Background

In 2003 the department released Regulation of the health profession in Victoria: a discussion paper. This gave practitioners, professional associations and interested consumers the opportunity to comment on proposals for the reform of the Victorian health professions regulatory system.

Seventeen submissions were received in response to this review addressing the issue of ‘recovered memory therapy’. This therapy also known as ‘repressed memory therapy’ or ‘false memory therapy’.

The majority of the submissions claimed that ‘recovered memory therapy’ in use by some mental health therapists in Victoria was resulting in false accusations of child sexual abuse.

Given the complexity of the related issues, a more detailed examination was required to determine the need, if any, for legislative and/or other reforms.

Inquiry into the Practice of Recovered Memory Therapy

In November 2004 the Minister for Health requested that the Health Services Commissioner conduct an inquiry into the practice of ‘recovered memory therapy’ under s. 9(1)(m) of the Health Services (Conciliation and Review) Act 1987.

The commissioner’s final report is below.

Final recovered memory therapy inquiry

Recommendations

Based on the findings of the inquiry, the Health Services Commissioner had the following recommendations.

Review of training

Collaboration between universities, professional bodies and accredited teaching organisations to review the adequacy of training regarding trauma, with a view to ensuring practitioners are being adequately trained.

Best practice guidelines

Establishment of best practice guidelines related to recovered memories by professional bodies, including those for registered and unregistered practitioners, and registration boards (where not already established).

Membership of professional organisations

All unregistered providers of trauma counselling, psychotherapy and hypnotherapy services become members of a suitable professional organisation within their profession.

Community education

The Department of Human Services takes a leadership role with professional bodies, registration boards and advocacy groups to conduct a community education campaign. The aim of this campaign is to provide members of the public with the information they need to choose appropriately qualified practitioners.

Continuous monitoring

The Office of the Health Services Commissioner continue to monitor concerns expressed by all interested parties about ‘recovered memory therapy’.

Government response

In response to the commissioner’s recommendations, the Minister will be requesting advice from the relevant registration boards and professional bodies on the report’s recommendations and potential roles they might play in progressing implementation of these.

Advice was sought on issues such as:

  • community education to help people choose an appropriately qualified mental health practitioner
  • preparation and/or review of practice guidelines related to recovered memories.

Review of training in trauma counselling

Mechanisms will also be put into place to maintain a watching brief on the issues identified in the report.

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