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International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation

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The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) is a nonprofit professional organization of health professionals and individuals who are interested in advancing the scientific and societal understandings of trauma-based disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder, complex posttraumatic stress disorder, complex trauma, and the dissociative disorders.[1][2]

While serving as a platform for discussion and understanding of these topics, the ISSTD has also attracted attention and criticism[3][4][5] regarding its promotion of controversial treatments[6] and conspiracy theories, such as discredited[7] theories of government mind control related to hypnosis and unsubstantiated[8][9][10] claims of satanic ritual abuse.


In the 1980s, the ISSMP&D, the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation, grouped clinicians and researchers primarily interested in Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD).[3] In 1995 the ISSMP&D was renamed the International Society for the Study of Dissociation (ISSD), and in 2006 the ISSD became the ISSTD, to better describe the society's focus.

The ISSTD hosts annual conferences as well as regional conferences. It also offers different webinars, workshops, special interest groups (SIGs), training programs and online communities specific to subtopics related to the field of trauma and dissociation. Editors of the book Dissociation and the dissociative disorders: DSM-V and beyond describe the ISSTD as "the principal professional organization devoted to dissociation".[11]

Over the years, the ISSTD has published guidelines for the treatment of dissociative identity disorder in both adults and children[12][13][14] through its peer-reviewed Journal of Trauma & Dissociation (formerly Dissociation: Progress in the Dissociative Disorders),[15][16] published five times per year.[17][18] These guidelines are often referenced in the field as a basic starting point for psychotherapy with highly dissociative clients,[12][19][20][21][22] though they have also elicited concern as potentially harmful due to their noted ability to induce belief in alter personalities and create false memories.[23][24][25][26]

The ISSMP&D's official journal, Dissociation: Progress in the Dissociative Disorders ceased operation after 39 issues (March 1988-December 1997), though its full-text contents have since been made available online.[27]


Starting in the 1980s, controversies involving the ISSTD and surrounding repressed memory and the possible connections between child abuse, traumatic events, memory and dissociation arose.[2]

Some mental health professionals who used hypnosis and other memory recovery techniques now known to contribute to the creation of false memories[28] found their patients lodging bizarre accusations - including of satanic ritual abuse,[29] sacrificial murder,[30] and cannibalism[31] - against their parents, family members and prominent community members. This era is now considered a moral panic, colloquially referred to as the "Satanic Panic." The ISSTD has been accused of significantly influencing the creation of the panic.[6]

Fringe beliefs and conference topics[edit]

The ISSTD has promoted[6] multiple different discredited conspiracy theories including satanic ritual abuse and government mind control programming.

From 1984 to 1987, conferences included fringe topics such as cult-created alter personalities,[32] an alleged case of stigmata in an MPD patient, and discussions of alleged occult practices.[33]

In 1988, one of the ISSMP&D founders Bennett Braun presented a workshop in Chicago at an ISSMP&D conference linking the diagnosis of multiple personality disorder (now dissociative identity disorder) to abuse at the hands of devil-worshiping cults. Claims have been made that his presentation included notions of widespread Satanic cults, internally organized with a structure similar to communist cells, with local regional, distinct, national and international councils. These claims also included details that the cults were transgenerational family traditions that had been conducted in secret for at least 2000 years.[34] Braun has challenged these claims, alleging that they rely on remarks which misrepresent his actual statements made at the conference.[35] Another presentation at the 1988 conference aimed to verify alleged historical accounts of Satanic cults engaging in cannibalism and human sacrifice.[36]

In 1989, ISSMP&D's annual conference included presentations on Manchurian candidates, a discredited conspiracy[7] concerning alleged trained assassins trained to perform via hypnotic cue, multiple personality in toddlers, and performing exorcisms.[37]

From 1993 onward,[38] conferences featured topics[39][40] concerned with increasing forensic and legal scrutiny into the field's practice concerning the creation of false memories and use of clinical hypnosis. Despite growing skepticism and a lengthy investigative report published by the FBI in 1992 refuting claims of widespread, organized Satanic cults, presentations on fringe topics such as satanic ritual abuse continued into the late 2000s including topics such as demonic alter personalities.[41] Conference presentations included science denial in the form of a presentation addressing false memory as a "myth".[42]

