What do you do as a therapist when a client suddenly seems to be in a past life regression?


by Paul Vereshack M.D.
(Notwithstanding his M.D. Dr. Vereshack is not a licensed physician)

This is one of the hardest questions for me, and the answer is that I don't know what to do in any strictly knowledgeable sense.

The safe response would be simply to say to the client at the end of their sequence, that I do not believe in past life regression, then to refer them on to someone who does.

The next safest answer is to tell them of my disbelief but offer to continue my work with them promising to try and maintain an open mind.

While I do not believe in past life regression, I can't lay claim to ultimate knowledge of the universe's processes. I know that on the one hand I feel shame around my own lack of total awareness in this and other areas, while on the other hand I pride myself on being therapeutically grounded in what I see as "reality".

What to do?

Being an explorer, I would continue the work, with constant reference to a healthy skepticism and the application of basic clinical experience.

First I would observe the quality of the process to see if there might be other possible causes for this kind of regression. I would look for such things as a psychotic delusion. I would watch for other clues in this area, such as any disorder of thought, like loosening of associations, unusual tangential thinking, etc.

Next I would watch for the sense of the past life regression's integrity, looking for such things as an overall sense of reality, coherence, logic etc. I would want to see if the experience was unusually histrionic and overblown which might give me a clue to any possible hysterical dissociative base. In the last century there were many instances of florid symptoms appearing when the therapist expected them to do so, especially during demonstrations to other colleagues!

At this point I recommend a review of the more subtle symptoms in Schizophrenia and in Hysterical Dissociative states.

Even if everything seemed to make good sense, I would probably continue to see the past life regression as a symbolic statement of an earlier problem in the primal sense. I would perhaps in my own mind treat the production as a dream sequence and let my clients work their way through it.

It is a fact that in play therapy children may work their way through a fantasy and heal without the therapist ever having to make actual interpretations of the symbolism.

If relief were obtained (believing in openness with my clients) I would point out the possibility that this "reliving" might be a symbolic experience.

I would do this in a gentle way, trying not to be dogmatic and hurtful toward something that I don't truly understand. Thus I would try and prevent the client, "spinning out" into more and more florid past life experiences, and the possibility that they might ultimately be building for themselves a deeper and deeper belief system rooted in avoidance.

At the same time, knowing that I don't have the final answer, I would be respectful of the client's beliefs.

Thus I would try to walk the line between respecting something I didn't comprehend on the one hand, while on the other, trying not to be sucked in to something which might be an avoidance.

If the client is showing definite signs of improvement and their personality remains stable, it would I think be very arrogant of any therapist to be rigid in the face of such growth.

I see myself as a medically and psychiatrically trained therapist and thus as having a very solid bias toward what I would call work that is grounded in reality.

I am at the same time very aware that my ship is small and that the Universe is large, and that I am in the end powerfully ignorant. I am also aware that with each passing year I am more and more believing in, and marveling at, what might be called "psychic" events, i.e. that we are all broadcasting and receiving on levels I would never have given any credibility to as a medical student.

The sub atomic ground of things, the void, it's laws and processes awe and entice me. Until I know for certain however that any given process does in fact exist, I will open myself to examining it, but I will not unqualifiably base my client's mental or physical health in such "unusual" phenomena.

If you want to travel with me, you will have to put up with what I would call a healthy and unwavering skepticism, and my "narrowness" of view.

Paul Vereshack

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