What is Regression Therapy?


The word regression in its original Latin of regressionem refers to a process of going back to an earlier state, and for Regression Therapy this means going to the source of a psychological problem. It uses a range of hypnotherapy and psychotherapy techniques but differs by putting more focus on regression and working with transpersonal experiences to transform them. When the memories involve one’s early childhood a term often used is age regression, (Banyan 2001)1, hypnotic regression (Hunter, 2012)2 or regression hypnotherapy (Churchill 2002)3. When past life stories appear it has been referred to as past life regression. However, regression therapy does not try and prove the truth of these stories and uses the rich metaphorical interpretation by the client to provide a powerful transpersonal experience for healing. When the source of the problem comes from traumatic memories regression therapy includes body memory transformation. Medical professionals, psychiatrists, psychologists and other regression therapists work to a single international standard set by the Earth Association of Regression Therapy (Mack 2014)4."Among psychotherapists, regression is regarded as a valuable psychiatric technique by many reputable practitioners”. (Independent, UK - 14 March 2015)5.


Sigmund Freud introduced the idea of bringing the unconscious mind to conscious awareness for healing and has been regarded as the grandfather of modern Regression Therapy. (Lucas, 2007)6. Carl Jung’s use of active imagination has also influenced the development of guided imagery techniques used in Regression Therapy (Mack 2015)7.

In the 1950’s a British psychiatrist Alexander Cannon regressed over 1400 patients with symptoms that were not curable by conventional means and observed significant improvement. (Casimiri, 2013)8 By the late 1960’s and 70’s the use of hypnotic age regression had become generally accepted by the medical profession. (Barber 1962)9. Using an affect bridge it enables a person to connect quickly with a relevant past memory by using an emotion. This gave momentum to the initial development of Regression Therapy (Baldwin 1994)10.

In the 1960’s a British psychiatrist Denys Kelsey working with regression concluded that the origin of some psychiatric problems may reside in past lives. (Grant & Kelsey, 1967)11. In the 1970s four books on past life regression were published: Deep Healing by psychologist Hans Ten Dam, Reliving Past Lives by clinical psychologist Helen Wambach, You Have Been Here Before by psychologist Edith Fiore; Past Lives Therapy by Morris Netherton. These books had in common a therapeutic use of past life stories. (Mack 2015)12.

In the 1980’s Roger Woolger taught the value of working with the body and pioneered the regression technique of combining body psychotherapy with psychodrama to release the traumatic memories embedded in particular body memories. (Woolger, 1988)13.

In the early 2010’s Dr Peter Mack a practicing surgeon from Singapore and regression therapist wrote two books about his patient’s healing stories – Healing Deep Hurt Within (Mack 2011)14 and Life Changing Moments in Inner Healing (Mack 2012)15. Shortly afterwards an international meeting of psychiatrists, medical doctors and clinical psychologists using regression therapy took place in 2013. From this the Society for Medical Advance and Research in Regression Therapy was formed. (Mack 2014)16. The Society published its first book Inner Healing Journey – A Medical Perspective in which six medical doctors including two psychiatrists shared eleven client healing stories using Regression Therapy. (IHJ back cover)17.

Theoretical Background

Regression Therapy regression is based on the principle that ill health happens when emotional stresses have overwhelmed and weakened the body’s defences. As a protective mechanism against hurtful unexpressed emotions the mind learns to anaesthetise the intensity of the emotions and block them off from conscious awareness but leaves behind a scar of unprocessed emotional tension. (IHJ p 236)18. This may spill over in emotional outbursts or manifest as a headache, insomnia, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome or some other psychosomatic illness. (Woolger, 1992)19. There is a physiological imperative for our human system to release stress to restore inner balance and Regression Therapy provides the required setting for this to take place. (IHJ p237)20. Emotions are often expressed by sobbing and crying, known as abreaction or catharsis. (LCMIIH p 191-192)21. When the patient understands why they are ill, the emotions have been released and transformed it allows healing to take place. (IHJ p 248)22

Holistic and Medical Models of Healing

Based on classical science and the influence of Rene Descartes the conventional medical model sees illness as a random event, and the cause of disease and its cure as coming from outside the human body. In contrast the holistic health model in regression therapy sees illness and healing as coming from within the individual. (IHJ p 248)22 It is based on the principle that the patient’s body reflects the deeper struggles of their entire life. Hence, illness is deemed not to occur randomly, but when emotional, psychological or spiritual stresses have overwhelmed or weakened the body defenses. The therapeutic objective is to assist the person to regain a healthy balance. (Mack, 2014, p248)22. Unlike the medical model the patient helps interactively during the Regression Therapy process (Simoes, 2002)23 .

Regression as Therapy

Use of Regression Stories
Stories are the fundamental part of human experience and ones that may appear to be a past life have a deeper meaning for the client and work like a metaphor enabling the Regression Therapist to get to the heart of the client’s illness. (Mack 2012)24. Changes are made possible by reframing (Costa, 1999)25 or Gestalt like dialogue to obtain integration of the regressed experience (Oliveira 2014)26. In hypnosis where time is transcended and with no distinction between real and imagined, empowerment and healing is able to take place (Adler, 1999)27. What is important in Regression Therapy is allowing the event to be experienced in a personalised way (Simoes 2002). 23

Age Regression
Age regression is a technique used in hypnotherapy and involves going to the suppressed emotion of a life event that is thought to be causing a patient’s problem. This can involve early childhood memories and enables the person to release suppressed emotions in a safe environment and is a powerful healing mechanism used in Regression Therapy (Maier-Henle, 2004)28.

