Utah therapist Ruth Killpack

Today on Mormon Stories Podcast we continue our series on the history of Repressed Memory Therapy and claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse within Utah Mormonism.  

Today’s interview is with “Kim,” who tells her experiences of being subjected to techniques of hypnosis and repressed/recovered memory in Provo/Orem Utah between 1988 and 1992.  In the interview Kim discusses her traumatic childhood – which led to her conversion to Mormonism, and left her vulnerable to Repressed/Recovered Memory techniques in adulthood while she was attempting to recover from childhood PTSD.

While living in Provo/Orem, UT and struggling in her early marriage, Kim became connected with therapist Rex Kocherhans and later was referred by a bishop to therapist Ruth Killpack – both of whom were practitioners of Repressed/Recovered Memory therapy.  Interestingly, Ruth Killpack was also a therapist to Martha Beck, who controversially claimed that her late father, Mormon scholar and apologist Hugh Nibley, sexually abused her.  Martha Beck has acknowledged that her memories of abuse were recovered through these same Repressed/Recovered Memory techniques. 

As Kim engaged in therapy with Mormon therapists Rex Kocherhans and Ruth Killpack, she was pressured in therapy using hypnosis to “remember” being sexually abused during her childhood, which resulted in her questioning whether several family members had abused her – even though she was never convinced that the “memories” produced under hypnosis were real.  As these accusations left Kim increasingly paranoid and ultimately re-traumatized – and as Kim grew increasingly uncomfortable with her therapists’ lack of appropriate boundaries and unethical therapeutic ethics — Kim concluded that her “memories” of family abuse were in fact implanted or manipulated by her therapists. 

“Kim” was later directly interviewed by Mormon General Authority Glenn Pace as a part of his investigation into Satanic Ritual Abuse within Mormonism, and eventually Kim spoke out as an advocate against “”Repressed or Recovered Memory” Techniques in newspapers, and on TV.

This is Kim’s story.

Finally, for background, these Repressed/Recovered memory techniques are the same used by highly controversial Utah/Mormon therapist Barbara Snow, who was at the center of the Utah Satanic Ritual Abuse panic during the 1990s and 2000s.  Barabara Snow was also a therapist to Spiritual Guru Teal Swan, who also claims to be a victim of Satanic Ritual Abuse, has over 700,000 Youtube followers, and who openly employs Recovered Memory techniques with her followers/clients.  The dangers of Teal Swan’s techniques are discussed more thoroughly on the Gizmodo podcast The Gateway: Teal Swan, wherein Teal encourages retreat participants to envision their own death by suicide, while describing death by suicide as merely “hitting the reset button” on a difficult life.

Part 1: “Kim” shares how her traumatic childhood and Mormon conversion left her vulnerable to Repressed Memory techniques 

Part 2: “Kim” seeks treatment for PTSD, and encounters “Repressed Memory” Mormon therapists Rex Kocherhans and Ruth Killpack

Part 3: “Kim” discusses the harm of “Repressed Memory” and how she escaped it

Part 4: A final discussion on the harms of “Repressed Memory” Therapy and its ties to Mormonism

 

Additional resources mentioned in the podcast:

