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Castlewood Treatment Center

The entrance gate to Castlewood Treatment Center in west St. Louis County on Dec. 9, 2011. Photo by Erik M. Lunsford

ST. LOUIS COUNTY • A woman from Minnesota is suing Castlewood Treatment Center in west St. Louis County, where she said her treatment for an eating disorder included hypnosis that created false memories of satanic cult activity and sexual abuse.

Lisa Nasseff, 31, spent 15 months between 2007 and 2009 at Castlewood under the care of psychologist Mark Schwartz, who is also named in the lawsuit filed Nov. 21 in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

Nasseff's lawsuit said she was treated for anorexia with psychotropic drugs and hypnosis, which brainwashed her into believing she was repeatedly raped, had multiple personalities and suffered from and participated in satanic ritual abuse.

The lawsuit filed by Nasseff's attorney, Kenneth Vuylsteke of Webster Groves, also claims that Schwartz implanted the false memories to keep Nasseff in the treatment center long-term because she had insurance that would pay her medical bills of $650,000.

Vuylsteke could not be reached for comment.

Castlewood's director, Nancy Albus, and Schwartz deny the allegations. Albus reportedly pledged to fight the lawsuit, which seeks the repayment of medical expenses and punitive damages.

Nasseff, of St. Paul, Minn., stayed at Castlewood from July 2007 through March 2008 and returned for seven months in 2009, according to the lawsuit. Minnesota, unlike Missouri and most states, requires insurers to cover long-term eating disorders.

Schwartz told that he never hypnotized Nasseff, that they had never discussed satanic cults and that she never told him she had committed criminal acts.

Cases of repressed memory, which typically involve allegations of childhood abuse, became more common in the 1990s. As with other such cases, the outcome is likely to hinge on the testimony of experts with different views on how memory works.

Hypnosis is not a recommended treatment for eating disorders, said Dr. Azfar Malik, CEO of CenterPointe psychiatric hospital in St. Charles.

"An eating disorder is a very complicated disease, and basically is treated with a medical model," Malik said. "Hypnosis and going into the past are not indicated, there's no data or research showing that would be the treatment of choice."

Generally, doctors help manage a patient's medical issues and offer behavior therapy to treat the disorders.

Malik said he didn't know much about Castlewood's treatment programs.

"It's a really closed kind of program," he said. "They get patients from all over. They have some behavior therapy. They don't have a lot of physician oversight of the cases that I know about."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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