There were numerous troublesome inaccuracies in that profile that I have sought to have corrected. Unfortunately the New York Times has been largely unresponsive to my request for correction of factual errors. Here is the letter that I sent to the Times.Boston May 23, 2014:
While I feel flattered with your profile in the NYT Magazine (a revolutionary approach to PTSD) a number of inaccuracies in the article would make me inclined to join some of the responders in considering the character who is described here as a quack. The article fails to mention that I am a full professor at Boston University School of Medicine, and that my research on yoga, theater and EMDR was funded by our foremost scientific institutions, NIMH, NCCAM and the CDC, and that they have been published in first rate peer reviewed scientific journals. Contrary to what my colleague Patty Resick claims, these studies had blind reviewers, and had adequate sample sizes to come to reasonable scientific conclusions. I am deeply disappointed that the Times did not fact check those statements.
I was stunned to see myself described as an advocate of "repressed memory therapy" something that, as far as I know, does not exist and that I certainly have never practiced or advocated. During the nineties, when the issue of rampant pedophilia by Roman Catholic priests first was addressed in courtrooms, I frequently testified on behalf of men who claimed to have been sexually abused by priests. I was qualified to do so because of my extensive research on how traumatized individuals remember the horrors of the past (so well described in this article). During those trials the lawyers for the defense frequently tried to discredit the victims by comparing their memories to those of people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. I was stunned to once again see this contamination of memories of sexual abuse with those of alien abductions repeated in this article. The claim that numerous innocent people were jailed on the basis of my work is offensive. I have never testified in a trial between family members and I have never been involved in sending an innocent person to jail.
The critique by Dr. Joseph LeDoux goes to the heart of the scientific question-- how can we human beings gain control over the impulses, feelings and sensations that are the residues of past trauma? As we scientists like to say: that is an empirical question. Can we do it by talking, insight, and understanding, as traditional therapies claim; do we have to take drugs to dampen hyperactive alarm systems, or can we expose ourselves to experiences that can reorganize a mind and brain that in many ways is stuck in the past? I had hoped that this article would illustrate that traumatized people can (re)-learn to regulate themselves, and that imprints from the past cannot only be blocked by the administration of medications, but also be transformed by intense exposure to experiences that directly contradict the helplessness, rage and surrender that are part of having been traumatized.
- Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The NYT also failed to publish the letter to the editor by the Iraq War veteran who was the subject of some of the work in this article. This is what he wrote to the New York Times:
I read the Sunday New York Times feature "How Do You Heal a Traumatized Mind?" with considerable interest, as I was the subject of Dr. van der Kolk's treatment in the article.
I was very surprised by the conclusion of the article, which seemed to imply that the process that I went through did not help. This is not true and is does not fully reflect the conversation that I had with the Times reporter when she was preparing the article.
Van der Kolk's process and his recommendation that I follow up with EMDR have helped me deal in a very real way with a problem that I thought was irreparable. For example, my chronic GI problems, an issue that I had been dealing with for nine years have almost completely gone away. It is hard to understate how much the disappearance of that one symptom has improved my life.
I tried many ways to get treatment for my illness through the Army and VA and received very little help. I will always be thankful that Dr Van der Kolk had the knowledge, passion and interest to try an approach that had real results. It is disappointing that this gratitude did not come through in the article. Honestly, my wife, my daughter and I cannot thank him enough.
Schedule last updated 2/13/2014.