  • A brief history of the Utah/SRA Social Panic entitled: “A Rumor of Devils: Allegations of Satanic Child Abuse and Mormonism, 1985-1994?”
  • The Pace Memorandum, which was a 1990  memorandum written by Glenn L. Pace, a general authority in Mormon church, describing to a church committee the complaints of sixty church members who claimed they had been subjected to satanic ritual abuse (SRA) by family and other church members. 
  • Ritual Crime in the State of Utah – a 1995 report commissioned by the Utah State Legislature.
  • Statements from the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, etc. on childhood memories of sexual abuse, Repressed/Recovered memory, etc.
  • Repressed memory Accusations: Devastated Families and Devastated Patients” – A research study which outlines the damage caused by Repressed/Recovered Memory Therapy to patients and their families, appearing in Applied Cognitive Psychology.
  • An overview of ethical concerns raised regarding Utah Repressed Memory Therapist Barbara Snow.  To date, Barbara Snow has not publicly renounced Repressed/Recovered Memory techniques, and has not publicly acknowledged the damage caused by her support and usage of these techniques.
  • Must-Listen Podcasts on the Satanic Ritual Abuse panic in the 80s and 90s:
    • Uncover: Satanic Panic: A super-important and relevant podcast episode by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on an outbreak of SRA claims in a small Canadian town.
    • The Gateway: Teal Swan.  A national podcast by Gizmodo, covering in 6 episodes the rise of Utahn Teal Swan, who was a client of Barbara Snow, and who now employs Repressed/Recovered Memory techniques with her 700,000+ followers.  Teal has also been dubbed “The Suicide Catalyst,” as she openly encourages her retreat clients to envision their own deaths by suicide, and downplays death by suicide as “hitting the reset button” into a future reincarnated life.
  • Must-Read Books on the Satanic Ritual Abuse panic in the 80s and 90s:
IMPORTANT:
  • If you or anyone you know have had experiences with Utah therapist Barbara Snow, recovered memory techniques, and/or personal stories around claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse within Mormonism, please share with me via email.
  • I continue to search for at least ONE credible story of Satanic Ritual Abuse in Utah and/or Mormonism. The criteria I am using to ensure the story is credible is as follows:
    • The abuse must involve evidence, and/or some sort of police investigation.
    • The case can NOT involve any sort of hypnosis or recovered memory techniques on the part of any therapist(s). As an example, Utah therapist Barbara Snow can not have been involved in the case as a therapist to the victim.
    • I would prefer to interview someone who has read Lawrence Wright’s book “Remembering Satan.” In other words, I would prefer to interview an SRA victim who is aware of all the historical, social, and psychological pitfalls surrounding the SRA panic of the 80s and 90s, so that they can tell their story in a way that has maximum credibility for the listeners.
  • I want to make it super clear that I (Dr. John Dehlin) FULLY acknowledge that both the state of Utah and the LDS Church have a HUGE sexual abuse problem – including a long, disturbing history of protecting perpetrators of abuse at the expense of abuse victims.  I stand WITH victims of abuse, and against perpetrators of abuse (be it emotional, physical, or sexual).  A sampling of the many episodes wherein I have covered and condemned abuse can be found here.
  • I believe it to be essential that we simultaneously do everything we can to both prevent abuse and prosecute abusers, AND end harmful therapeutic practices like Recovered Memory.  Recovered memory is dangerous for several reasons, including: a) it has no credible scientific backing, b) it has been condemned by all major mental health associations, c) it has often led to false accusations, which ultimately risks to undermine the mountain of credible abuse claims that exist, and d) recovered memory has been shown to actually harm clients who participate in it.  For an in-depth discussion of this topic, listen to this podcast series on Teal Swan, recovered memory, and claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse (and most important Episode 5). and/or read the books Remembering SatanThe Demon Haunted World, and Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me.

 

Part 1: “Kim” shares how her traumatic childhood and Mormon conversion left her vulnerable to Repressed Memory techniques 

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Part 2: “Kim” seeks treatment for PTSD, and encounters “Repressed Memory” Mormon therapists Rex Kocherhans and Ruth Killpack

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Part 3: “Kim” discusses the harm of “Repressed Memory” and how she escaped it

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Part 4: A final discussion on the harms of “Repressed Memory” Therapy and its ties to Mormonism

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19 Comments

  1. Anonymous May 21, 2020 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    This is really hypocritical John.

    “We want to protect against false accusations that will destroy lives and careers.” (paraphrased)
    “We need verifiable accounts.” (paraphrased)

    Kim’s (not her real name) unverifiable, first-hand, account is being told uncontested with heavy allegations against Rex Kocherhans (real name)?!

    • John Dehlin May 21, 2020 at 2:39 pm - Reply

      Not even close. A few reasons why:

      1) Kim has a contemporary witness — her husband, who literally experienced the entire ordeal alongside her. Total corroboration. I’ve met him personally and confirmed the entire story.
      2) None of the memories fundamental to Kim’s story involve recovered memories. Zero. Zilch.
      3) Kim has journal entries which she READ FROM during this interview.

      If you can find me ANY SRA victim with this level of evidence, I will interview them in a heartbeat, and allow them to name names.

      Also, are you really going to argue that victims of abuse (yes, even abuse by highly unethical therapists) are not entitled to confidentiality?

      Wishing you all the best.

