Founding president of the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation (ISSTD), psychiatrist Bennett Braun, acquired infamy during the 1990s due to horrific claims of malpractice that led to the suspension of his license to practice. Today we learned that Braun is again being charged with malpractice leading to serious questions regarding the competence of the oversight boards that allow dangerous professionals to continue discredited practices even after provable harm has been well-established.
You have probably never heard of him, but Bennett Braun’s egregious acts of psychiatric malpractice and their revelation in the mid-1990s form an integral chapter in the narrative of the Satanic Panic — a key episode which resulted in a sharp decline in public acceptance for “recovered memories” said to surface during the course of therapeutic interventions against Multiple Personality Disorder. The case that brought infamy to Braun — though he had 11 similar malpractice claims filed against him — involved psychiatric inpatient he treated at Chicago’s Rush–Presbyterian–St. Luke’s Medical Center by the name of Patricia Burgus.
As one contemporaneous article summarized the case in 1998:
“Pat Burgus thought she would soon be healed when psychiatrist Bennett Braun began treating her for multiple personality disorder. Instead, under hypnosis and on heavy medication, Burgus came to believe she possessed 300 personalities, ate human flesh, and sexually abused her two sons. Later, convinced Braun helped manufacture those memories, she sued. Now, even after receiving a $10.6-million settlement, she won’t let up in her crusade against the man whose treatment, she says, nearly destroyed her.”
That crusade led to a good amount of media coverage (and a temporary suspension of Braun’s license) revealing the bizarre details of Braun’s bizarre delusions that he apparently indoctrinated some of his vulnerable and over-medicated clients into believing. Chicago Magazine reported:
“Of all the memories she once believed so fiercely—growing up in a satanic cult, slaughtering babies, molesting children—what seems most ludicrous today is the memory of eating meat loaf that her father had made out of human flesh.”
Throughout the 1980s and into the 90s such stories proliferated from those diagnosed with, and those treating, Multiple Personality Disorder as the practice of “recovered memory therapy” was employed with the aid of hypnotic regression, sodium amytal interviews, Guided Imagery sessions, and other tactics irrationally thought to surface traumatic memories presumed to be “repressed” from conscious recollection. The theory of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) purports that extremely traumatic episodes can be compartmentalized in the mind, removed from conscious recollection, as a defense mechanism against psychic overload. These compartmentalized episodes then are said to generate discrete subconscious personalities that implausibly assign themselves names and intermittently overtake full conscious awareness. Treatment would often consist of attempting to retrieve the repressed memories so as to integrate the client’s memories into a unified “core” personality.
The assumption of hidden, forgotten memories of trauma, in the context of an expert’s insistence that a client’s psychiatric symptoms indicate such memories must exist, often caused medicated, hypnotized, and otherwise mentally vulnerable clients undergoing MPD treatment to confabulate horrific tales of abuse that were profoundly implausible, often provably false, but sincerely believed by those clients to be true.
In the case of Patricia Burgus — who developed 300 personalities and attempted suicide twice during the course of Braun’s treatment — it was as an outpatient, no longer overmedicated and no longer regularly engaging in hypnotic regression that she began to recognize her confabulatory recollections of Satanic cult crimes as absurd and entirely false. The coercive nature of the treatment, she alleged, caused her to develop “memories” that matched Braun’s own delusional assumptions. (Similarly, those who seek the aid of regression therapists with an expertise in alien abduction tend to exclusively recover memories of extraterrestrial contact.)
Mistakenly coming to believe that your own family is a cannibalistic cult and involved in infant sacrifice can put an irreparable strain on one’s relationships at the very least, and Patricia Burgus was awarded a $10.6 settlement and Braun’s license was suspended for only 2 years.
Now, a new claim of malpractice has come to light against Braun alleging “negligence, lack of informed consent and failure to warn” in administering an “improper drug treatment” that has left a woman with an incurable and irreversible physical ailment. The aggrieved party has also filed suit against the Montana Board of Medical Examiners for having licensed Braun despite his history, though according to reports, Braun’s application for licensure only described that malpractice suits had been filed against him but “did not tell the board is that the settlements Braun mentioned were with multiple women who alleged that he convinced them through hypnosis and high dosages of drugs that they were high priestesses of a global satanic cult, were molesting children and cannibalizing people, according to legal documents.”
