Article: Toward a Research Agenda for Regression Therapy – Hans TenDam (Is.29)

by Hans TenDam


In this article the author discusses the requirements and issues involved with research in the regression field.
Why would we do research—if at all? I can think of five general aims:
1. To satisfy our curiosity.
2. To improve our practice.
3. To improve our training programs.
4. To convince outsiders this is working, as good or better than many other modalities.
5. To convince outsiders that our clients have real experiences that give real solutions to real problems. This may imply—just by the way—that discarnate spirits do exist, that obsessive entities do exist, that reincarnation does exist, that extraterrestrial civilizations do exist, that superhuman presences do exist.

Aim number 5 is a tall order. More than we can handle. Probably more than we should handle. Number 4 is much more down-to-earth, but will lead irrevocably to number 5. We could research regressions that are limited to the present life. But that is cheating, because we have to weed out all sessions where clients go to those other outlandish areas anyway, even if we try to hold them on the straight and narrow path.

The doubt that many psychotherapists have about regression is exactly that it seems to lead easily and frequently into impossible fantasies that have to be treated of course as projections. Some people resolve this by taking the Jungian way and treat those experiences as archetypes and the collective unconscious, nebulous concepts at best, but with the immeasurable advantage that they don’t puncture the dominant scientific world view.

As we know, all that reluctance and avoidance amputates the effectiveness of our work, as we have to avoid asking for somatics, death experiences and the like. Every open suggestion like: “Now you get an impression of the main cause of this problem/event/condition …” may lead us into forbidden territory.

I don’t like to discourage those colleagues who want to carry out research to make our therapy scientifically acceptable, but actually, I do discourage them.

Let us remain working under the lee, if not in the shadows.

If we discount both aims 4 and 5, does that mean that we shouldn’t try to research the effectiveness of our work? Of course we should. Only, we shouldn’t do that to convince outsiders, we should do it to improve our practice. Yes, aim number 2. Aim number 3 will follow from that naturally. And aim number 1 as well.

So I conclude that our efforts should be concentrated on research that helps us to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of regression therapy. I am pretty sure that our efficiency is rather good compared to other therapies, so broaden the effectiveness of our therapy is the prime aim to strive for.

What methods seem to work best with what clients with what problems under which conditions?

As we all know, much of our work depends on intangibles: the state of mind of the client, the state of mind of the therapist, the rapport between them, the intuition of both. Still, it would be useful to know what the first choice of method usually is with a certain client, with a certain problem. At least that will give us a fall-back position when we have an off-day and our wonderful intuition is dulled for whatever reason.

Also, much intuition is condensed experience. There is no reason not to systematize that experience, superficially by surveys among therapists, more deeply by real research. Real research means noting probably relevant aspects of clients and their problems, and of the methods we applied, and estimating difference before and after. The best we can do is copying already developed tools and procedures in mainstream psychotherapy. And we can analyze the numbers statistically.

I know that many hold that this can’t be done, because our samples are too small. That, however, is based on a mistaken view of statistics. Even with very small numbers like 10 subjects, we can do statistical analysis and find statistical significant relationships. The only limitation is that we cannot generalize. We may find out that there was a significant improvement on a certain score, but our sample never will be representative of all clients seeking regression therapy. And that population will probably not be representative for people seeking therapy in general.

But what we can find out are practical indicators that will give pointers to improvement, like (I am making these up):

  • Men need on the average more sessions than women on problem A.
  • With inferiority problems present-life regression is essential, even if pastlife experiences seem part of the problem history.
  • If the first session with an alcoholic is not successful, next sessions don’t help either.
  • People suffering from migraine have to go back to a traumatic death experience including a head injury, if the migraines started after being
  • 25 years of age.
  • Exploring and healing soul fragmentation is the essential ingredient in people with identity problems.
  • With clients that suspect they are evil inside, always start with personification.
  • Etcetera, etcetera.

Topics that are more difficult to research, but possibly more meaningful, are controversies within our field:

  • Using hypnotic induction or not. Or when and when not.
  • Using initial relaxation or not. Or when and when not.
  • Evoking higher influences (higher self, guides, angels) or not. Or when and when not.
  • Using touch or not. Or when and when not.

In any research we will undertake we need to standardize our methods and be compatible with other research.

What are the main challenges?

  • Identifying the most useful research questions.
  • Making a research design that may produce valid and reliable results

(especially reliability might be a problem).

  • Low motivation and low discipline of therapists for research (the main bottleneck, I guess).

Money is hardly an issue for this type of research, but it will ease motivation for the people leading the research, making the research design, collecting and processing the data, doing the statistical analysis and publishing the results. It also will grease the wheels of co-operation when participating therapists receive some remuneration for their efforts.

It will not convince complete outsiders, but therapists and psychologists with some interest in our field will notice that we try to remain down-to-earth and are as professional as we can be. It will increase somewhat the number of friends and well-wishers we have and decrease somewhat the number of enemies and ill-wishers we have.

The first priority is to identify research questions that practitioners most want to be answered.

The second priority is to identify relevant research designs including variables usually collected and instruments widely used.

A third priority is to collect whatever empirical data have been collected so far.

I would like to receive names and mail-addresses of colleagues who might be willing to collaborate. Those with a background in psychological research are especially welcome.

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