Inner Child Therapy
Psychologist John Bowlby established how early childhood memories can cause dysfunctional behaviours in later life. (Bowlby, J (1951)29. John Bradshaw introduced the use of concept of inner child for unresolved childhood experiences and psychatrist Soumya Rao has described how this can be successfully incorporate into the Regression Therapy process (Rao, 2014)30.

Body Therapy
Bessel van der Kolk the director of the Trauma Centre at Boston University says. “When the physical sensations of trauma produce intense emotions the therapy needs to consist of helping people stay in there bodies and understand the body sensations.” (Van der Kolk 1994)31. The body always carries the memory of past events and can provide an important bridge in regression therapy. (Tomlinson 2005)32 More recently, psychiatrist Moacir Oliveira has shown how body therapy in combination with regression therapy can be used to resolve traumatic memories. (Oliveira, 2014)26.

Research and the Uses of Regression Therapy

A wide range of emotional problems have been resolved with regression therapy. Psychologists and medical doctors have resolved anxiety (Mack 2012)33 anger (Mack, 2012)34depression (Mack, 2011)35 self-harming (Tomlinson, 2005)36 post-traumatic stress (Tomlinson 2005)37 phobias (Mack, 2012)38 low self-esteem (Maier-Henle, 2014)28. Research has shown it reduces ticks in Tourette Syndrome (Van Meason 1998)39 and psychiatrists and medical doctors have found it resolves blackouts (Mack, 2011)40. insomnia (Mack, 2011)41 migraine and unexplainable pain (Oliveira 2014)42 (Mack 2012)43 asthma (Oliveira, 2014)26, and autoimmune disorder (Sharma, 2014)44.

Hazel Denning analysed the results of eight therapists with over a thousand patients between 1985 and 1992. Many of them sought Regression Therapy after they had fruitlessly tried other therapies. It was found that after 5 years 24% reported that their symptoms were completely gone, 23% reported significant improvement, 17% reported noticeable improve and 36% reported no improvement (Denning, 1987)45.

Ronald van der Maesen conducted several research programs in 1994 that investigated the results of Regression Therapy with 401 patients of 32 therapists. Six months after the end of his therapy, 50% reported that their problems had completely been solved, 30% showed some improvement and 20 percent experienced no benefit. These results were reached on average with 15 hours of therapy conducted during a total of six sessions (TenDam, 1989)46.

Limitations of Regression Therapy and Criticism

Regression Therapy may not produce the desired results if clients have difficulty entering a sufficient trance state, or if the patient is unwilling to be regressed to a major trauma (Mack, 2014)47. Some of them may be unprepared to take ownership of their own healing or unwilling to give up the symptoms because of secondary gains (Mack, 2014)47. It is not an appropriate therapy when a person is not able to think clearly and rationally or is delusional with more serious mental health problems (Tomlinson, 2005)48.

Critics have suggested the techniques of regression can produce false memories because of the suggestibility of memory. This may lead to legal cases such as childhood sexual abuse. (Mullens & Fergusson, 1999)49 Regression therapists take the position that professional training teaches regression therapists to ask questions rather than give new memory suggestions (Tomlinson, 2005)50.

Skeptics insist that past life memories come from a patient trying to please the therapist or cryptomnesia based on long forgotten information (Lawton, 2008.)51. Regression therapists point out past life stories do not need not be factual for healing to occur. They act like a metaphor carrying a symbolic meaning. (Lee & Mack, 2015)52.

Some therapists argue that reframing a memory numbs a person to past events, hides the truth and becomes an obstacle to therapy (Armentrout, 1999)53. Regression therapists would suggest reframing only takes place after emotions are released from a traumatic memory and allows the person to discover a new ways acting from the higher consciousness insights (Lucas 1992)54.

Regression Therapy Associations

Regression therapy is practiced around the world and approximately every three years a convention is held to share techniques, research and new developments. The First World Congress was held in the Netherlands in 2003, the second in Germany in 2006, the third in Brazil in 2009, the fourth in Turkey in 2011 and the fifth in Portugal in 2015. (http://www.regressioncongress.org/previous_congresses)55.

In 2006, the Earth Association of Regression Therapy (EARTh) was founded. Its objective to create and maintain an international standard in Regression Therapy and improve its professional acceptance by offering workshops and providing a meeting ground for conferences. ("http://www.earth-association.org/the-earth-body-of-knowledge-and-skills-boks-of-regression-therapy56.(Mack 2014)4

With the increasing need to advance the discipline within Medicine, the Society for Medical Advance and Research in Regression Therapy was formed in 2013 in Portugal. This is an international group doing regression therapy research led by medical doctors who share the vision to bring about the integration of complimentary and holistic approaches into medicine. (http://www.smar-rt.com/index.htm)57.


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5. Independent, UK - 14 March 2015.

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