In 2008, the ISSTD developed a special interest group, the Ritual Abuse and Mind Control Special Interest Group (RAMCOA SIG).[43] The group would become the largest and most active special interest group of the ISSTD.[44] In the same year, Michael Salter, who later became chair of the RAMCOA SIG in 2018,[45] presented a conference paper in which he inaccurately asserted that there were tunnels discovered beneath McMartin Preschool, a claim that echoed debunked allegations from the 1980s.[46] ISSTD cofounder, Richard Kluft, wrote in 2014, "Satanic elements remain problematic realities in many situations. I remain troubled about the matter of transgenerational satanic cults."[47] Kluft's suggested therapeutic methods have also elicited criticism for their suggestive nature regarding the use of hypnosis for accessing hidden identities (regarding dissociative identity disorder) via recognition of covert signalling.[6]

Approaching the 2020s, presentations continued to include conspiratorial topics, such as "key dates" and "occult holidays" (including Halloween and Christmas) purported to inspire ritual abuse perpetrated by Satanic cults. In 2019, Michael Salter, who would become president of the ISSTD in 2023, delivered a presentation[48] that included the promotion of the debunked conspiracy theory that there were tunnels found under McMartin Preschool, in reference to the McMartin preschool trial.

Misconduct by founders and presidents[edit]

In 1994, past ISSTD president George Greaves' license was revoked by the state of Georgia for engaging in sexual intercourse with patients, sexual contact with his patients while they were under hypnosis, and numerous other ethical violations.[49]

In 1995, ISSTD's founder and former president, Bennett Braun, was sued by a former patient who claimed that Braun had falsely convinced her that she'd engaged in Satanic rituals, cannibalism, and infanticide. The patient received a $10.6 million settlement. Braun's medical license was temporarily suspended by Illinois state officials in 1999[50] and he was expelled from the American Psychiatric Association in March 2000.[51]

In 2004, another former patient of Braun's, Elizabeth Gale, filed a lawsuit against Braun and Roberta Sachs, another ISSTD founder, alleging that they and their colleagues convinced Gale "that her family indoctrinated her as a child so she would make babies for sacrifice in a satanic cult." The settlement in the malpractice suit amounted to $7.5 million.[52]

Former ISSTD president Colin Ross has also been accused by former patients of implanting false memories, including of satanic ritual abuse. Roma Hart accused Ross of convincing her, among other things, that she was forcibly impregnated by aliens and later gave birth to a half-alien, half-human hybrid.[53][54] Another former patient, Martha Ann Tyo, sued Ross and others in 1998, alleging that the defendants' methods led her to believe her family was part of an "extended, transgenerational satanic cult."[54][55]

In January 2021, former ISSTD president and cofounder Bennett Braun's license was revoked[56] an additional time by the state of Montana in addition to the previous revocation from the state of Illinois. The decision of the state of Montana to license Braun elicited legal action[57] and criticism.[58]

In April 2023, the ISSTD issued a statement addressing the removal of a member of the Board of Directors.[59] The statement alleged a "serious and undeclared conflict of interest" which presented a "direct risk". The statement referenced social media posts authored by the removed Board member and addresses them as allegedly false. In response, claims made on social media by the member accuse the ISSTD -- particularly then-president Michael Salter -- of alleged bullying, ostracization within the organization, and making accusations of an alleged "psyop" run by the removed member of the Board.[60]

Organizational and structural issues[edit]

In 1990, the ISSTD annual conference featured a panel on the topic of skepticism of satanic ritual abuse. Panelists who presented skeptical viewpoints claimed that they were accused of being secret Satanists by ISSTD members.[47] One panelist, a founding ISSTD member alleged there was a "shouting match" and that he was physically intimidated.[61] Around 1992, a task force was set up within the organization to "negotiate peace between cult-believers and cult-skeptics". However, despite the formation of this task force, scheduled meetings aimed at fostering peace talks failed to materialize.[62]

