Thomas A. Ban: The Ewen Cameron Story


Thomas A. Ban and Hector Warnes - E-mail exchange

Re: Sleep Room, Anaclitic Therapy and Depatterning


From Ban to Warnes February 10, 2020


I thought you might be interested that the "Cameron litigations" revived. Some of the children of those treated with depatterning and sleep sued the Canadian government and it seems to be they will receive compensation from the government.

Two journalists, one from the Canadian radio, have contacted me and I am trying to help them to get the story straight.

If my recollection is correct, there were two major projects in the years (or at least in 1959-60) in the sleep room. One of them was Cameron's depatterning and the other was Azima's anaclitic therapy; you were looking after the patients in Azima's project whereas I was looking after those in Cameron's patients,

Would it be possible for you to write a brief comment on anaclitic therapy, or more precisely, what was actually done in that project and what was its theoretical underpinning. We would post your comment first in the ongoing Cameron story. I think it would greatly help to get things straight. We already have on website in Tim Craig's comment (in the Geneva story at this point in time) the routes of Cameron's depatterning in William  Sargant regressive ECT that he used  in the Medical Research Council Unit he directed in the UK.



From Warnes to Ban February 11, 2020


I am most grateful for your e-mail. I do think it would be unwise to place H. Azima and D. E. Cameron (most unfortunate widespread condemnation by the media and those patients or off-springs who wanted a compensation) in comparison one with each other. As you know, there are children and grandchildren who might be hurt when some comparison is drawn from mine or your papers on the subject of abuse of power and not the expected results of treatment. I do think Cameron was treated brutally by the media given the Zeitgeist and the fact that many great psychiatrists of those times, including Cade, felt so bad about the fatalities of the lithium treatment that he gave up, as we discussed it before the horrible results of using frontal lobotomies and so many other research trials including in the medical fields that failed utterly.

We need to understand that Cameron is on "trial" not Azima. Therefore, lets us write the underpinnings of Cameron's basic theories that led him to a last-ditch effort to cure or alleviate a chronic illness.



From Ban to Warnes February 12, 2020

Thank you, Hector. This is very helpful.

It is my recollection also that nursing care was excellent in the sleep room.

I still remember many of Cameron's patients. Some were severe obsessive compulsive, but then I also remember a couple who would qualify for one or another sub-form of systematic schizophrenia in Leonhard's classification. How would the patients be diagnosed today who were in anaclitic therapy?

It is not just Cameron's depatterning under scrutiny, but also his repetition of verbal signal therapy.

I know that depatterning does not cause brain damage because I tested some of those patients a year or so after they were depatterned in our conditioning lab but I don't have any paper to refer to. If you see one, please let me know.



From Warnes to Ban February 15, 2020


As you know, sleep therapy is an extremely expensive procedure because of the TLC and the number of nurses and doctors involved. For this reason, a selected group of patients who had been refractory to many other therapies were selected. I recalled that most of them where in their twenties, thirties and forties. In our current diagnoses there were many with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Borderline and Post-traumatic stress disorders, all of them with varying degrees of depression and an early history of infantile trauma. We did not use ECT. During sleep we used intensive psychotherapy which brought about a maternal transference with gratification of dependency needs and particularly oral needs. Azima was also an expert on the Melanie Klein approach to the child and was able to formulate brilliant interpretations.

Regarding Cameron ́s depatterning, it was a similar approach of inducing regression to the earliest infantile phase of development and the verbal clues which I heard many times were anodyne. On the contrary, very cognitive oriented subliminal statements such as "you are a capable, intelligent and loving person, you have more confidence every day, learn to accept yourself, we are not perfect and so on." There was nothing critical or degrading or offensive to the patient. I also know that these patients were selected as a last-ditch effort to help them since they did not respond to years of other therapies. As far as I remember this group was older than my group of patients.

Lately, I found a good review of the cognitive long-term effects of ECT: Ben J. A. Palanca, Hannah R. Maybrier, Angela M. Mickle, Nuri B. Farber et al. Cognitive and Neurophysiological Recovery following ECT: a study protocol published at the Journal Frontiers of Psychiatry May 14th, 2018.



From Ban to Warnes February 15, 2020

Thank you,  Hector. This is excellent!  

Is there anyway to express in everyday language the part of the sentence that reads intensive psychotherapy  (that is fine) "which brought about maternal transference with gratification of dependency needs and particularly of oral needs"? 



From Warnes to Ban February 16, 2020

I guess one could say that the new-born is in a state of total helplessness (Hilflosigkeit) and for a considerable time at the mercy of the mother for feeding, protection and soothing. A "good enough mother" anticipates the infant's needs. Anaclitic therapy consists in giving to the patient what he was not given at the earliest stage of development (as construed from the previous anaclitic sessions) including baby-talk, play therapy, gratification of total dependency needs and good enough mothering. Not only is the psychoanalyst the therapeutic agent, but also the nurses who are mothering the patient in a state of regression fostered by sleep therapy.


Regarding depatterning, as far as I recall, it has to do with undoing by ECT the neural circuits which are repetitive and pathological and likely located at the frontal lobes, temporal lobes, amygdala and locus coeruleus. Cameron had a theory of self-normalization on a biological basis once the pathological neural circuits were depatterned.




June 25, 2020