As the founding president of the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation (ISSTD), Bennett Braun, faces his 12th malpractice allegation in Butte, Montana, journalists have begun to question the insular structure of the oversight boards that would allow somebody like Braun to continue practicing in one State, even after his license was suspended in another.
A spokesperson for a patient’s advocacy group told the Montana Standard that the State medical boards are “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.”
Are the board’s interests too intertwined and overlapped with those whom they are tasked to oversee for them to be reliable mediators on an aggrieved consumer’s behalf?
Braun, accused of overmedicating patients in psychiatric care while inducing them to believe bizarre conspiracy theories related to “Satanic Ritual Abuse,” will leave a legacy of shame that extends beyond the lives directly ruined by his “therapeutic” interventions. The organization he helped establish, the ISSTD, holds annual conferences where Continuing Education Units are offered to mental health professionals who attend seminars that sometimes veer into the dubious, spurious, outright bizarre, deranged, supernatural, and entirely debunked. The Satanic Temple’s Grey Faction has spent years documenting and decrying the propagation of discredited and harmful ideas espoused by the ISSTD, filing complaints that are universally all but completely ignored by oversight boards.
But what of the agencies that approve seminars to confer Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to ISSTD conference attendees? Are they not concerned with the fact that their credibility may suffer at the disbursement of CEUs for seminars regarding, say, Illuminati mind-control? (This is not hypothetical. A Grey Faction representative actually went to the effort of attending a 2018 conference seminar that discussed Illuminati mind-control, for which he indeed received CEUs.)
We filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the State of New York, which resulted in the following exchange with the CE Learning Systems, LLC, which provides CEUs for ISSTD conferences:
To: CE Learning Systems, LLC
From: Lucien Greaves, Grey Faction, The Satanic Temple
On April 07, 2019, our organization sent a Freedom Of Information Act request to the New York State Education Department (NYSED) requesting emails related to a complaint we submitted to them on March 05, 2019. Our complaint requested that NYSED re-consider their approval of the Continuing Education Units conferred upon attendees of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation’s (ISSTD) annual conference, which took place March 29 – April 1, 2019. In response to our complaint, the emails show, NYSED requested of your organization, CE Learning Systems, LLC — the NYSED-approved continuing education (CE) provider responsible for overseeing ISSTD conference CEs — the proposal, “session information,” and speaker’s curriculum vitae for each of the workshops that we question the scientific and ethical legitimacy of in electronic format.
Having received the responsive documents, we are alarmed to see that in reply to the request from the State for documents held by CE Learning, the State first received a response (attached) from a representative of CE Learning, Tyler Gibson, immediately expressing concern that the complaint originated from The Satanic Temple’s Grey Faction. Whether or not the request did originate from Grey Faction was undisclosed by the State of New York, but Mr. Gibson was apparently well aware of Grey Faction’s objections to the teachings of the ISSTD, and summarily dismissed them in his email to the State as mere “hassling” in an effort to persuade the State to adopt the same view. Equally as insulting, Mr. Gibson preemptively reached out to the ISSTD — the organization his company is supposed to oversee — for a statement that he attached alleging that Grey Faction is merely “a nuisance group mostly focused on self promotion and chaos.” This failure to consider meticulously researched claims of harm toward mental health consumers based upon a misinformed, or willfully misrepresentative prejudice against those assumed to be filing such a claim is unprofessional, irresponsible, and indicative of conflict of interest that systemically preferences the practitioner over the consumer, regardless of, or with utter disregard for, the merits of the claims made.
As Grey Faction, and myself in particular, are accused by the ISSTD in Mr. Gibson’s letter of “consistently” making “false allegations,” I request that CE Learning apprise us of whatever allegations I, or Grey Faction, have made that Mr. Gibson, as a representative of CE Learning, confidently proclaims to be false. Did the ISSTD present any evidence of false allegations made by Grey Faction, or is CE Learning content with accepting these claims at face value? Mr. Gibson cited no examples, and we believe ourselves very thorough in our adherence to responsible journalistic standards in reporting upon mental health care-related issues. We have but to be corrected of any errors in fact we may have presented to be moved to amend our complaints or public statements. To date, no such corrections have come, and Mr. Gibson’s letter to the State of New York artlessly evades the issues that Grey Faction seeks to confront.
It is, we feel, disingenuous that Mr. Gibson’s solicited statement from the ISSTD chose to characterize our complaints against the ISSTD as a matter of our skepticism toward “dissociative disorders” as a whole. No reference was made to our objections toward the specific conference materials we were calling into question, which are by and large seminars related to “ritual abuse” and “mind control.” As it is common for the ISSTD and its defenders to apply overly-broad definitions to the use of these terms, we can not ignore a long history of the ISSTD’s application of these terms to allege the existence of a secretive worldwide Satanic cult conspiracy, and nefarious government-sponsored Illuminati mind-control programs. Whatever the ISSTD feels about the empirical standing of “dissociative disorders,” no credible evidential support exists for these conspiracy theories which are openly propagated by the ISSTD at their annual conferences.
As an example of how such paranoid conspiracist narratives cause real harm in the real world, outside of the insular environment of ISSTD gatherings, Grey Faction has documented the case of one Jude Michael Mirra, an 8-year old autistic boy who was murdered by his mother in an apparent effort by his mother to preserve him future depredations at the hands of unseen Satanists. Before murdering her son, Jude Mirra’s mother consulted with the ISSTD’s Dr. Ellen Lacter — listed in the CE Learning-provided documents related to her presentation at the 2019 annual ISSTD conference as the “chair” of their “Ritual Abuse/Mind-Control Special Interest Group” (RA/MC SIG) — who openly and publicly endorses conspiracy theories of “Satanic Ritual Abuse,” “Witchcraft Abuse,” and Illuminati Mind-Control. The position of Grey Faction is that it is irresponsible in the extreme for licensed mental health professionals to endorse conspiracy theories as the etiological basis for dissociative states and, by extension, it is irresponsible to offer Continuing Education for seminars that treat such conspiracy theories as fact. We strongly suspect that had Jude Mirra’s mother consulted a rational and responsible mental health care professional — one who might disabuse her of the notion that there existed a covert Satanic plot against her son — rather than an irrational conspiracist like Ellen Lacter, Jude Michael Mirra might still be alive today.
