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Past-Life Therapy Research Project – Rabia Clark (Is.11)

by Rabia Clark

Rabia Clark has already made many important contributions to our field and to our association. Now, in pursuit of her doctorate, she has undertaken an extensive study of past-life therapists which, when completed, will provide us with significant insight into contemporary PLT practices as well as the underlying theoretical assumptions of its practitioners. The first phase of that undertaking—the preparation, distribution, and collection of a data questionnaire—has now been completed. While the data is still being processed and evaluated, we have asked her to prepare for this issue a brief preliminary report of what has been accomplished to date. What now follows is her response to that request: in essence, a brief summary of her first impressions of some of the data collected. She presents us with a delightfully informal “tease” of the full report to come.

What is Past-Life Therapy as it is practiced today and what do most PL therapists do in their practice? I am in process of finding out the answers for my Ph.D. dissertation at Fielding Institute. I am grateful to APRT for co-sponsoring the study, and for furnishing their mailing list of members. I asked five APRT Board members to do a preliminary pilot study of my questionnaire, and amended it based on their comments. To help design the questionnaire and to process the statistics I sought help from various experts in the field, both at my school, and at the University of Texas.

I am going to put in some of my own musing about some of the questions; otherwise, it would just be a lot of dry numbers! Also, I am rounding off the data to the nearest whole number, and simplifying it whenever possible.

The type of research I am using is called descriptive research. It consists of gathering data on a subject, to make it more understandable. It does not have a hypothesis, as is the case with most research.

In other words, I am gathering a lot of data from past-life therapists about what they do in their practice, and treating it statistically (with a SAS computer program) to find out what most of the PL therapists in the study do. There was also an opportunity for essay answers to several questions. Some of those topics included what the therapists considered to be the major contributions of PLT and what changes they thought should happen in the practice of PLT. These will be reported in the Journal in another article.

I sent the 20-page questionnaire (with 117 questions) to 256 APRT members, limiting it to those who were Past-life therapists with five years practice. (We have many members who are not therapists). To my great surprise, 136 of them were returned. I had not expected such a good response, because it took at least an hour to fill out the questionnaire. One thing I noticed early was how non-conformist and individualistic our members are! They seemed to enjoy the essay questions, and had lots of divergent opinions. I discovered, now that the statistics are done, that I have a really massive amount of data, which will take quite a while to assimilate and present in a clear way.

In this preliminary report, I will give as brief an answer as possible to the first 14 questions.

  1. The median number of years this group of 136 PL therapists had been directly involved in past-life therapy was 14, with a standard deviation of 11.
  2. The mean number of years that the therapists had known about PLT is 11 years.
  3. Many started their practice of PL T in 1975. (The earliest person practicing was in 1944!) About 64 percent of the group began their practice after APRT was founded in 1980, which may indicate the influence of APRT in spreading past-life therapy.
  4. The number of clients they had since starting their practice varied a lot. The mean number was 655, with a standard deviation of 1337. (One person had 10,000 clients! This made the statistics rather unclear. A few people had less than 10 clients, even though they had been doing PLT over five years). Some of the largest numbers were from people doing workshops. (I should have limited the question better, asking only for how many individual clients there were). We certainly can say that the number of clients varies widely in our group.
  5. As far as how much of their practice is PLT, 10 percent do it full time, 12 percent part time, 74 percent do it in combination with other therapies, and 4 percent are inactive.
  6. Use of patterned breathing techniques (such as Holotropic breathwork or rebirthing) is not very common. Sixty-five percent do not use it, 27 percent use it sometimes, and 8 percent use it most of the time. When I asked which breath techniques they used, 72 percent didn’t answer. Of those who did answer, 7 percent used Holotropic breathwork, 6 percent used rebirthing, 5 percent used breathing, and 4 percent used yoga breathing. Other types of breathwork were not significantly used.
  7. Very few people are using machines to alter their client’s brain waves during sessions. 90 percent do not use it, 5 percent do, 4 percent use it sometimes. This may be an area for more study, as knowledge about these machines and their benefits is sparse.
  8. As for whether the responses accessed through PLT are actual past lives, 65 percent agreed, 34 percent were neutral or didn’t answer, and only one person disagreed.