The failure of oversight agencies to prevent a man, who should arguably have gone to prison for his irresponsible and pseudoscientific treatment of patients, illustrates a larger problem that infects mental health care nationwide, and can particularly be found in an organization that Braun himself helped found, the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation (ISSTD). As a professional organization that primarily interests itself in the study of MPD (now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID]), the ISSTD is the final refuge for licensed mental health professionals who believe in Satanic mind-control cults that intentionally develop Multiple Personalities in their victims so as to instill specific Manchurian Candidate-style programs into specialized personality states to be called forth by way of unique “triggers.”
Other ISSTD luminaries and past presidents have been accused of malpractice similar to that which earned Braun infamy. Dr. Colin Ross, past ISSTD president, author of the Dissociative Disorders Interview Scale, and regular presenter at ISSTD conferences, has also been accused multiple times of overmedicating patients and inspiring them to cultivate “memories” of deranged conspiratorial Satanic mind-control plots. After one such malpractice suit in Manitoba, Ross relocated to Texas where he eventually had another similar malpractice suit filed against him, whereupon he again moved to another state to resume his practice.
Medical boards seem all but entirely unwilling to place any substantial sanctions on those who prescribe and endorse harmful and discredited practices propagated by the ISSTD, and in the current case against Bennett Braun, the Medical Board is claiming immunity from prosecution “based on judicial precedent.”
According to the Montana Standard, “It’s not uncommon for a doctor who loses a license in one state for medical malpractice to move to another and get licensed in a separate state, [Lisa] McGiffert [of Patient Safety Action Network] said.
“’Bad doctors do move around,’ McGiffert said.”
While most representatives of the ISSTD will avoid any public discussion about the bizarre conspiracist notions being propagated in their organization, and many of them probably deny attachment to bizarre beliefs, the organization maintains a “Ritual Abuse/Mind Control Special Interest Group,” and their annual conferences often host seminars where paranoid fables of Illuminati plots are discussed, earning professional attendees Continuing Education Units for their attendance. When we (The Satanic Temple’s Grey Faction) filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the New York State Licensing Board asking for documents related to the ISSTD’s approval to offer Continuing Education in their bizarre and decidedly unscientific presentations, it was ‘CE Learning Systems’ itself that objected to the request, accusing us in a letter to the State of making “false accusations.”
When Grey Faction filed a complaint with a California licensing board against an ISSTD chair of their Ritual Abuse/Mind Control Special Interest Group, Ellen Lacter, to demand investigation into Lacter’s culpability in the murder of an 8-year old child — murdered by his own mother who, after consultation with Lacter, killed her son to prevent him from future suffering at the hands of imaginary Satanists — a reply arrived some 9 months later merely stating that the board did not see evidence of wrongdoing. Never mind the fact that Lacter is very public about her paranoid and delusional beliefs related to Satanic cult mind-control plots. The letter was unsigned.
Without even knowing the nature of our complaint against the ISSTD that necessitated a records request, Tyler Gibson of CE Learning Systems took it upon himself in his reply to New York to address the issue of Ellen Lacter stating, “The ISSTD member never treated the child, but provided some resources for the mother related to organized and ritualistic abuse based on the mother’s concerns. The Grey Faction latched on to this case and began protesting the ISSTD in 2016, alleging malpractice and a number of other false accusations.” As our concern was for the delusional beliefs of the mother that a licensed mental health professional apparently failed to disabuse the mother of, if not having helped her to cultivate, the rebuttal rather seems to verify our claim. However, what is more disturbing about this facile non-rebuttal is that it comes from an entity that one would hope would have an ability to treat all claims as warranting a good faith investigative inquiry — not a call for summary dismissal based upon prejudices against the complainant.
In regards to Montana’s Board, where Bennett Braun received his post-malpractice license, the Montana Standard reports:
Montana’s board is made up of 13 members, Loranger said.
A legal statute requires five members of the board to have a medical degree. The other eight must include an emergency medical expert, a doctor of osteopathy, a podiatrist, a nutritionist, a physician assistant, an acupuncturist, one volunteer emergency medical technician and two general members of the public.
The board members are appointed by the governor and receive Senate confirmation.
McGiffert said overall, state medical boards tend to be friendly toward the doctors applying for a license.
“They’re made up of physicians and they’re very sympathetic to other physicians. There is almost too much empathy for the people being complained about. And most of them are pretty secretive,” McGiffert said.
It is not difficult to see how this insular structure protects the doctors at the expense of patients, and it helps to sustain the ongoing ability of the ISSTD to propagate delusional, pseudoscientific, and profoundly harmful therapies.