American Psychological Association: choosing a therapist

What should I know about choosing a psychotherapist to help me deal with a childhood memory or any other issue?

The American Psychological Association released the following advice to consider when seeking psychotherapy services.

First, know that there is no single set of symptoms which automatically indicates that a person was a victim of childhood abuse. There have been media reports of therapists who state that people (particularly women) with a particular set of problems or symptoms must have been victims of childhood sexual abuse. There is no scientific evidence that supports this conclusion.

Second, all questions concerning possible recovered memories of childhood abuse should be considered from an unbiased position. A therapist should not approach recovered memories with the preconceived notion that abuse must have happened or that abuse could not possibly have happened.

Third, when considering current problems, be wary of those therapists who offer an instant childhood abuse explanation, and those who dismiss claims or reports of sexual abuse without any exploration.

Fourth, when seeking psychotherapy, you are advised to see a licensed practitioner with training and experience in the issue for which you seek treatment. Ask the therapist about the kinds of treatment techniques he or she uses and how they could help you.

Editor’s note:This document is being released at the direction of the APA Board of Directors. It is based on numerous reports and documents, including, but not limited to, the work of the APA Working Group on the Investigation of Memories of Childhood Abuse.

Full statement

Retrieved 6/5/11.

Leave a comment


  1. J. Bean

     /  08/02/2012

    Russ – In the words of Jonathan Swift: “You cannot reason [a person] out of that which (s)he was never reasoned into.”

    I hope that you have taken the time to read some of the materials available on the FMSF website:

    To gain a better understanding of your daughter’s mindset, you may also want to read some of the stories here:

    I’m so sorry you and your family are going through this. I’m sorry for all of the families who have been affected by this quackery.

    I’m also angry with the APA and the licensing agencies for not doing more to protect the public.

    This whole statement was a mamsy-pamsy worthless display of the APA’s unwillingness to take a firm stand.
    Tens of thousands of families are destroyed, countless therapists successfully sued for gross negligence – and the very same therapists are still allowed to practice without a single warning to future clients – except for this broad statement of general caution tucked into the APA brochures.

    Great. So if one calls a suicide hotline, is he/she mailed an APA brochure so as to learn all about how to choose a therapist?

    A person doesn’t seek counseling when feeling strong and confident. People seek counseling when they are weak, hurting, and vulnerable. This is why they are so easily duped by these charlatans.
    The APA should be issuing a statement of caution to the therapists, vowing to assist in suing the daylights out of any caught violating the standards of care and/or not obtaining informed consent for dangerous or unproven practices.

    The APA and the NASW are more concerned with protecting their members than with protecting the patients and their families.

    In my humble opinion.


    • Unfortunately, an APA cautionary statement will not do as much to protect the public as we would like to think. In the absence of proof nothing can be done to enforce it. An accusation or report regarding unethical behavior on the part of a provider would likely be a she said-she said argument. Patient notes are easily altered, doctored, some notes fall out of folders all the time, some files are lost, some were burned when my office burned down (this is in a deposition) and other notes are simply eaten by the family dog.

      So. Now I am wondering, if the American Psychological Association set out to oversee the behavior and clinical practices of their members what could they reasonable do?

      I’m going to start this as a new post it could be interesting to see what constructive criticism & ideas we come up with that would increase the likelihood that a consumer will find solid treatment.


  2. Russ

     /  01/08/2012

    Unfortunately, my family is also faced with a daughter (she’s now 19) having false memories of sexual abuse (initially by some schoolmates which eventually expanded to include her father) due to “recovered memory therapy”, and has cut off all contact with us. There has thankfully been no legal action. We are not interested in suing (even though the therapists where she was treated sure deserve to be!) , we just want our daughter back and pray that someday she come to realize that these memories are false. The place she was treated by these therapists at seems to be a cleverly-disguised cult…I corresponded recently with someone who was her roommate and that’s what she claims it was and they use “recovered memory therapy” as a way of control and an effective way of separating them from their family.

    Read more:


  3. Steve

     /  06/19/2011

    The APA should add the following to their ” How To Choose A Psychotherapist” criteria.

    1. If a therapist says that you’ll have to get worse before you get better you should ask for your money back.

    2. If your therapist tells you that she/he has to make your diagnosis and condition look worse than you really are in order to access health insurance benefits, you should demand your money back and remind your therapist that insurance fraud is a crime.

    3. If your therapist wants you to beat on pillows that remind you of your parents you should beat it out of there. Now.

    4. If your therapist wants you to lay on his/her office floor and cry you should wait until you get their bill.

    5. And finally if you, the client, get sucked into a bad situation with a charlatan psychotherapist, don’t come cryin’ to us, the APA. After all, there’s a sucker born every minute.



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