Remarkably, the ISSTD chose, unprompted, to address in Mr. Gibson’s letter to the State of New York, our complaint against Ellen Lacter, summarizing it by stating that a “number of years ago an ISSTD member who is part of one of our Special Interest Groups that focuses on Ritual and Organized Abuse briefly consulted on a case which ended in tragedy. The mother in this case was concerned about her autistic son, and eventually took her sons life in an effort to protect him from perceived threats. 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.”
It is worth noting that in this summary of the Jude Mirra case, the ISSTD affirms that Dr. Lacter provided Jude’s mother with materials related to the exact conspiracist thinking that led her to murder the boy, but it certainly does nothing to lessen, and everything to strengthen, reasonable suspicion that Dr. Lacter’s actions point to the culpability that the dissemination of such conspiracy theories (and under the authority of professional licensure) may have played in the death of this child. To see our concern toward this state of affairs disregarded as “self promotion” is profoundly disappointing. The fact is that Mr. Gibson chose to preemptively supply a statement from the ISSTD about Grey Faction with no apparent effort to find out what Grey Faction ourselves are claiming.
We hope that CE Learning can be moved to take an unbiased look at the concerns Grey Faction outlines regarding the seminars offering CEs and evaluate whether they wish to continue to provide CEs and sponsor conferences where conspiracist claims, well outside any standards of scientific rigor, are openly propagated. Is it appropriate that mental health professionals claim Satanic cult criminal abuse and Illuminati mind-control as the etiological origin of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)? Is their insistence upon using the circular logic that such conspiracy theories are proven by the existence of DID considered a responsible approach deserving of professional accreditation?
For the past several years, Grey Faction has collected information from ISSTD conferences that demonstrate none of which I say here is hyperbole or misrepresentation. Claims made at ISSTD conferences from the podiums of their very seminars sometimes veer from the conspiracist into the outright supernatural. We are happy to provide summaries, documentation, and even audio of many such events at your request in hopes that you will reconsider attaching your company to such irrational, unscientific, and even harmful claims made under the sanction of professional accreditation. And, again, I would like to request an inquiry into the allegation that we consistently make “false allegations” with direct citation to those claims. To date, we have never seen the ISSTD, or any of their sponsoring organization, confront our concerns regarding their endorsement of conspiracy theories. To date, they have always chosen instead to address the legitimacy of “dissociative disorders” as an obvious evasion.
Your reply, or failure to reply, shall be posted publicly, as we believe this to be a matter of urgent public importance.
The Satanic Temple, Grey Faction
A representative replied:
Thank you for your correspondence, and thank you for bringing the issue to our attention. We responded promptly to the complaint brought to us through NYSED with truthful representation being our primary concern. We immediately provided NYSED with the CVs of all presenters and summaries of the material being presented. Mr. Gibson himself made no claims to the veracity of your accusations, but rather was quoting a representative of ISSTD regarding the history of the Grey Faction of the Satanic Temple and ISSTD by way of providing context.
The complaint seemed indicate that the complainant did not actually attend the sessions presented by ISSTD that they were complaining about, since the list of sessions we received included at least one session that was canceled. This suggested to us that the complaint was based more on ideological grounds than on the content of the sessions per se.
We understand your concerns, particularly in light of the tragic past events as you describe. We recognize that dissociation and related topics are controversial, but much of behavioral science is or has been controversial. Frankly, we’re still in early days with regard to understanding the human psyche. That the DSM-5 still includes DID and dissociation and the number of peer-reviewed journal articles available through the American Psychological Association’s PsycNet suggests that this is still a topic worthy of discussion and study. Indeed just as clinicians’ understanding of topics such as autism and ADHD have progressed over time, so too is the study of dissociation apparently progressing, in part through the work of ISSTD as well as its critics.
We’re not defending ISSTD, nor do we suggest that DID is valid or not. We only see that currently, it is a topic that a significant number of clinicians and professional organizations such as APA consider worthy of study. We’re here to facilitate the exchange of ideas related to behavioral health generally, not to advocate for a particular point of view. To the extent that a topic is considered acceptable by organizations such as APA and presented by credentialed clinicians, we are willing to facilitate events related to it.
That said, not every session at a conference or similar multi-session event meets the criteria for Continuing Education credit. It is possible that things said at a non-CE-approved session would fit some of your description. I’m only speculating here, by way of illustrating that we can’t take responsibility for sessions or events that we did not review or approve for CE.
We urge you to consider sponsoring scholarship critiquing DID. It seems that you’ve done a lot of research personally, and based on your educational background it would seem that you could make some headway in this. We would be just as happy to work with scholars and clinicians who are critical of DID and dissociation. We believe in science, and for science to work we need to have opposing viewpoints presented and discussed.
The reply, while cordial, again evades any direct contact with our complaints against the propagation of conspiracy theories related to Satanic Ritual Abuse and Illuminati mind-control, opting instead to admit that the diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder is controversial, appealing to a sense of scientific agnosticism that allows such controversies to be explored. But where does academic freedom end and the irresponsible propagation of baseless notions begin? Would it be appropriate to offer geology credits (if one needed to annually maintain a geologist’s license) for flat-earth presentations? Biology credits for creationist sermons?
What do you think?