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Book Forum: CHILD ABUSE AND PTSD   |    
Recollections of Sexual Abuse: Treatment Principles and Guidelines
JUDITH H. GOLD, C.M., M.D., F.R.C.P.C., F.R.A.N.Z.C.P.
Am J Psychiatry 2000;157:655-a-656. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.157.4.655-a
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By Christine A. Courtois. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1999, 436 pp., $45.00.

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This is a timely book. Disputes about the veracity of memories of sexual abuse have caused great divisions within the psychotherapeutic professional community and have made many practitioners hesitant to treat individuals complaining of sexual abuse for fear of malpractice suits. Whenever therapists quarrel, patients suffer. Courtois has produced a book that carefully details the information and data informing all sides of this controversy, while aiming to tread a middle ground in both her analyses and treatment approaches. She does so admirably.

The book contains nine chapters that discuss the recovered memory/false memory controversy in sociohistorical perspective and in the present context. The author describes and critiques current knowledge about memory and trauma as well as child sexual abuse and memory. Standards of care and of practice from a number of professional associations are discussed and then reproduced in an appendix. Also of great interest to clinicians are the chapters on clinical guidelines and risk management for assessment and diagnosis and for working with memory issues. A consensus model for posttrauma treatment and a discussion of countertransference issues with case examples are excellent and should be required reading for all trainees in psychotherapy.

Courtois’s descriptions of countertransference and of the psychotherapeutic treatment of trauma are so cogently and insightfully written that clinicians at all levels of experience will benefit from their reading. Clinically sound, they are also full of practical as well as theoretical advice on treatment. It was a pleasure to read and learn from an author who knows her field well and discusses it with the clear and unprejudiced analysis expected of an academic as well as the compassion and knowledge of an expert psychotherapist.

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