Eileen Franklin-Lipsker said she remembers seeing her father, George Franklin, murder one of her childhood friends 20 years ago. He has denied it and called her "repressed memory" a fantasy.

His conviction for the murder was set aside and the case returned for possible retrial this week in an ongoing drama that has captured national attention.The rest of the world - from the scientific and medical communities to prosecutors, counselors, police, family members and the public - is divided: Are such recollections buried memories of traumatic events or false memories of something that never happened? More research needs to be done, but the "total polarization" isn't justified or helpful, according to Joanne Yaffe, an associate pro-fessor at the University of Utah Graduate School of Social Work and vice president of the Utah chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Yaffe and other social work clinicians will discuss "false memory" during the Utah association's annual conference in Park City Thursday and Friday.

The best evidence, according to Yaffe, suggests that "some people forget things. Some people remember things inaccurately. The American Psychological Association task force said it's possible to create a false belief. It's also possible to revive a lost memory.

"Nothing in the therapeutic and scientific literature justifies the position that people are taking of total polarization," said Yaffe.

On one hand, a group composed mostly of therapists believes it's possible to retrieve memories to help clients get past childhood trauma. Conversely, academicians and attorneys say such memories are "fallible and shouldn't be trusted." The public is generally confused about it.

Yaffe describes herself as "right in the middle." But she said the real problem lies not in attempts to validate or discredit the memories but in "mixing what happens in therapy and what happens in court."

"If memories are treated as important material in treatment only in as much as it will help a client function and it doesn't go into the courtroom, it won't do any harm. Where it hurts is when adult clients are encouraged to cut off family ties or states require reporting of abuse from 30 years ago. That's when the complication comes in," she said.

National professional societies of social workers, hypnotists, psychologists and psychiatrists are establishing practice guidelines that "will keep practitioners from violating what are really basic tenets of their professions," said Yaffe.

"You can't be a therapist and an investigator simultaneously."

Investigators seek objective truth. Therapists seek subjective truth. And real danger exists that when a client and therapist establish rapport, the client will pick up subtle cues of "I should say more of this or drop that." It can taint the "memory." The National Psychiatric Association counsels members never to get on the witness stand and testify to the veracity of a client's memory, Yaffe said. To do so requires investigating an alleged crime. And that's not a therapist's role.

"The conclusion of most of these groups is that if you go back to basic rules regarding conduct of therapy, you will never get in trouble on this issue.

"The decision of clients to go to court should be their decision and their decision alone."

Deeda Seed of JEDI Women (Justice and Economic Dignity for Women) is the conference keynote speaker and will talk about preserving the social safety net for families. Other topics include domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, caring for elderly relatives, child-welfare reform, professional practices and health and mental-health care.