Home Articles Store Ask Del About Hypnosis About Del Testimonials For Therapists Links Contact
hypnotherapy books

Del Morrill, M.S. C.C.H


A Center for Counseling & Hypnosis
Tacoma, Washington, USA
(253) 752-1506

REGRESSION: Its Therapeutic Value

The conscious mind guides us through the day in what we do. It is like the captain of a ship who observes, makes decisions out of logical deduction, and then plots the course. This part of the mind is limited in the number of things it can do at a time.

Unlike the limitations of the conscious mind, the subconscious (or unconscious) mind is like a marvelous biological computer that has an amazingly impressive capacity. It never sleeps. It handles and processes 100 million bits of information every second of every day. It looks after all of the automatic functions of our body's systems, spontaneously, 24 hours a day, without any conscious effort on our part. It records and remembers everything we do from the time we first came into being. Every memory, incident, and emotion ever experienced is recorded and maintained by this wonderful, creative mind.

There are many who believe this recording task doesn't begin with birth into one's present life, but receives everything that ever happened to us from the time we first came into existence.

This understanding assumes that we live through many lifetimes in our existence. Altered-state methods that address the subconscious or unconscious mind can be used to tap into those records to reveal causes and solutions to long-held, and often mysterious, attitudes, feelings, and problems. Hypnosis is one of those methods.

The hypnotic trance is an altered state of awareness. It is dominated by the subconscious mind. Hypnosis uses the art of suggestion -- direct or indirect -- to bypass the critical faculty of the conscious mind, and to induce a heightened state of suggestibility. Its job is to bring us to another level of being, so that we can view things differently. Also, it can assist any part of us to release anything of the past that blocks us from obtaining our more current goals. There are many hypnotic techniques that make this possible. The one I would most like to discuss today is that of Regression.


The word "regression," according to Webster's dictionary, merely means "To return to a former condition," or "An act of reasoning backward, to return to a cause." Techniques of regression are some of the most effective methods of going to the root of a client's symptom, that is, "the cause." By using such techniques, a therapist can provide the client with insight into their problem, and permanent release of their symptoms.

There are several purposes for regression:

(1) to solve problems
(2) to increase one's conscious knowledge of history
(3) to bring out one's previous skills and talents
(4) to understand one's spiritual growth
(5) to change one's directions in life.

The goal of any therapeutic regression is to help a person gain the ability to live one's life. Going to the past is not for the purpose of wallowing or for catharsis, primarily, but for illumination and new decisions. Its intent is to help the client let go of the past and move on with their life right now.

There are several basic types of regression:

(1) Going back to a specific event that the client has discussed or is especially concerned about in this current life (age regression);

(2) Letting the subconscious mind decide where it is necessary to go, whether it decides to go to this life or a previous one for the answer (seeking source of problem's through age or past life regression);

(3) Going to a specific, or any past life, for a person who is curious about what makes up their character and history (past life regression);

(4) Or, going to times between existences to discern where a person is in their spiritual growth (past life regression).

Age Regression

Regression techniques can be used to go to any earlier experience of this existence (age regression), or into any previous existence (past life regression). Age regression takes a client to some earlier experience in their present existence that has a major relationship to their problem.

Many early attitudes, beliefs and experiences are "imprinted" in one's cellular memory banks during a child's precognitive period. Abuse or other traumatic experiences, for instance, can imprint the subconscious fear of danger long after the danger has passed. Regression techniques can help that "child" part of the adult, who is still living in that fear, to understand that they are now in a safe situation.

Such imprints do not have to be traumatic ones to cause serious problems. Sometimes a child can overreact to an incident, misunderstand it, or believe that they are somehow involved and at fault for someone else's actions. Going back to that situation often can clear up the misunderstanding, and help the client to have a more mature understanding of the event.

Sometimes regression will take a person to an incident they have been able to remember and describe in a conscious awareness state. But the process can also help a person understand that memory more vividly, and often with more understanding than they had at the conscious level.

Often, just understanding something seems to release the imprint. Other times, more techniques are required of the therapist in order to solve the problem at every level of the mind.

Sometimes the event a client goes back to is in their adulthood, rather than further back into childhood. Basically the same processes are involved that allow the client's current wisdom to prevail over whatever it was at the time the imprints were first made.

Past Life Regression

Despite thousands of past life reports, case studies, and books written about this subject for decades, most psychiatrists believe the idea of reincarnation is pure nonsense. Yet many others practice it without admitting it professionally. There have been several psychologists who discovered past lives through their own counseling practices; and some have written significant books about the experience.

Most Christian churches refuse to acknowledge reincarnation. Early editors of the scriptures, out of council demands, were pressured to remove references to reincarnation, rebirth and karma. The teaching of reincarnation was outlawed in AD553 by the Second Council of Constantinople, and even condemned as heresy. Yet, these same churches avidly believe in life after death.

In a 1990 Gallup poll, it was discovered that one in ten Americans felt they had lived a previous life, and one in five said they believed in reincarnation. Over 80 percent of the world's people believe in multiple existences. At least half the world includes the concept as an active, integral part of their cultural identity and religious philosophy.