After years of controversy, between 1993 and 1998, the ISSTD entered what 1999 president Peter Barach called a "crisis". Between 1993 and 1998 approximately half of the membership population ceased affiliation with the organization. In 1998, the society's journal, Dissociation, ceased publication. By 1999 staff were laid off.[3]

In October 2020, the ISSTD Board of Directors issued a letter to membership informing them that the special interest group formerly known as RAMCOA SIG (Ritual Abuse, Mind Control and Organized Abuse Special Interest Group) had been renamed due to "stricter rules for the provision of Continuing Education (CE) and Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits", largely due to growing concerns about the organization's presentations which included sensationalized and controversial statements regarding "mind control." The new name for this group is "Organized and Extreme Abuse SIG".[63]

In December 2020, internal documents and forum posts from the ISSTD were posted online by The Satanic Temple (TST) which has publicly criticized the organization.[4][60] TST spokesperson and cofounder Lucien Greaves commented on TST's motivations behind the release, stating the ISSTD represented a "clear and present threat to mental health consumers".[63]


In 1982, the steering committee for the founding of the ISSTD, at time of founding called the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality (ISSMP), was organized by George Greaves.[64] The organization gained traction from Myron Boor, Bennett Braun, David Caul, Jane Dubrow, George Greaves, Richard Kluft, Frank Putnam and Roberta Sachs, a group of physicians and psychologists present at the 1983 American Psychiatric Association conference.

In 1984, the ISSMP's first annual conference was held. Conferences were originally co-sponsored by The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. Conferences were originally co-sponsored by The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. The US-based ISSTD was officially formed in 1984 under the name of the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation but changed to the International Society for the Study of Dissociation in 1994 and then to its current name in November 2006.[2][11][65][66]


George B. Greaves (1983–1984)
Bennett Braun (1984–1985)
Richard Kluft (1985–1986)
George B. Greaves (1986–1987)
David Caul (1987–1988)
Philip Coons (1988–1989)
Walter C. Young (1989–1990)
Catherine Fine (1990–1991)
Richard Loewenstein (1991–1992)
Moshe S. Torem (1992–1993)
Colin A. Ross (1993–1994)
Nancy L. Hornstein (1994–1995)
Elizabeth S. Bowman (1995–1996)
James A. Chu (1996–1997)
Marlene E. Hunter (1997–1998)
Peter M. Barach (1998–1999)
John Curtis (1999–2000)
Joy Silberg (2000–2001)
Steven Frankel (2001–2002)
Richard A. Chefetz (2002–2003)
Steven Gold (2003–2004)
Frances S. Waters (2004–2005)
Eli Somer (2005–2006)
Catherine Classen (2006–2007)
Vedat Şar (2007–2008)
Kathy Steele (2008–2009)
Paul F. Dell (2010–2011)
Thomas G. Carlton (2011–2012)
Joan Turkus (2012–2013)
Philip J. Kinsler (2013–2014)
Lynette S. Danylchuk (2015)
Warwick Middleton (2016)
Martin Dorahy (2017)
Kevin Connors (2018)
Christine Forner (2019)
Christa Krüger (2020)
Rosita Cortizo (2021)
Lisa Danylchuk (2022)
Michael Salter (2023)
Peter Maves (2024)

See also[edit]



