) is outright lying in her Press Kit where she claims that she is a consultant for the Utah Attorney General’s Office. The Utah AG categorically denies any relationship to Byington whatsoever: http://www.dysgenics.com/2012/12/02/the-two-faces-of-judy-byington/ That Dr. Phil would give the credibility of any type of interview at all to somebody so flagrantly untrustworthy, telling a story so patently absurd, is utterly disgraceful.

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    • Jeanette Bartha

       /  01/09/2013

      Agreed, Doug, Dr. Phil’s airing of such nonsense is disgraceful. I wonder if he saved the airing of the show to the beginning of 2013 because of all the interest it kicked up. Capitalizing on sensation is what he has perfected.

      I will be publishing a book review shortly and will include the info on the links you offered (TY BTW).

      I am hoping that the public will see the absurdity of the satanic panic and multiple personality debacle.

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      • doug mesner

         /  01/09/2013

        I have a review of Twenty-Two Faces published in the current issue of Skeptical Inquirer (Jan/Feb) that you may want to check out.

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    • Jeanette Bartha

       /  01/09/2013

      p.s. I just clicked on the link you offered – hilarious! good one.

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    • Jeanette Bartha

       /  01/09/2013

      doug, did you notice that the program Phil is airing is something like bipolar and mental ill mothers? It does not mention multiple personalities or dissociative identity disorder. Interesting. I don’t know that hooking bipolar with a fabricated illness like DID is responsible psychology or journalism for that matter.

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