Age regression in therapy

Age regression in therapy is a technique in a psycho-therapeutic process that facilitates access to childhood memories, thoughts and feelings. Age regression includes hypnotherapy, a process where patients move their focus to memories of an earlier stage of life in order to explore these memories or to get in touch with some difficult-to-access aspects of their personality.[1]

Age regression has become quite controversial inside and outside the therapeutic community, with many cases involving alleged child abuse, alien abduction and other traumatic incidents subsequently being discredited.

The notion of age regression is central to attachment therapy whose proponents believe that a child who has missed out on his/her developmental stages can be made to experience those stages at a later age by a variety of techniques. Many of these techniques are intensely physical and confrontational and include forced holding and eye contact, sometimes while being required to access traumatic memories of past neglect or abuse or while being made to experience extreme emotions such as rage or fear.

Occasionally, 'rebirthing' has been used with tragic results. Accompanying parenting techniques may use bottle feeding and systems of complete control by the parent over the child's basic needs including toileting and water.[2]


Age regression in therapy is also referred to as hypnotic age regression. This is a hypnosis technique utilized by hypnotherapists to help patients remember the perceptions and feelings caused by past events that have an effect on their present illness. Hypnotic age regression occurs when a person is hypnotized and is instructed to recall a past event or regress to an earlier age. The patient may then proceed to recall or relive events in his life. If the hypnotherapist suggests that the patient is of a certain age, the patient may begin to appear to talk, act, and think according to that age. This allows for the patient to reinterpret their current situation with new information and insights. [3]

Every age regression session varies based on the hypnotherapist and patient.


The purpose of hypnotic age regression is to reframe the negative feelings and perceptions of the past to facilitate progress towards the patient's goals.[4] It allows patients to find the cause of their current blocks and eliminate their past traumas. When patients are hypnotized, they are in an altered state that allows for their subconscious mind to be accessed.[5] The subconscious mind holds the behaviors and habits that people exhibit to protect them. These behaviors and habits are repeated until they are not necessary any more.[6] Hypnotic age regression allows for patients to reframe and purge their unnecessary behaviors.[7]

Levels of regression

There are three different levels of hypnosis; each level has a regression counterpart. Depending on the level of hypnosis and regression, the patient will be able to recall a past event as if it were occurring in the present. When utilizing hypnosis, a memory can be frozen and explored more in-depth.

Light level

The first level is a light level. It is often referred to as the hypnoidal level. The regression counterpart of this level is recall. For many, the first level of age regression hypnosis is subjectively similar to the state one enters during meditation.[7] The mind is still aware of what is occurring, but the subject is much more relaxed and is better able to focus their attention.

While in this level of regression, the patient is able to recall the event. The patient's memory will typically be more detailed than their memory when they are not hypnotized, though this is not always the case.

Medium level

The next level of hypnosis is the medium level. This level is referred to as the pseudo regression level. While in this stage, the patient is in a very relaxed level of consciousness and is less aware of their body.

During the pseudo level, the patient is able to focus on specific details of his memories. The experience for the patient in this level of regression is similar to watching a videotape of a past event. Often, they are able to see and feel the past experience. However, he is still very much aware of the present moment. The patient is simply primarily focused on viewing the past.

In this stage, the patient has a lot of control. He could choose to spend more time on pleasant memories instead of unpleasant memories. Patients are even able to smell odors or hear sounds related to the specific regression. The patient possesses control of the entire regression experience in this level.

After the regression is finished, the patient is still able to recall everything that he spoke of while hypnotized.

Deep level

The third level of hypnosis is the deep level or somnambulistic. Somnambulism is a commonly utilized to describe sleepwalking, but in hypnosis, it is referred as the deepest level of hypnosis. This state is profound relaxation and is generally a hypnotherapist's goal with a patient. The regression counterpart of the deep level is revivification, which means to revive.

During this level of hypnosis, a patient's voice and other characteristics may begin to change accordingly to the time that they are regressing to. Patients may even begin to use phrases that they have not used since they were of that age. Some experts doubt the validity of this phenomenon. They state that it is merely their hypnotized imagination at work, rather than an actual regression to that age and state of mind.