I also asked if the images could be a metaphor instead of a past life, and 45 percent agreed, 48 percent were neutral or didn’t answer, and 7 percent disagreed. Were the images perhaps similar to a dream: 55 percent were neutral or didn’t answer, 21 percent thought they could be like a dream, and 24 percent disagreed. Perhaps some of the images are symbolic, and some are from past lives. 20 percent didn’t answer or were neutral, 75 percent agreed, and 5 percent disagreed.

From this, we can surmise that most of the therapists either think the images in past-life sessions are from a real past life, or that they are symbolic. In any case, proving one or the other will be difficult, so it is really a matter of opinion. However, it does affect how therapists conduct their work, and this deserves more study.

  1. Do most PL therapists believe in reincarnation? This is a very interesting question, as many of us have wondered about it, but not had any statistics on it. The study shows that 75 percent strongly agree in a belief in reincarnation, 18 percent agree, 8 percent are neutral, and no one disagrees. This would seem to indicate that PL therapists have belief systems which involve some form of reincarnation, and this may affect the way they approach therapy, perhaps from a transpersonal vantage-point. Again, there have been no studies on this. It also probably means we will not find our way any time soon into mainstream psychotherapy, which is based on a medical and mechanical model.
  2. Another interesting question was whether the therapists believe that behaviors or emotions which their clients experience in images of past lives can affect their present lives. 89 percent strongly agree, 10 percent agree, and less than one percent disagrees. This 99 percent agreement indicates a very strong belief that past-life therapy can cause changes in our clients, if we can evoke behaviors or emotions which somehow connect with the present problems.
  3. What about birth traumas? Must they be released for past-life therapy to be effective? 31 percent agree, 42 percent are neutral, and 27 percent disagree. So there seems to be a diversity of opinions on this one. I did not ask how often birth traumas are explored by our group, which would have been an interesting question.
  4. Does the past-life session seem more real to clients if they experience themselves as in the past-life body instead of being a disembodied observer? 83 percent agree, 10 percent are neutral, and 7 percent disagree. This would indicate that we have developed a number of techniques to enable the clients to identify with their past-life body, and we use them as a way to make the regression more vivid.
  5. Should spirit releasement be part of PLT? 60 percent agree, 24 percent are neutral, and 15 percent disagree. This is an exciting finding, as we have been debating for several years about continuing seminars on spirit releasement in our conferences. As one person said about treating spirit releasement in PLT, “If we don’t include it, who will?” It does look like the majority of experienced PL therapists believe it should be included. APRT has been having training on this for quite a while now, and many of us have had clients who think they are possessed, so we are getting used to the idea. A number of exciting techniques have been developed for releasing spirits which are quite different from the exorcism method, and which are a contribution of APRT therapists, especially Edith Fiore and William Baldwin.
  6. We have also been debating whether or not to include work with “walk-ins” in PLT. (Walk-ins are aliens or spirits who permanently take over a person’s body, usually with permission, and the original personality dies). 43 percent agree, 40 percent are neutral, and 17 percent disagree. APRT has had some exciting workshops about this in the past three years, and the phenomenon is becoming better known. However, it looks like about half of the respondents either haven’t experienced it, or don’t believe in it. This could be explored further.

APRT could well have roundtable discussions about spirit depossession and walk-ins in their publications and at conferences, giving both sides of the question. We need to know where we stand on this, as some therapists are at risk of losing their licenses for doing spirit depossession, and I would imagine that those who work with walk-ins would be in a similar position. Mainstream psychology is really not ready for either spirit depossession or walk-ins! I think it is a credit to PL therapists if they are willing to deal with whatever convictions their clients present, without imposing their own belief systems. Many people are having distressing psychic experiences, and the open-minded therapist can be most helpful in helping the client to integrate them. Our interest in these two out-of-the-ordinary fields is a testament to our willingness as a group to explore new frontiers.


Well, this is a “Baskin and Robbins taster-spoon” sample of my study. This just covers the first two pages, so you can see it will be a rather long study when it’s finished. However, I am excited about how it reveals common opinions among us, and shows areas where we need to educate ourselves better. It also shows many areas for further study. APRT has wanted more research projects, and I am very happy that they are starting to encourage students to do their studies by giving their moral support. Very few PL therapists have the time to devote to large research studies, unless they are in a school program. It’s too expensive, and they would rather spend the time with their clients. However, many of us have a fantastic amount of data, in tapes and case notes, which could make wonderful books and studies, if there were an outlet for them, and some support for the costs. APRT has started a series of monographs, and perhaps this will be a good vehicle for APRT members to present research projects.