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  2. ^ a b c Reyes, G; Elhai JD & Ford JD (2008). The Encyclopedia of Psychological Trauma. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 364. ISBN 978-0-470-38615-6.
  3. ^ a b c Acocella, Joan Ross. (1999). Creating hysteria : women and multiple personality disorder (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. p. 7. ISBN 0-7879-4794-6. OCLC 41256113.
  4. ^ a b "Grey Faction's Letter to the American Psychological Association". Grey Faction. March 5, 2019. Retrieved August 20, 2019.
  5. ^ "False Memory Syndrome Foundation". www.fmsfonline.org. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d Gibbs, Andrew (October 28, 2017). "REMEMBRANCE OF TRAUMAS PAST". The Australian. Retrieved May 20, 2024.
  7. ^ a b Orne, Martin T. (February 1972). "Can a hypnotized subject be compelled to carry out otherwise unacceptable behavior? a discussion". International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 20 (2): 101–117. doi:10.1080/00207147208409281. ISSN 0020-7144. PMID 5060970.
  8. ^ "Investigator's Guide to Allegations of "Ritual" Child Abuse | Office of Justice Programs". www.ojp.gov. Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  9. ^ Waterhouse, R. T. (January 2014). Satanic abuse, false memories, weird beliefs and moral panics (doctoral thesis). City University London.
  10. ^ Nathan, Debbie; Snedeker, Michael R. (1995). Satan's silence: ritual abuse and the making of a modern American witch hunt (2. [Dr.] ed.). New York, NY: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-07180-7.
  11. ^ a b Dell PF; O'Neil JA, eds. (2009). Dissociation and the dissociative disorders: DSM-V and beyond. Taylor & Francis. pp. xiii. ISBN 978-0-415-95785-4.
  12. ^ a b Chu 2011, p. 207-8.
  13. ^ "ISSTD Treatment Guidelines for Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder". Archived from the original on January 6, 2012. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
  14. ^ Wieland, Sandra (2010). Dissociation in Traumatized Children and Adolescents: Theory and Clinical Interventions. Taylor & Francis. pp. xxiii. ISBN 978-0-415-87749-7.
  15. ^ Kihlstrom, J. F. (2005). "Dissociative Disorders". Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 1: 227–253. doi:10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.143925. PMID 17716088.
  16. ^ Hacking 1998, p. 52.
  17. ^ "Journal of Trauma & Dissociation". Retrieved January 20, 2012.
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  19. ^ Petrucelli, J (2010). Knowing, not-knowing and sort-of-knowing: psychoanalysis and the experience of Uncertainty. Karnac Books Ltd. pp. 83. ISBN 978-1-85575-657-1.
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  24. ^ Piper, August; Merskey, Harold (October 2004). "The Persistence of Folly: Critical Examination of Dissociative Identity Disorder. Part II. The Defence and Decline of Multiple Personality or Dissociative Identity Disorder". The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 49 (10): 678–683. doi:10.1177/070674370404901005. ISSN 0706-7437. PMID 15560314.
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  39. ^ "ISSD's 16th International Fall Conference – Audiotape Ordering Form". International Society for the Study of Dissociation. Archived from the original on August 14, 2001.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  40. ^ "Program Details - Monday". issd.org. Archived from the original on August 12, 2002.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  41. ^ International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. (n.d.). "ISSTD 27th Annual Conference – Final Program." isst-d.org. Original unavailable. Archived here.
  42. ^ "ISSTD 29th Annual International Conference". issd.org. Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved March 16, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
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  49. ^ "Verification". verify.sos.ga.gov. Retrieved October 14, 2021.
  50. ^ Laycock, Joseph. "Satanic Temple Protests Pseudoscientific Therapies for Satanic Abuse and Witchcraft". Religion Dispatches. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  51. ^ "Lawsuit Raises Questions About APA Liability Insurance Program". Psychiatric Times. Psychiatric Times Vol 18 No 1. 18. January 1, 2001.
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  53. ^ Mesner, Douglas (February 8, 2010). "Dr. Colin A. Ross: Psychiatry, the Supernatural, and Malpractice Most Foul". Process. Retrieved August 20, 2019.
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  56. ^ State of Montana Board of Medical Examiners (January 22, 2021). Final Order in the Matter of Bennett Braun [1]
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  58. ^ Anez, Bob (October 15, 2003). "Psychiatrist gets Montana medical license". The Missoulian. Retrieved March 9, 2024.
  59. ^ "A Statement From the ISSTD Board Addressing a Recent Board Change and Claims on Social Media – ISSTD News". October 12, 2023. Archived from the original on October 12, 2023. Retrieved March 1, 2024.
  60. ^ a b Faction, Grey (November 27, 2023). "The ISSTD's Death Spiral: Paranoia and Disarray Under 2023 President Michael Salter". Grey Faction. Retrieved March 1, 2024.
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  63. ^ a b "Turmoil after mental health organization rebrands conspiracist group to preserve accreditation". December 14, 2020. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
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External links[edit]