Try to Remember

Psychiatry's Clash Over Meaning, Memory, and Mind

Paul R. McHugh, M.D.

Cloth • $25.00 • 300 pages
ISBN: 978-1932594393
Published November 2008

Also available as an e-book

In the 1990s patients in psychotherapy began accusing parents and other relatives of sexually abusing them in childhood. Most of the accusations were false “recovered memories” implanted by therapists pursuing a new theory of mental illness. Paul R. McHugh saw it all and feared that his profession had done itself in, once and for all.

The public, in losing confidence in psychotherapy and turning solely to medications for psychiatric treatment, abandoned an important healing method just as several psychiatrists, including McHugh, were teaching what had gone wrong in psychotherapy and putting it right. Everyone—the public and professionals—should appreciate how psychiatry lost its way on this occasion so as to guarantee that discredited ways of searching memory for sources of disorder do not reappear in some new garb.

The recent uptick in popular interest, for example, HBO’s "In Treatment," suggests that Americans may be ready to give psychotherapy another chance. McHugh wants them and their therapists to get it right this time. In Try to Remember, he describes his battles against “recovered memories,” multiple personality and the excessive diagnosis of PTSD to explain the difference between good treatment and bad and to draw urgent lessons for therapists and patients alike.



Chapter 1: Meeting the Issue

Chapter 2: The Path Less Traveled

Chapter 3: Appraising the Problem

Chapter 4: Joining the Contest

Chapter 5: Fighting for Danny Smith

Chapter 6: The Scope of Suspicion

Chapter 7: Moving from Defense to Offense

Chapter 8: Getting to Know Patients

Chapter 9: Making Sense of DSM

Chapter 10: What Is Meant by Hysteria?

Chapter 11: Words, Words, Mere Words

Chapter 12: The Move to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Chapter 13: Making Sense of Psychotherapy

Chapter 14: The “Conflict” and the “Deficit” Psychotherapies



Suggested Reading

"As well as admirably empathetic accounts of troubling case studies and enjoyable subtle demolitions of rival 'colleagues,' the book offers a polemical primer on competing schools of thought in psychiatry over the last half-century. Lest the abuses he documents irreparably damage the reputation of psychotherapy, McHugh concludes, his profession ought to take a rigorously empirical approach to mental health, and cast out 'therapies built on suspicion.'"
    —Steven Poole, Guardian (UK)


"This is the absorbing, never-before-told story of how a cult of Freudian psychiatrists, believers in such dingbat doctrines as "multiple personality disorder," "disassociative identity disorder," "recovered memory," and "post-traumatic stress syndrome," went on a witch-hunting rampage across America that dwarfs the Salem and medieval European witch hunts of yore, prodding patients, most of them young women, into fantasies of childhood sexual abuse that sent their parents off to prison for stretches as long as 20 years---before a small band of scientists risked their reputations and livelihoods to expose the cult for what it was: a wacky pack-a quacks."
    —Tom Wolfe

"America's premier pioneering biological psychiatrist Paul McHugh blows the whistle on sloppy and trendy thinking in psychiatry… A must read."
    —Michael S. Gazzaniga, Ph.D., author of Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique

Try to Remember is a riveting account of his battle against the repressed memory movement. It is also a passionate plea for psychiatry as a humane science, grounded in evidence, and focused on helping people in the here and now."
    —Michael J. Sandel, author of The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering 

“Of all the mad ideas that have swept through the practice of psychiatry since Freud first undertook to map the unconscious, probably none has resulted in more cruelty to patients and their loved ones than those that led to the Recovered Memory Movement and its adjunct disease, Multiple Personality Disorder…. Paul McHugh is a healer.”
    —Midge Decter, author of An Old Wife’s Tale