Psychologist barred from treating cases involving false memories

Star Tribune/June 3, 1999
By Maura Lerner

The Minnesota Board of Psychology has permanently barred Renee Fredrickson, a St. Paul psychologist, from treating patients for problems potentially involving ritual cult abuse.

The board restricted her license and fined her $15,000 for unprofessional conduct and causing potential harm to patients. She is one of three psychologists disciplined by the board this spring, according to newly released documents.

Fredrickson, 52, author of the book "Repressed Memories: A Journey to Recovery from Sexual Abuse," was sued by a female patient two years ago for allegedly causing false memories of ritual cult abuse, torture, dismemberment and murder. That case was settled later.

But following an investigation by the Psychology Board, Fredrickson acknowledged allegations that, during the course of therapy, at least three patients came to believe they had been victims of sexual abuse and satanic cults, and at least one patient became suicidal as a result.

The board also said she inappropriately used hypnosis in exploring those memories, including memories of "parents killing a family in Oregon."

Fredrickson admitted that she reinforced the first patient's memories of cannibalism and murder, and even complained to her patient that the FBI wasn't properly investigating claims of ritual satanic abuse. The patient eventually concluded that those memories were false.

In addition, Fredrickson complained to police that she was being stalked by members of a cult. The board listed that as a sign of "possible mental dysfunction."

As part of a consent order settling the case, Fredrickson agreed to stop treating patients who suspected or believed that they were victims of such abuse, or even to consult with other therapists who treat them. She also agreed to undergo a psychological evaluation and to take a course on professional "boundaries," or proper behavior.

In an interview, Fredrickson said that only one of the patients accused her of implanting false memories, and that, although she signed the consent order, "it was stripped of context."

"I did not feel I signed a stipulation or consent order that was true or complete," she said. "I signed it because there was simply no other recourse except a full trial."

In another action, Susan Heifner of Apple Valley voluntarily surrendered her psychology license after admitting that she was paid to sign her name to psychological tests that she never performed in order to obtain Medicaid payments for her employer. In one case, the tests were performed by another psychologist who had been suspended from the Medicaid program, according to the consent order. In another, they were performed by her employer, a social worker, who did not have the necessary license to submit Medicaid claims.

The board also reprimanded Leslie Ross Olson of Rochester for unprofessional conduct and bias in taking her patient's side in a custody battle during a divorce. As part of a consent order, Olson agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and to take professional course work in custody evaluations, court testimony and writing psychological reports.

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