In the deep level of hypnosis, patients are unable to recall all of the events that occurred during their regression, similar to a dream. The patient is able to recall certain details, but he feels the emotions as if he had just lived through the experience again. The fact that it is difficult for patients to recall the details of their regression in the deep level makes it difficult to fulfill the purpose of a regression. However, it is still an important level to reach during an age regression.

False memories

False memories are memories that seem to have happened, but are not real. These may be created at any time in everyday life. However, people are much more susceptible to suggestions that may create false memories during hypnosis. If the hypnotherapist does not lead or imply the patient, then false memories are not as likely to occur. Contrastingly, if a hypnotist implies that some event occurred that did not, then a false memory may be created. Some hypnotherapists argue that suggestions are a positive attribute during age regression, and that they are merely suggesting a direction and seeing what the patient reveals from it. It is, nevertheless, a procedure that must be used with caution.

Psychological research shows that interviews can be carried out in a way that people can easily acquire false memories.[8]

Age regression and early trauma controversy

Whether hypnotic age regression leads to more accurate earlier memories or if the memories are real at all is heavily debated. The question of whether people should utilize hypnosis to recall memories of early trauma is very controversial.

A study by Joseph Green, professor at Ohio University, involved 48 students that were found to be highly susceptible to hypnosis. The group of 48 students was divided into two separate groups. 32 of the students were informed prior to the hypnosis that hypnosis could lead to false memories and could not help people remember events that they could not ordinarily remember. The other 16 students were not given any similar information.

The students were asked about an uneventful night during their week, where they experienced uninterrupted sleep, uninfluenced by alcohol or other drugs, and inability to recall dreams. While the students were placed under hypnosis, they were told that they had heard a loud noise at 4 a.m. After hypnosis, the students were asked if they remembered hearing a loud noise at 4 a.m. 28% of the informed students and 44% of the uninformed students claimed that they had heard a loud noise at 4 a.m.

Green found that the "warnings are helpful to some extent in discouraging pseudomemories, but did not prevent pseudomemories and did not reduce the confidence subjects had in those memories."[9]

See also


  1. ^ Baker, R.A. (1982). "The effect of suggestion on past-lives regression". American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 25: 71–76.
  2. ^ Chaffin M, Hanson R, Saunders BE, et al. (2006). "Report of the APSAC task force on attachment therapy, reactive attachment disorder, and attachment problems". Child Maltreat. 11 (1): 76–89. doi:10.1177/1077559505283699. PMID 16382093.
  3. ^ "Hypnosis: A Scientific Approach". Hypnosis: A scientific approach. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  4. ^ Kraft, D.; Street, H. (2011). "The place of hypnosis in psychiatry Part 4: Its application to the treatment of agoraphobia and social phobia". Archived from the original on 20 September 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  5. ^ Rogers, Janet (May 2008). "Hypnosis in the treatment of social phobia". Australian Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis. 36 (1): 64–68.
  6. ^ Yankelevitz, D. "Age Regression & Past Life Regression". Age Regression & Past Life Regression. Wisdom Healing. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Hypnoidal: Definition with Hypnoidal Pictures and Photos". Hypnoidal: Definition with Hypnoidal Pictures and Photos. Lexicus. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  8. ^ "People Can Be Convinced They Committed a Crime That Never Happened". Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  9. ^ Brody, J (10 September 1997). "Hypnosis May Cause False Memories". Hypnosis May Cause False Memories. The New York Times. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
Age regression

Age regression is a therapeutic technique in which an individual returns to social and emotional behaviors that were present during a traumatic event in an attempt to reframe the negative feelings and perceptions of the past.

Age regression often occurs in individuals who wish to facilitate healing after trauma.

However, age regression has become quite controversial in and out of the therapeutic community, with many cases involving alleged child abuse, alien abduction, and other various traumatic experiences.