      – John

  2. Randall L Brower May 21, 2020 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    I love this interview. Fascinating. She is such an orator!
    One question: Are you meaning to saying “Hyst-E-ria” or is “Hyst-I-ria a word I am unfamiliar with?
    Maybe it’s a Utah accent thing. LOL.
    But for real.
    Can you confirm I am hearing you correctly?

    Thanks. Keep up the amazing work.

    Randy (The spiritual polygamist) Brower

  3. Skeptic May 22, 2020 at 3:11 am - Reply

    Thought for you, John:

    If you never find a victim you deem to be credible, will that mean child sex predators never use ritualistic formalities while abusing children?

    • PHRED May 22, 2020 at 6:47 am - Reply

      Hi SKEPTIC,

      Would you accept a well known account of verified “ritualistic formalities” as credible?

      Elisabeth Smart
      Read the section under “Captivity”.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kidnapping_of_Elizabeth_Smart

      Listening to John’s sincere plea here, it sounds clear to me at least, he accepts the possibility of “ritualistic formalities” and would like to interview a verified case of SRA.

  4. PHRED May 22, 2020 at 8:48 am - Reply

    This was a powerful interview. Thanks Kim and John.

    I too was aware of False Memory Syndrome Foundation and how it affected the local area of Provo/Orem in the early 90’s. I read the data of the time about Recovered Memories and I can confirm the controversy, heated and angry sides. It was nearly impossible to communicate without extreme tempers and emotions driving the dialogue. I know firsthand of questionable therapists, incapacitated clients, frightened spouses, torn up families, terrible divorces, and terrified children not understanding what was happening to their parents. It was an extremely sad time.

    I’m troubled to learn that a similar set of ideas are being perused at the moment by Barbra Snow and Teal Swan. I just listened to John’s reference on a podcast interviewing Teal Swan. It is difficult for me to justify her viewpoints which are extreme by most standards. I’m very concerned that Teal’s viewpoints are spreading unimpeded on the Internet.

    My experience tells me there may be valid instances of Recovered Memories and I empathize with those survivors of abuse. There are also invalid instances of Recovered Memories. We need to understand both sides and help the survivors on the one hand and guard against inflecting harm with invalid memories on the other. Thanks again to Kim for sharing her experience.

    My hope is that this time around, all viewpoints may be communicated with reason and civility. I’m encouraged so far.

    • Skeptic May 23, 2020 at 2:42 am - Reply

      Phred,

      I have a hard time believing a victim who really survived something as terrible as what we’re talking about would want to come on this podcast considering how the information has been presented.

      Look at the 1995 Attorney General report John links to. It says the exact opposite of what John is telling us it says. The investigators who wrote the report name a successful prosecution, talk about why there aren’t other successful prosecutions, share evidence they did find, talk about why it’s sometimes difficult to gather evidence, and cite confessions they received after doing thorough investigations. .

      So….. credible investigations have already been done. Lots of time and money was put into it by the Office of the Attorney General. It doesn’t make sense to investigate the subject on a podcast after falsely claiming that an Attorney General report found nothing.

      People need to read the primary sources rather than trusting John’s word. It doesn’t take long. You don’t have to read all 60 pages. The preface and the conclusion only take a couple minutes to read and they say plenty.

      John is basically gaslighting victims while making false claims about what a report he’s linking to actually says. I don’t know why any victims would want to do an interview. Not credible ones anyway. Maybe some grifter who wasn’t really a victim will come on anonymously to try to make real victims look bad or something, but I have a hard time believing a credible one would volunteer after all this.

      • John Dehlin May 23, 2020 at 5:19 pm - Reply

        Skeptic,

        Have you read “Remembering Satan”? https://www.amazon.com/Remembering-Satan-Tragic-Recovered-Memory/dp/0679755829

        Have you read “Mistakes were made, but not by me?” https://www.amazon.com/Mistakes-Were-Made-But-Not/dp/1491514132

        Have you read “The Demon Haunted World?” https://www.amazon.com/The-Demon-Haunted-World-Cary-Elwes-audiobook/dp/B06XTZ6QMN/ref=sr_1_1

        Have you listened to the CBC’s podcast on the Satanic Panic? https://www.cbc.ca/radio/uncover/season-6-satanic-panic-1.5437487

        Have you listened to Gizmodo’s podcast series on Teal Swan which covers Barbara Snow and Recovered Memory? https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-gateway-teal-swan/id1387560474

        Have you read “A Rumor of Devils: Allegations of Satanic Child Abuse and Mormonism, 1985-1994?” https://www.cesnur.org/2001/archive/mi_mormons.htm

        If you value information and evidence, then we can have a conversation. If you just want to throw out ad hominem attacks and uninformed accusations, then we probably have little further to talk about.