For many people, having lived other lives explains such phenomena as child prodigies, deja vu experiences, meeting someone for the first time and either loving or hating them immediately; feeling as if they have known another person all their life; recurring dreams of unexplained incidents; and many other such phenomena.

There are various theoretical positions regarding past lives:

(1) The mind is a blank slate at birth, and you are born with this one life or identity (tabula rasa). All psychological disturbances are a result of this life;

(2) Any past life experiences can be explained as a result of unconscious imagining derived from long forgotten stories, gossip, etc.;

(3) We all have access in dreams, meditation or hypnosis, to a strata of the unconscious mind which is universal. It is rather like tapping into the memory bank of humankind. (Jung called this the "Collective Unconscious," and Yeats called it "The Great Memory.");

(4) Some part of the self is finally having the opportunity to express itself, by creating an archetype person or metaphor event in order to deal with the issue more easily;

(5) The genes carry the spiritual memory, just as they do our social and emotional memories; There is some kind of cumulative essence or energy, traces of which are left behind that we pass through, collect, or tap into.

The Reincarnationist's position is that the soul has lived many lives in numerous bodies. Each lifetime is one in which a person accumulates merit and demerit. Rebirth has much to do with the karmic consequences of your previous actions. In other words, most reincarnational understanding follows the universal psychic law of cause and affect, that is, "What goes around comes around."

So, when one regresses back to a previous existence, is it one's subconscious mind's way of merely exploring another lifestyle? Are we tapping into the cosmic consciousness and attracting a vibration that suits our needs? Is our mind cleverly creating a metaphor to help us understand a puzzling situation? Or, are we back in some previous time to a different life we were living, and dying?

This paper is not to convince someone of the reality or unreality of past lives. That might take an entire book. However, by using methods which affect the altered state, a therapist is bound to run into the phenomena sooner or later.

The important aspect of this is not whether the therapist believes in it, but whether the client is revealing their issues through this means. Working with the client's belief system (whether it is a conscious or unconscious one) is far more important than whether there is some particular belief in reincarnation. The bottom line is the results that come from working with the client's problem, which happened to be revealed as some previous life incident.

The fact is that many problems brought to one's office can be logically connected to past lives, when nothing in this present life explains it.

When living a past experience it seems very real, although we may think we are "making it up." Usually, we will remember our experiences after we return from the regression.

In past life regression, it is not uncommon to recognize people that one knows in the current life. They won't look the same or have the same names, or even the same sex, necessarily, but we will recognize them. And, we may not be of the same sex in this lifetime.

Techniques of Remembering

People are able to remember through such images as a photo album, looking at antiques, meeting old friends, talking about the good old days, looking at a school's yearbook, having a class reunion, hearing an old song, looking through an old trunk in the attic, cleaning out a storage closet, going through Christmas cards from friends, looking through old letters, reports cards and other keepsakes, or going through a cemetery.

It makes sense then, that a therapist can help them, in their imaginations, to recall the past. There are many techniques that can assist in this process. The simplest one is to have the client simply drift back in time, letting the years fade away, and then stop when arriving at an important year related to the problem.

Another is to take the client back to some pleasant scene in childhood, and from there progress forward or backward to a very relevant event that explains the source of the problem. Some others are:

? walking through a house one remembers as a child
? using a time tunnel
? going down a long hallway in a building
? going through a fog
? watching a television screen or attending a play
? taking a boat ride to another lifetime
? counting back from 100
? going down a flight of stairs
? flipping though a calendar of one's life on index cards
? going into a cave and out through a tunnel with a light at the end
? a magic carpet, counting 10 to 1 as one moves across time
? a clock with the hands moving backward
? a safe cloud on a short fantasy trip
? a photo coming to life and the client stepping into it
? going on a highway leading back in time

Regression Dialogue

It is important to determine just what the client wants. Is the regression just to know more about themselves, or is it to locate the cause of a symptom? Once that is clarified, then an induction is used to get the client into a hypnotic state. During this process, it is helpful to create a safe place for the client -- usually some setting that they have expressed as relaxing to them. Also, I find it helpful to remind the client that they will return to the memory as a reporter or historian, who will be viewing their life without emotion or pain.

Many therapists, like myself, first ask questions through the use of ideomotor signals (such as fingers rising to indicate YES and N0) in order to more easily by-pass the conscious mind.

I determine, by the use of ideomotor signals, whether it is okay for the client to remember, at a conscious level, whatever he/she recalls. Then I use one of the techniques previously mentioned to help the client go back into time.

Once a scene arises and is described by the client, then the therapist asks questions to clarify the scene, people, action, and the problem that arose, being careful to keep the questions as non-leading as possible. Helpful questions include asking how that particular life affected the client, what they learned from it, and how it is affecting their current life. In a therapeutic relationship, the job is to convince the "past life" (who is now my client) to release the trauma. Often, the therapist must also give some type of assurance to that "past-life client," which will release them from guilt or fear. When that is done, then the issue doesn't have to be carried into the future any longer.

