Devilish Diagnosis

Houston Press/July 12, 1995
By Bonnie Gangelhoff

"Devilish Diagnosis" is a profile of psychologist Judith Peterson, Ph.D. The article is of special interest because Dr. Peterson is being sued by six former patients. The information in the article was obtained from the depositions of: Alison Roome, Amy Smith, Lynn Carl, Lucy Abney, Mary Shanley and Kathryn Schwiderski.

The article reviewed the professional background of Dr. Peterson who started her career working with the mentally retarded in Ohio. She then had a practice in NY state before moving to Houston in the early 1980s. She established a successful private practice in Houston. In 1987 she joined a local dissociative disorders study group in which participants discussed emotionally draining or difficult cases and helped each other. There was not much literature on the effects of trauma and abuse available at that time.

The author explains that, "During the mid-80s, according to one member of the study group, therapists across the nation had started hearing stories of satanic ritual abuse from patients. Similar stories were being told in Houston. Group members disagreed over whether the stories were real, with some believing the patients' memories were grounded in fact, and others contending that they were merely metaphors the patients had constructed to deal with some terrible trauma they had suffered."

Gangelhoff tells us that Peterson "was beginning to acquire a reputation as an expert on recovering memories of childhood abuse from her 1988 MPD diagnosis of Kathryn Schwiderski...It was around the time of her diagnosis of Schwiderski that Peterson -- who had been certified in clinical hypnosis in 1988 -- began regular phone consultations with Bennett Braun on MPD. In a deposition for the Schwiderski family's lawsuit, Peterson says part of her education in MPD came from Braun's recommended readings." According to the article, Peterson played an important role in the abuses that took place at Shadows Glen Hospital, which was closed after investigation by the state. Colleagues said that Peterson saw herself as a pioneer on a new frontier of psychology.

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