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Past-Life Therapy in the Netherlands – Rob Bontenbal (Is.7)

by Rob Bontenbal, M.A.

Ten years ago past-life therapy was still an almost unknown form of therapy in the Netherlands. Books by past-life therapists such as Thorwald Dethlefsen, Morris Netherton, Edith Fiore, and Denys Kelsey had become available, and hypnotherapy had grown increasingly accepted, bringing many hypnotists into contact with past-life material, but in general few members of either the public or the professions had yet become aware of the potentials of PLT for solving mental, emotional, and physical problems.

This situation existed in part because most hypnotherapists did not know how to work with past-life material. Whenever a client revealed experiences he could not relate to this life, the therapist either neglected the material or worked with the stories as if they were fantasies and used only flooding techniques to deal with the emotions involved. Very few professionals dared to reveal their interest in this new approach.

Hans Ten Dam, a management consultant with a Master’s Degree in psychology and a lifelong interest in the occult, had grown impressed with the method Morris Netherton presented in his book Past Life Therapy. Ten Dam had become unhappy about the way most hypnotherapists dealt with past-life material, and working with the Netherton material he developed his own methodology. Using every physical, emotional, and mental signal presented by the client, he developed several bridging techniques, which make it possible without any special trance induction to find the source of the problem and bring it to consciousness. Trance is induced in a natural way through the revealing of underlying experiences. Ten Dam found, also, that traumatic experiences differ greatly as to the kind of emotions and somatics involved, the intensity manifested, the length of time needed to recover the experience, and many other aspects. By classifying these experiences and developing a different approach for each category of trauma, together with the bridging techniques, he became far more efficient and effective than most of his colleagues who were still using classical hypnotic inductions and techniques. He wrote a book, Een ring van licht (A Circle of Light) which was published in 1983 but has not yet been translated. This book is considered in the Netherlands to be the best book ever written on the subject of reincarnation and PLT.

In 1982 the elegant Dutch magazine BRES organized a meeting with the top PL therapists in the Netherlands (among them Barten, Langedijk, Cladder, and Ten Dam), which brought to the fore the differences in opinion among them, especially on the point of methodology.

At one of the workshops Ten Dam gave that year, Andre van Heyster, a recent chairman of the Dutch Foundation of Past Life Therapy (Stichting Reincarnatie-therapie Nederland – SPN), and his wife Gonny convinced Ten Dam of the wisdom of organizing the first Dutch training program in PLT. Ten Dam organized a program which was originally meant for hypnotherapists and psychotherapists with some experience with PL material, but he also allowed non-therapists, people often working in very different fields, to participate in the training. Because the training was intended for professionals, it was structured as a short tough course of ten intense meetings, during which Ten Dam explained his concepts and demonstrated his methodology. In between meetings, students were expected to work in small groups as much as possible. Thirty-two students, divided into two groups, took the training in 1984, but only seven passed both theoretical and practical tests and graduated, the majority of them non-professionals! In 1985 Ten Dam organized a third training group with 16 students, from which seven more were graduated.

Meanwhile I took the initiative and called a meeting of former students of Ten Dam’s first two groups to explore the possibility of organizing the first Dutch Association of Past-Life Therapists. After a hesitant start about 20 of Ten Dam’s former students (graduates and non-graduates) in December of 1984 formed de Nederlandse Werkgroep van Reincarnatietherapeuten (NWRT—The Dutch Association of Reincarnation Therapists). Because many of its members were involved with their practices, the group came together only every three months to discuss different aspects of practicing the therapy. In 1986 students of Ten Dam’s third course joined the Association, which raised its membership to about 30.

At the beginning of that year the NWRT became more active: a brochure was written, a newsletter was started, workshops for both members and non-members were organized, and the Association appeared at different national and local conferences of the Consciousness Movement. As the group became more active, problems started to arise. But because the group was small, with many members just learning the technique, few people were able to participate actively in building a larger and stronger organization. Though the NWRT was by then open to every PL therapist in the country, very few inquired about the advantages of joining the Association.

When Hans Ten Dam left to practice in Brazil, two of his former students, Joop van der Hagen and Alexander Bond, who shared his concern about the way PLT was taught at training programs for hypnotherapists and who were also worried about the slow growth of the Association, took up Ten Dam’s heritage and organized a year-long training seminar in PLT, starting in 1987. Although strongly grounded in the concepts and methods developed by Ten Dam and Netherton, the training program also offered unique new elements, among them the integration of different Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques, such as Meta Model, Reframing, and Anchoring, into PLT.

For some time the building of the training program seemed to sap strength from the parent organization because four of the most active members became fully engaged in organizing, teaching, and writing for the training program. Other activities of the Association came almost to a standstill early in 1987: no newsletter was published, few workshops and meetings were organized, and as a result quite a few members left the Association. Nevertheless, two important events took place.