        We are not challenging credible cases of abuse in this episode. Abuse is ALL OVER Utah. I’ve stated that every step of the way in this series. And I’ve spent many years of my life trying to fight abuse within Mormonism. And I will continue doing so until my dying day.

        What we are questioning in this series are longstanding rumors of Utah-based Satanic Ritual Abuse (groups of conspirators in a Satanic “coven” or group) — based on hearsay, and based on “memories” from victims that which are most often extracted via hypnosis years or decades later through highly unethical Recovered/Repaired Memory techniques….a technique which now is pretty much universally condemned by the entire mental health profession and the legal system to boot.

        Go back to that report you mentioned. Can you name one person credibly convicted in Utah for being part of a Satanic Ritual Abuse Conspiracy? I’ll give you time. Individual convictions for non-SRA related abuse do not count. They must involve substantiated SRA evidence, without any use of Repaired/Recovered Memory techniques.

        I don’t think you’ll find any. But please. I’m super interested.

        Also, once you read up on the history of SRA, you’ll learn that polices investigations/convictions do not necessarily equate to guilt. Once you educate yourself about the SRA cases all over the USA in the 90s and 90s, you’ll learn that the very few actual SRA convictions that were made were usually later overturned because it was determined that the witnesses were manipulated and coerced into non-credible testimonies (see the McMartin Preschool case as a great example, along with the CBC podcast listed above).

        In other words, the super few SRA convictions that were made were most often later overturned, and are generally understood now to be hysteria-induced over-reactions – kind of like the Salem Witch Trials — not based on real evidence….and certainly not examples of guilt and/or justice. Salem certainly had many convictions, and killed many “witches.” Does that help to prove your point?

        Listen to the podcasts. Read the books. Please educate yourself about the history of SRA before you start throwing the “gaslighting” accusations around. Your responses – void of evidence and information – are the real gaslighting here.

        John

      • PHRED May 24, 2020 at 2:16 am - Reply

        Hi SKEPIC,

        I hear you and agree.

        I don’t agree about John manipulating this conversation to stroke his ego by being right (gaslighting). I have listened to possibly 90% of his Mormon Stories episodes. I believe John to have a sincere desire to help the post and current Mormon communities as best he can by presenting all sides so we can make an informed decision, including this complicated and emotion series.

        However, I do agree that I might be ignorant of current data about SRA, real Recovered Memories, pseudomemories, sexual assault/abuse.

        In an effort to understand more recent data, I started reading last week each of John’s references. I am currently reading “A Rumor of Devils: Allegations of Satanic Child Abuse and Mormonism”. I will also commit to your suggestion of rereading the 1995 Attorney General’s report tonight and making an effort to understand your point. (I remember when the report came out initially).

        I have a suggestion. How we both read John’s recommended references? Then we have our dialogue. Would that work for you?

        Here are a couple more resources back in the day which might be of interest which have not come to light yet.

        Elder Scott’s General Conference talk April 1992 blasting abuse, then forgive and don’t over indulge in therapy.
        (I remember this talk at the time)
        https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1992/04/healing-the-tragic-scars-of-abuse?lang=eng

        G. Hugh Allred’s (BYU professor of family counseling) Education Week lecture October 1992 suggesting Satanic Ritual Abuse is real.
        (I went to this lecture)
        https://www.newspapers.com/clip/24075028/19920910-byu-lecture-satanic-ritual/

        Respectfully,
        PHRED

  5. Manu May 22, 2020 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Hi John,

    You have chosen a difficult topic to discuss. Memory Regression Therapy is something of a veritable emotional minefield for those whose lives have been touched by it. There are people who will criticize you for this regardless of their respective position.

    However, I think that what you are doing is very brave. On this subject, it would appear that you have abandoned any kind of loyalty to either side of the Mormon anti-Mormon divide, recognizing the complexity of a situation where people who have had memory reprogramming have the experience of being a victim at the same time that people who may have been falsely accused are also victims.

