by Paul Hansen, B.A., M.Div., Ph.D.
Over the years there has been much discussion about the basic philosophy of Past-life Therapy, what it is and what it should or can be. Is Past-life Therapy a therapeutic modality, a spiritual discipline, some combination of these or something else? Some of APRT’s senior members, Ron Jue, Roger Woolger, Hazel Denning, and Winafred Lucas have done much to help shape the philosophy of APRT and its members at this time.
Certainly, Dr. Lucas’ monumental work in her two volume Regression Therapy: A Handbook For Professionals will provide a substantial foundation for Past-life Therapy for many years to come. I wish to join the long line of those who congratulate her on her work.
Having served seven years on the Board of Directors of APRT and four years as chairperson of APRT’s Training Committee, it is my perception that Past-life Therapy becomes highly individualized in its application. Through APRT I have come to know persons from a wide variety of backgrounds, training, skills, and philosophies doing Past-Life Therapy. Does this mean Past-Life Therapy is a tool that changes form and shape in the hands of the practitioner? While my task here is not to explicitly define a theory of Past-Life Therapy, I believe that Past-Life Therapy is essentially a combination of a clinical modality (a psychotherapy) and a spiritual modality, depending on the background, training, and inclination of the therapist and upon the wants and needs of the client. To provide the reader with some understanding of how I came to this position, I want to comment on some root concepts of Past-Life Therapy and explore three basic assumptions that lie behind Past-Life Therapy, as well as share a little of my personal journey in this arena. I base these remarks on thirty-four years of working with people in a counseling role, including over twenty-two years of past-life work.
I. Past-Life Therapy is a clinical modality. It is Psychological
It has long been one of the goals of APRT (sometimes spoken, and sometimes unspoken) to see Past-Life Therapy accepted as a recognized modality of psychotherapy. We hope that one day it will take its rightful place along with Gestalt, Rogerian, Jungian, and other forms of psychotherapy. With that in mind, I start with the viewpoint that Past-Life Therapy is a form of psychotherapy. I believe that Past-Life Therapy falls within the realm of what most people (and most state regulatory boards) would define as psychotherapy. In Colorado where I live, the state regulatory board has defined psychotherapy as “the treatment, diagnosis, testing, assessment, or counseling in a professional relationship to assist individuals or groups to alleviate mental disorders, understand unconscious or conscious motivation, resolve emotional, relationship or attitudinal conflicts, or modify behaviors which interfere with effective emotional, social, or intellectual functioning.” Dr. Lucas defines it differently: “Psychotherapy is the process of assisting the patient to bring his energy field into a state of harmony and balance.” My personal understanding of psychotherapy falls somewhere between this very legal description and that of Lucas.
Hopefully, when we enter a therapeutic relationship with a client, we relate to the whole person, which should include body, mind, and spirit. I find in my own psychotherapy practice that I work in all three domains, whether I am using Past-Life Therapy or not. Admittedly the psychological/emotional concerns seem to dominate, but all three are usually there in some form. With some clients, the presenting concern is more spiritual, perhaps even religious in nature. At other times, we may be focusing on the nature and origin of some physical problem. In recent months I have been asked to use Past-Life Therapy to try to help clients with some very rare medical conditions. How do we as clinicians or therapists integrate these aspects of human experience into the practice of doing psychotherapy and in particular Past-Life Therapy?
Let me begin by suggesting that one way to view life is to see it as an intersection or an interaction between three worlds: the psychological (mental, mind), the spiritual, and the physical. Everyday living involves the person’s attempt to understand, control, and manage that interaction. We live our lives out in an emotional arena in our interactions with other people and the world. This points us toward the psychological. If past-life therapists present themselves as only doing spiritual work, though that might be hypothetically defensible, they ignore the reality of the way past-life work can affect the mind, the emotions, the body, and the everyday life of the client. Having a basic understanding of psychology and the theory and principles of counseling is essential to practicing psychotherapy and Past-Life Therapy. Yes, Past-Life Therapy is psychological in nature, in that it involves the experience of the personality in more than one lifetime and in particular the effects of those experiences on the personality in the present. Yet to work only from this perspective is too limiting.
II. Past-Life Therapy is a Spiritual Modality
On the other hand, if past-life therapists say they are only doing psychological work, they probably ignore the substantial spiritual impact of past-life work on the client. I believe that good past-life therapists should definitely be aware of the spiritual realm and the spiritual needs of people. Consider the topic of death. In most cultures it is traditionally the religious leaders or spiritual practitioners who are sought out to assist with the pain of death and who are the orchestrators of the rituals and ceremonies surrounding death. Even in such a national event as the recent funeral (May 1994) of former president Richard Nixon, Rev. Billy Graham was asked to officiate. Implicit in Past-Life Therapy is the notion of reincarnation. When we speak of reincarnation, we are treading in the realm of the spiritual. Most people make some basic assumptions about life and its aftermath. Most of the religions of the world, from the simple animistic to the most complex and liturgical, include some major element of philosophy about what happens when we die. Many of these religions use beliefs about death and its consequences to govern, manage, control, and even manipulate their participants through fear of what is to come after death. A Past-Life Therapy session often involves experiencing death and its aftermath, which may profoundly alter the spiritual perspective of the person. Therefore, I attempt to inform clients, in advance, that going through one or more deaths in a Past-Life Therapy session may affect their philosophy (thanatology) of death. (See Journal of Regression Therapy Vol. II, No.1 1987, for a series of articles on use of Past-Life Therapy in working with death and dying.) Thus holding to any one of these perspectives, be it spiritual or psychological, imposes limits on the effectiveness of the work and a denial of the far-reaching power of Past-Life Therapy.
