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Adequacy of the Conceptual-Encounter Methodology
Numerous commentators (including Gudjonsson, Kassin, and Lynn et al.) raise the issue of whether the conceptual-encounter method may exert its own suggestive influences, especially in persons who may be overly influenced by suggestion. The models themselves do suggest ways of viewing what happened; that

is their purpose. They are windows, perspectives, that may allow the person to see what was not previously given coherence. Thus, they are potential narratives that may give shape to the retractor's experience. As Sarbin points out, the respondents are partners in an enterprise that attempts to understand what happened and in this sense Reviere is quite correct in comparing the method to what occurs in (good) psychotherapy.

However, three safeguards against undue influence were included. First, the interview began with the retractor's own account of what had happened. This narrative was present before any models were introduced and both retractor and investigator were aware of how the model either fit or failed to fit the earlier account. Second, the retractors were presented with different models and clearly told that models might or might not fit or that parts might fit or might not fit. Third, and extremely important, the retractors were enlisted as research partners. Thus, as Sarbin observes, they were cast in the role of collaborators in a search for understanding. The models were not presented as the investigator's models--they were clearly attributed to Hassan or to Sarbin, and the RPs knew very clearly that the investigator was only interested in what aspects of each model fit or did not fit the retractor's experience. Thus, the only way to please the investigator was to critique the models honestly by referring to what had been experienced. In fact, all four retractors clearly were quite capable of objecting to aspects of the models they did not care for.

Although I believe the method can be successfully defended against charges of investigator bias or the effect of experimenter expectancy, it is subject to the retrospective biases mentioned by Qin, Tyda, and Goodman, Lief and Fetkewicz, and Kassin. The RPs, like the rest of us, are liable to shape their memories so they are congruent with present beliefs and attitudes, and we must assume that their accounts are subjected to the emotional forces of self-justification and selfblame (although, contrary to Coon's conjecture, only one is suing her therapist). We know that persons reshape the past to make it conform with present attitudes. In fact, when I went back to the retractors to check my accounts of their experience, they sometimes were surprised by what they had previously said (and for which I had a tape-recorded account). For example, Cath (now completely alienated from her prior therapist) was surprised to find that she had stated that when she wrote to her therapist (shortly after termination) she had wanted his approval for what she said in her letter. Ann was amazed to find a letter that she had written to a friend in which she had clearly said she had been hypnotized by her therapist, when she told me that she had only been "relaxed."

Did Ann's therapist really tell her that she would have a nervous breakdown if she left therapy, or did Ann only think her therapist was saying that, or did Ann completely make up such a detail to justify her not leaving therapy? In the absence of tape-recordings from actual therapy sessions (and interviews inquiring into how these tape-recorded statements were heard), we cannot be sure exactly what transpired. What we can be sure of is that Ann really was in therapy (a fact), and now states that she was afraid to leave therapy because the therapist told her she would have a nervous breakdown if she left. We can also see that this statement is congruent with the fact that she did not leave therapy even after she was clearly deteriorating (a fact that can be confirmed). And we can see that this detail is more congruent with the mind-control model than with the narrative model.

Limitations of the Methodology

Coons mentions an important point included in an earlier article that I sent him that should have been mentioned in the target article's method section. After presenting the retractors with the mind-control and narrative models, I gave them three other conceptualizations to consider. These were Haaken's feminist psychodynamic perspective (see Haaken & Schlaps, 1991), Macmurray ( 1961 ) theory of interpersonal relations (briefly discussed earlier), and Dembo ( 1976 ) field theoretic model (presented in the target article's discussion section). Although these models provoked interesting material, space limits precluded including the material in the target article. Here I briefly consider the feminist psychodynamic model as illustrative of difficulties both in applying the model and using the conceptual-encounter methodology. (Note that the commentators did not have an opportunity to see this material.)

From Haakin's perspective, pseudomemories of being sexually abused may be a fantasy that metaphorically represents the real situation women experience in contemporary society. For example, girls often lack the power boys have and may see mothers lacking the power to confront the power of the father. Hence, their sexuality must develop in a field where the male's more aggressive sexuality is dominant. Although male sexuality is intrusive, it also carries the fantasized promise of freeing a girl from her dependency on the mother and of awakening her own womanly sexuality. Afraid of her own rage and sexuality, a woman might project these aspects of herself and develop a pseudomemory of being raped by a father. By playing the role of victim, a woman acquires a legitimate need to be cared for and can project her own unaccepted aggression. If a thera

pist probes for detailed accounts of invasion of boundaries and only validates a "good" self (an innocent, hurt child) the client may experience a "bad" self (aggressive, sexual) as a threat to the therapeutic relationship, thereby missing the opportunity to explore difficult themes of neglect and abandonment. The following is Ann's response to this conceptualization.

Ann agreed that she had grown up in a situation where girls were not supposed to be sexually active. She acknowledged that she had felt guilty about the very enjoyable premarital sex she had with her husband. However, she objected to the idea that her memories of abuse had been an incestuous fantasy. She stated, "To me, [a] fantasy is something we would enjoy. I never enjoyed one minute of this believing." On being told that Haaken's use of the term was not meant to imply enjoyment but that a fantasy might be "a metaphor for the rape of women in our culture," She responded that she felt her father did "rape" in the sense of aggressively demanding dinner on time and standing the children in line to check them for having on their winter clothing. She saw him as quite demanding and rigid and her mother as passive; she had always questioned why her mother let him talk to her the way he did. Furthermore, she felt that he had been disappointed that she was a girl. He obviously had very much wanted to have a boy. Although she loved her father, she had never fantasized about marrying him because of the way he treated the women in his family. She and her husband were bringing up their children much more openly. Yet, despite these "fits" with the conceptualization, Ann objected that she could feel her rage at the man who had intimidated her at work and was unsure why she would need to take an indirect "fantasy" route to express what was apparent to her.

Although Ann did not endorse the model, to the that extent Ann's story was really authored by her therapist, the model might be applicable to the therapist and/or explain why stories of paternal sexual abuse are found credible by many women in our society. Also, to the extent the model postulates motivations that may not be acceptable to the retractor and may involve subtleties in the therapeutic relationship (such as a fear of abandonment that is not fully owned by the client), we come to a limit in the use of the conceptual-encounter method. When we are dealing with a conceptualization that posits unconscious motivations and subtle relational dynamics, a considerable amount of time may be required for the RP to grasp the nuances of the conceptualization and work through any defenses that might stand in the way of an honest evaluation of its applicability. Hence, although the methodology is still applicable, it begins to look more and more like good narrative therapy!

 

 
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