IPT Book Reviews

Title: Lessons in Evil, Lessons From the Light  Negative Review
Author: Gail Carr Feldman
Publisher: Crown Publishers, Inc. 1993

Crown Publishers, Inc.
201 East 50th Street
New York, NY 10022
$22.00
 

Description:

The author of this case study has both a MSW and Ph.D. and has been in private practice for 17 years in New Mexico.  The case study describes her treatment of an African-American woman who reported a repressed memory of childhood satanic cult abuse.  The client, a successful teacher, was referred for therapy by her physician following multiple complaints including sexual dysfunction, fears that her husband, a successful Black engineer, would leave her, hatred towards her mother, and urges to kill her adopted daughter.

The accounts of abuse developed in therapy, which included hypnosis, and involved neglect by her mother, sexual abuse by her grandparents and a "fat lady with snakes," being left nude in a graveyard for five days, and being forced to eat the hearts of several of her playmates.  Feldman accepted the abuse accounts as factually true and responded to the emerging "memories" with outrage to the point that she herself began developing symptoms.  At the end of the book, Feldman contacted the police and the FBI, but was told the allegations could not be proven in court.
 

Discussion:

Acceptance of the premise of this book requires the suspension of belief and the denial of science.  It is based on a single nonempirical case study and there is no corroboration of the alleged satanic abuse.  The author provides information about her private life which reveals how her own values and beliefs guided the therapy.  She gives the client unconditional compassion and is persuaded that the abuse is real.  No adequate marital or childhood history is reported and nothing other than the abuse is seen as contributing to the client's problems.  The author occasionally lapses into pop-feminism and new-age interpretations which add nothing to the client's healing.  No weight appears to be given to whatever positive childhood experiences helped the client to become a successful teacher.  The author reports that the client was eventually cured and the one important lesson from this case study is that the wounds of sexual abuse (real or imagined) can be healed without involving the courts.

This book is of limited value.

Reviewed by LeRoy G. Schultz, Professor Emeritus of Social Work, West Virginia University, Morganstown, West Virginia.

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