Age regression in therapy

André Muller Weitzenhoffer

André Muller Weitzenhoffer (16 January 1921 – 24 February 2004) was one of the most prolific researchers in the field of hypnosis in the latter half of the 20th century, having authored over 100 publications between 1949 and 2004. He was the recipient of several professional and academic awards, including the Distinguished Contributions to Scientific Hypnosis Award of the American Psychological Association in 1992.

Barber and Calverley

Theodore Xenophon Barber (1927–2005) and David Smith Calverley (1937–2008) were American psychologists who studied "hypnotic behaviour". They measured how susceptible patients were to hypnotic induction. One result of their research was showing that the hypnotic induction was not superior to motivational instructions in producing a heightened state of suggestibility. The Barber Suggestibility Scale, a product of their research, measures hypnotic susceptibility with or without the use of a hypnotic induction.

Ernest Hilgard

Ernest Ropiequet "Jack" Hilgard (July 25, 1904 – October 22, 2001) was an American psychologist and professor at Stanford University. He became famous in the 1950s for his research on hypnosis, especially with regard to pain control. Along with André Muller Weitzenhoffer, Hilgard developed the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Hilgard as the 29th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

George Estabrooks

George Hoben Estabrooks (December 16, 1895 – December 30, 1973) was a Canadian-American psychologist who would die in the County of Madison, New York which was the home county for Colgate University.

George Estabrooks was a Harvard University graduate, a Rhodes Scholar, chairman of the Department of Psychology at Colgate University and an authority on hypnosis during World War II. He used hypnosis to help spies have split personalities to not actually know they were spies in case of capture. He stated it was easy to create and easy to cure using hypnosis.

He joined the First Canadian Division in his teens and at the age of 19 became the youngest commissioned Officer. Later in life, he became a 32nd degree Knight Templar Mason and wrote various articles and books including these four publications: The Future of the Human Mind, Hypnotism, Spiritism, and Man - The Mechanical Misfit.

Hippolyte Bernheim

Hippolyte Bernheim (17 April 1840, in Mulhouse – 2 February 1919, in Paris) was a French physician and neurologist, born at Mülhausen, Alsace. He is chiefly known for his theory of suggestibility in relation to hypnotism.


Hypnosurgery is a name used for an operation where the patient is sedated using hypnotherapy rather than traditional anaesthetics. It is claimed that hypnosis for anaesthesia has been used since the 1840s where it was pioneered by the surgeon James Braid. There are occasional media reports of surgery being conducted under hypnosis, but since these are not carried out under controlled conditions, nothing can be concluded from them.

There is insufficient evidence to support the efficacy of hypnosis in managing pain in other contexts, such as childbirth or post-operative pain.

Hypnotic induction

Hypnotic induction is the process undertaken by a hypnotist to establish the state or conditions required for hypnosis to occur.

Self-hypnosis is also possible, in which a subject listens to a recorded induction or plays the roles of both hypnotist and subject.

Hypnotic susceptibility

Hypnotic susceptibility measures how easily a person can be hypnotized. Several types of scales are used; however, the most common are the Harvard Group Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility and the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scales.

The Harvard Group Scale (HGSS), as the name implies, is administered predominantly to large groups of people while the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale (SHSS) is administered to individuals. No scale can be seen as completely reliable due to the nature of hypnosis. It has been argued that no person can be hypnotized if they do not want to be; therefore, a person who scores very low may not want to be hypnotized, making the actual test score averages lower than they otherwise would be.

Irving Kirsch

Irving Kirsch (born March 7, 1943) is Associate Director of the Program in Placebo Studies and a lecturer in medicine at the Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is also professor emeritus of psychology at the Universities of Hull and Plymouth in the United Kingdom, and the University of Connecticut in the United States. Kirsch is noted for his research on placebo effects, antidepressants, expectancy, and hypnosis. He is the originator of response expectancy theory, and his analyses of clinical trials of antidepressants have influenced official treatment guidelines in the United Kingdom. He is the author of the 2009 book, The Emperor's New Drugs.

Isaac Gubel

Isaac Gubel (born in the 19th or 20th century) was an Argentine psychiatrist and hypnotist.