III. Past-Life Therapy assists in physical healing
The third area that Past-Life Therapy addresses is the physical body. A number of articles appeared in the Spring 1987, Vol. II, No.1 of the Journal of Regression Therapy under the topic “Physical Healing Through Regression Work.” Contributors included Roger Woolger, myself, Barbara Findeisen, Irene Hickman, and C. Norman Shealy. In my own work I have seen significant physiological changes occur following Past-Life Therapy, including relief of migraine headaches, cessation of continued menstrual bleeding, back pain, eye problems, etc. Brian Weiss in his most recent book Through Time Into Healing adds significantly to the thesis that Past-Life Therapy can assist with physical healing. The current recognition of the powerful mind-body interface under the aegis of the emerging discipline Psychoneuroimmunology bodes well for increasing acknowledgement of this aspect of our work as Past-Life Therapists. Past-Life Therapy can be a very powerful intervention in helping people to heal their bodies. I would encourage therapists who wish to practice Past-Life Therapy to do some study in basic physiology and anatomy to further their understanding of the human body and the way it works.
IV. A Personal Journey to Past-Life Therapy
Looking back, I recognize that my journey to Past-Life Therapy was a process filled with many hurdles to transcend. I began doing past-life exploration in 1972, 22 years ago, first as a matter of curiosity about myself and my own life experiences. “Exploration” seems the most appropriate term because at that time I was not sufficiently acquainted with past lives to recognize their therapeutic potential. I must admit that I was a reluctant, doubting, though fascinated explorer. My initial focus centered on my own past lives and those of my friends. Soon however I began working intensively, exploring past lives in depth with a couple of people. My early work with past lives focused more on the phenomena itself and the interesting events we found, rather than on what effect this might have on the subject’s own life. Finally, by 1981, almost nine years after my beginning to explore past lives, I began to really understand their therapeutic implications and to use the modality as “Past-Life Therapy.” At this time I learned about and became associated with APRT as a member and a few years later I came to serve on the Board.
Formerly, as a pastor in the United Methodist Church, I attempted to assist people in the management of those three worlds identified above. Through preaching and counseling about ways to enhance that interaction for mutual harmony, I tried to teach what I believed were effective ways of managing the self in a complex world. At that time I held a world view that was considerably more limited and narrow than my present one; I believed there was really only one effective religion (Christianity)—at least for the people I was serving. While I recognized that within Christianity there were many divisions, denominations or sects (many of them mutually exclusive), I did not really go much further. In the course of graduate school studies, I studied other world views and religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.), but I can say now with some chagrin that I essentially dismissed them, in spite of the millions of people espousing those religions. The idea of reincarnation seemed to me a very limited, primitive point of view…a product of cultures much “less advanced” than my own. Yes, my view was indeed very limited!
When, later in my life, I came to a personal awareness of reincarnation and past lives, it represented a substantial (may I say dramatic) change for me. In the midst of learning to meditate, in itself somewhat heretical in my tradition, I experienced a spontaneous regression or flashback to a lifetime in Scotland in which I was being executed by beheading as a punishment for sedition, after eight years in a terrible jail. I emerged from that experience with my body literally shaking. The breakthrough was rather earthshaking, both literally and figuratively. I had no way of explaining to myself, much less anyone else, what had happened. This event occurred years before I first heard of APRT. Fortunately I had some sensitive friends who assisted me with handling this experience. I provide this background on my own development as a past-life therapist to give some perspective on my position on this question posed by our journal editor.
V. Closing Thoughts
Because it is such a powerful means of therapy, I believe that practitioners need first to be adequately clinically trained to be able to do good psychotherapy. Any person who comes to a therapist has a right to expect that. Therefore it certainly behooves practitioners to know what they are doing. Adding in a specific modality of therapy, such as Past-Life Therapy, calls for additional training and expertise. I believe it would be far too easy for psychically gifted persons with a genuine desire to help people and do counseling to blunder into areas and problems far beyond their capabilities. Likewise persons with enough coursework in hypnosis to become a “Certified Hypnotherapist” but with no training in psychotherapy can go beyond their level of expertise. In our increasingly litigious society, errors made by unprepared persons, though made in good faith, reflect negatively on all in the profession. A colleague of mine who is a trained therapist recently enrolled in a training program leading to becoming certified in hypnotherapy. She was told that the students would be screened for adequate academic and professional qualifications, but once in the class found that the screening was probably more financial than professional in nature. A wide variety of people appeared in the class…from psychologists to diesel mechanics. My friend elected to leave the program, feeling that the training would not have the validity she sought. I believe that Past-Life Therapy has much to offer and hope to see it continue to grow in acceptance not only as a clinical therapeutic modality, but also as a way of helping people to heal spiritually and physically. It deserves the best we can give it.
 Colorado Mental Health Licensing Statute 12-43-201-9.
 Lucas, W. Regression Therapy: A Handbook for Professionals, Vol. 1, p. 35. Crest Park, CA: Deep Forest Press.
 Journal of Regression Therapy Vol. II, No.1, Spring 1987.
 The linking of the two words “prayers and meditation” was common in language and writing of the church. Prayer was something that my church felt it understood. But I don’t think I or anyone to whom I was exposed really understood what meditation was at that time. Having learned to meditate as part of my spiritual practice, and now aware of some principles from Eastern traditions, I think my church in the 60’s was a long way from understanding meditation!