Faced with the necessity of creating a solid financial structure to insure the continuity of both the Association and the training program, a Foundation was formed: de Stichting Reincarnatietherapie Nederland (SRN). From then on all training programs, seminars, workshops, public relations, and publications were financially managed by the Board of Directors of the Foundation.

Earlier that year Ten Dam had passed on the information that Morris Netherton and Dennis Brady were doing workshops in Germany on a regular basis and that the two were willing to extend their stay in Europe to do a seminar or workshop in the Netherlands. With Morris Netherton’s book and his influence on Ten Dam’s work in mind, both leaders were contacted and they each agreed to present a one-day seminar in May. Most members and students were impressed with Netherton’s and Brady’s systematic, dynamic, and thorough approach to PLT, and a contract was made for a four-day workshop for the professional members of the NWRT and another one-day seminar for the students in the training program in May of 1988. During this year’s workshops Netherton and Brady explained to the professional members the importance of both the process approach to PLT and working with the prenatal and birth experiences within that process. The focus on the process approach was important because, although the Netherlands have one of the most active consciousness movements in the world, most Dutch people (unlike many North Americans) are not very long-term therapy oriented.

In December 1987, 19 of the 32 students who started in the SRN/NWRT training program graduated, all of them joining the Association, which doubled its professional membership. Due to the success of its training program and its professional approach to PLT, the Association got more credibility. A fast-growing number of people approached NWRT therapists to find out whether PLT could help them to solve their problems. Other PL therapists, not trained by Ten Dam or by SRN/NWRT itself, started to apply for membership, but few were able to pass the balloting. Therefore, an associate category of membership was created so that people who were not accepted as professionals, and students who had failed the exams, were still able to participate in the once more growing number of activities. With so much new energy the Association became active again in many different fields: the newsletter was reincarnated; seminars and workshops, both for members and non-members, were organized again; regional groups were created; and public relations and legal aspects became points of focus. The training program moved into its second year, this time with 40 students.

The program this year includes 18 days of teaching different concepts, methods, and techniques of PLT and three weekends of three days each, in which the students are examined in both practical and theoretical areas. The program is divided into three parts:

  1. Communication and Induction
  2. Therapeutic Methods
  3. Advanced Techniques and Special Subjects

During the program the students receive a 200-page syllabus written by the four teachers, and a reader consisting of 10 articles by and about PL therapists, such as Hans Ten Dam, Edith Fiore, Hans Cladder, Bruce Goldberg, Morris Netherton, and Dennis Brady. In addition, students have to study books by Ten Dam, Netherton, Williston and Johnstone, Fisher, and Bandler and Grinder. As in the Ten Dam training programs the students are expected to work extensively in small groups. Part of the exam consists of the examinee’s accounts of two sessions with his or her own clients.

In 1990 the training program will be extended to two years, not only in order that concepts and methods of PLT can be taught in an even more thorough way, but also to place more focus on the process approach. Also, because the Dutch government is coming up with a bill in which it will recognize and legalize several categories of alternative therapists, as they are called now, thorough training programs are especially important At this time it is not necessary to have a license in order to practice psychotherapy in the Netherlands. In the future, associations of alternative therapists will have to intensify and extend their training programs in order for their candidates to qualify.

Whether PL therapists will be recognized remains to be seen. This recognition will depend largely on whether a strong association can be built up which will represent the majority of the PL therapists in the country. Although the NWRT is open to every PL therapist in the country, an estimated guess is that only 10% of the professional therapists who work regularly with PLT are now members of the Association. Of those who until now have preferred to stay outside of the Association, many seem hesitant to face the balloting. Others have founded their own associations or institutes, offering workshops, short courses, and group therapy, as well as private therapy. They are usually reluctant to leave their often isolated groups, perhaps because of fear of being forced to merge their foundation or institution with SRN/NWRT.

The Adam Kadmon Institute of NWRT member Peter Peters indicates that merging is not a condition for joining the NWRT. This institute has recently in September of 1988, announced the start of a two-year training program in what is called Educational Regression Therapy. Although Peters’ methodology is based on the methods and techniques developed by Netherton and Ten Dam, his approach differs from the SRN training program on important points because it is strongly influenced by kabalistic and theosophical concepts. Both the institute and the training program it offers operate independently from SRN/NWRT.

As a strong believer in the advantages of groups working together, I hope that many non-associated PL therapists will venture to join the NWRT ranks in the future. The SRN/NWRT has many members now working at a professional level who are able to help a fast-expanding number of clients solve severe problems. The organization has a highly successful training program from which each year new PL therapists graduate. Its newsletter is slowly becoming a professional journal. Four years after the founding of the Association, these achievements seem to have set the groundwork for a successful future for PLT in the Netherlands.