Martin Theodore Orne

Martin Theodore Orne (October 16, 1927, Vienna, Austria – February 11, 2000, Paoli, Pennsylvania) was a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Orne is best known for his pioneering research into demand characteristics, illustrating the weakness of informing participants that they are taking part in a psychology experiment and yet expecting them to act normally. He is also noted for his involvement with the poet Anne Sexton, and with the trials of Patty Hearst and Kenneth Bianchi. He was also well known as a researcher in the field of hypnosis.

Morton Prince

Morton Henry Prince (December 21, 1854 – August 31, 1929) was an American physician who specialized in neurology and abnormal psychology, and was a leading force in establishing psychology as a clinical and academic discipline.He was part of a handful of men who disseminated European ideas about psychopathology, especially in understanding dissociative phenomenon; and helped found the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 1906, which he edited until his death.

Nicholas Spanos

Nicholas Peter Spanos (1942 – June 6, 1994), was Professor of Psychology and Director of the Laboratory for Experimental Hypnosis at Carleton University from 1975 to his death in a single engine plane crash on June 6, 1994. While alive, Spanos conducted multiple studies that challenged common beliefs. He tried to distinguish the difference between common beliefs about hypnosis and what was actually occurring. These studies conducted by Spanos led to the modern understanding that hypnosis is not an altered state and is actually suggested behaviors that the participant chooses to go along with or not. Along with this, Spanos conducted studies regarding Dissociative Identity Disorder in which he stated that multiple personalities are not a product of trauma but are based on social norms.

Past life regression

Past life regression is a technique that uses hypnosis to recover what practitioners believe are memories of past lives or incarnations, though others regard them as fantasies or delusions or a type of confabulation. Past-life regression is typically undertaken either in pursuit of a spiritual experience, or in a psychotherapeutic setting. Most advocates loosely adhere to beliefs about reincarnation, though religious traditions that incorporate reincarnation generally do not include the idea of repressed memories of past lives.The technique used during past-life regression involves the subject answering a series of questions while hypnotized to reveal identity and events of alleged past lives, a method similar to that used in recovered memory therapy and one that, similarly, often misrepresents memory as a faithful recording of previous events rather than a constructed set of recollections. The use of hypnosis and suggestive questions can tend to leave the subject particularly likely to hold distorted or false memories. The source of the memories is often more likely cryptomnesia and confabulations that combine experiences, knowledge, imagination and suggestion or guidance from the hypnotist than recall of a previous existence. Once created, those memories are indistinguishable from memories based on events that occurred during the subject's life. Memories reported during past-life regression have been investigated, and revealed historical inaccuracies that are easily explained through a basic knowledge of history, elements of popular culture or books that discuss historical events. Experiments with subjects undergoing past-life regression indicate that a belief in reincarnation and suggestions by the hypnotist are the two most important factors regarding the contents of memories reported.

Sports hypnosis

Sports hypnosis refers to the use of hypnotherapy with athletes in order to enhance sporting performance. Hypnosis in sports has therapeutic and performance-enhancing functions. The mental state of athletes during training and competition is said to impact performance. Hypnosis is a form of mental training and can therefore contribute to enhancing athletic execution. Sports hypnosis is used by athletes, coaches and psychologists.


Suggestion is the psychological process by which one person guides the thoughts, feelings, or behavior of another person.

Nineteenth-century writers on psychology such as William James used the words "suggest" and "suggestion" in the context of a particular idea which was said to suggest another when it brought that other idea to mind. Early scientific studies of hypnosis by Clark Leonard Hull and others extended the meaning of these words in a special and technical sense (Hull, 1933).

The original neuropsychological theory of hypnotic suggestion was based upon the ideomotor reflex response that William B. Carpenter declared, in 1852, was the principle through which James Braid's hypnotic phenomena were produced.

William Joseph Bryan

William Joseph Bryan, Jr. (1926–1977) was an American physician and a pioneering hypnotist. He was one of the founders of the modern hypnotherapy and his work notably found use in psychological warfare during the Cold War. He was a great grandson of United States Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan.

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