    Sadly, like Cotton Mathers in Salem, the therapists who used these techniques genuinely believed in a conspiracy of satanists out to harm and abuse normal folks. This is another kind of witch-hunt, one which demonstrated Owen Davies argument that modern people are still fully capable of generating witch-craft allegations.

    It takes a lot of courage to address such a difficult topic tactfully. The same kind of courage it took when you walked into your “court of love” and told the cameras that “We need to learn to love better.” In my opinion, this is you at your best.

    Please take into consideration that Utah might have a higher than normal proportion of people who have had this experience precisely because people during the Satanic Panic identified Mormonism as a cult. Therapists who promoted this practice may have targeted Utah specifically because of it’s association with a religion they viewed as Satanic. Because Utah’s population was 80% LDS at the time, and many of them were fundamentalist Christians of an evangelical color, the widespread belief in the reality of Satan and his capacity to effect the material world would have also left many Utahns vulnerable to this therapy as it operated within a paradigm they already believed in.

    Either way, I want to thank you for having the courage to wrestle with a very complicated and emotionally volatile issue that has hurt many families, not just here but across the country. Best wishes and may you have all the luck you need in this endeavor.

  6. Vickie Duncan May 24, 2020 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    Wonderful and a necessary interview. Don’t pick a side.choose wisdom, knowledge and those wonderful gut feelings. I love this lady…! Referrals from any clergy should be skeptical. Your research and your own goals can lead the way. Thank you Kim and John!

  7. Melanie Parkinson May 26, 2020 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    This is a powerful interview and I commend you for taking on this topic. I know you are going to take a lot of heat from all sides of the spectrum, but the repressed memory phenomenon of the 1980s must NOT be forgotten. Repressed memories of sexual abuse became a lucrative industry, as did the idea that satanists were around every corner. I remember watching all the shows about how repressed memories had caused multiple personality disorder, depression, anxiety-basically, repressed memories were the root of so many issues. No one wants to dismiss credible cases of abuse, but I think it is important to recognize that sometimes the accusations need more investigation.

    Kim, thank you for sharing your story and for the record, I loved it when you read portions of your written account. Why? Because memory is so fleeting and malleable. Even a few years removed from an event can rewrite strands of the past. Thanks again.

  8. Emma June 24, 2020 at 10:25 am - Reply

    I have a close friend who has talked to me about Satanic ritual abuse as a child . it is horrific and yet who am I to say it is not possible. She’s an honest down to earth person She’s not mentally ill — But it seems evident she was traumatized

    I’ve come to accept the fact that there are many weird and horrific things That happen in this world that I may not understand but are still possible. I believe drugs and fear can cause a person to forget those experiences—

    Professional opinions can be wrong . The American psychological Association and other professionals labeled homosexuality as a mental illness for many years

    Do you agree that’ satanic ritual abuse can be a real thing even though we may not have hard facts to prove it

    I avoid thanking about it Because it’s too disturbing ……but I believe it’s possible

  9. Richard Thompson July 2, 2020 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for being brave enough to do this. My family was caught up in this in the late 80s and early 90s (with Barbara Snow I might add) and this interview just hits the nail on the head.

    I still have fake memories in my mind, and the pain caused still resonates in my family to this day. It’s a tricky topic, and I’m so glad you did this series.

  10. Frustrated November 3, 2020 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    I was sexually abused by a family member as a child. I had repressed memories that came to light during therapy. My therapist did not push me on trying to remember anything, I was in therapy for other issues. I was not believed because of the repressed memory rhetoric that was going on at the time. My abuse was later verified to be true. I believe that my repressed memories were there until I could handle it. I know others that have the same experience. I do not believe that it is that rare to have repressed memories that end up being true. I worry that legitimate abuse victims will not get help because repressed memories are not taken seriously.

  11. Larry Ballard March 28, 2021 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    Great series John. What a wise and insightful and caring lady to come forward and share her life in a public way. This topic is really important and personally I see you brainstorming the issue with the intent to follow the evidence. I am learning so much and look forward to future episodes.

  12. Whitney November 5, 2021 at 11:52 am - Reply

    I am a victim of Barbara Snow’s false memory treatment. I saw her from approximately 1986-1990. I am still untangling the chaos and impact.

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