Once the client feels released, through the use of ideomotor signaling I ask the subconscious mind whether there is any need for further regression, and whether the release has been complete. Then, I bring the client back to the present time, just before emerging them fully from the hypnotic state. This gives the client time to re-orient, and assimilate the experience. Sometimes it is helpful to ask what they felt happened to them, as a means of helping with the assimilation. However, this should never be forced.

Releasing the Imprints

Whether working with this life or a past life, releasing past imprints involves:

? understanding the client and their problem;
? giving security to the client at whatever age they go to;
? treating that part of the psyche as the "client" and speaking to it directly;
? assisting the client with whatever it takes to get on with their life;
? and, at the end of the session, checking as to whether the release has been complete, by using ideomotor finger signals.

Once arriving at a particular situation and asking basic non-leading questions to clarify the situation, then the therapist has the job of helping the client release the past, so that they can move into the future. This can be done through:

--role-playing, in which the particular personality, at the age they were involved in the incident, plays the parts of all parties involved in the situation;

--taking the client back to the event a second time with their adult awareness, knowledge, and understanding (Charles Tebbetts called this the Informed Child);

--asking the child what it needs to become secure and released from their problem;

--asking the subconscious mind (or higher consciousness) what the child needs in order to be secure or to forgive themselves; or what needs to happen to the person who has caused the distress;

--simply telling that part of the psyche that time has now passed, the danger is over, everything is now a memory, and they can move on;

--reconstructing the scene so that it comes out more positively; then asking the client if that is the one they wish to take into the future;

--or doing some symbolic act that releases, such as burning some papers, sending some person or event off in a balloon or space ship, writing the problem on a balloon and then popping it, cutting cords or ties to someone, etc.

Cautions and Conclusion:

Dealing with Abreactions

In hypnosis a client can sometimes spontaneously regress, or when regressing can find themselves emotionally discharging in a way that can be frightening to them. Handling "abreaction's" of this nature is an important skill of any therapist. A hypnotherapist, or counselor who uses regression techniques, can abate this potential problem by:

--Before beginning the regression, helping the client create a safe place to return;

--Having the client become a "reporter" of their own life;

--Reminding the client that these are merely memories, and that memories are merely thoughts;

--Allowing the emotions to happen, and then let the scene fade away;

--Letting the scene fade away and taking the client to a happy scene;

--Or, by taking the client to a safe place for a moment, and then guiding them back to the present, waiting until they are ready to try again.

Whatever the choice made, it is important to plant suggestions that are calming, and cause the client to return feeling relaxed and positive.

Avoiding Imagined Memories

An entire chapter of a book could be written on the problem of falsely created memories. In a nutshell, under hypnosis the imagination is very keen, and the client is most susceptible to suggestion. These are the major reasons that hypnosis is rarely accepted by the courts as evidence in a case. Because of this potential problem, it is exceptionally important that, in order to avoid false memories, the questions be very objective, without any suggestion of leading the client into an imagined situation. For example, guiding-type questions like, "What's happening now?" and "Why do you feel this is happening?" are more likely to get an accurate memory, than the leading-type questions of "Is Daddy hitting you?" and "Is Mommy mad?"

When Not to Regress

Regression may not work for everyone. For some, the work is too intense or too overwhelming. The client may not want the raw areas of their psyche to be exposed again. When this seems evident, then it is wise to use personal counseling over a longer time before attempting the regression.

Personally, I prefer not to do regression with a schizophrenic or other serious psychotic. There is already the tendency for the psyche to be seduced by sub personalities within, which is a defense against current reality.

Sometimes a client can so deeply identify with a complex, that they are unwilling to relinquish it. They may not wish to look at the problem at its source. Of course, this is just as true in any therapy used. The client must want to change.

While regression can be enlightening and educational, it can also open the doors to severe trauma. It is, therefore, important that the therapist be well-trained in such techniques -- not only in regressing someone to a previous incident, but in knowing how to enable a client's release from it. It is relatively easy to induce the hypnotic state. The real key to therapeutic change is in knowing what to do once you get a client into that state. This is especially critical when doing regression work. So, unless you are well prepared for heavy emotions and trained to handle traumatic events, it is wise to steer clear of them; and to send the client to someone who has that kind of training.

Other resistance to such trance work could be nothing more than reacting to words like "sleep" or "going under" due to some particular trauma related to sleep or drowning, etc. There could be conflict with one's religious views regarding reincarnation. There may be some other aspect of the story that has not yet been revealed. The client may have reconstructed a different story to avoid the pain. Having the client respond by using ideomotor signals can often help the therapist know how to proceed when they meet such resistence.

If I am meeting resistance to uncovering the source of a problem, and I have a pretty good sense of what it is, I will continue the session merely by giving suggestions of release without requiring the client's verbal or ideomotor responses.


As a counseling hypontherapist, I have found that, compared with the analytical process es of certain types of counseling, regression tecniques can locate the underlying reasons for my clients' symptoms relatively easily. Using regression also brings about a more assured and permanent solution for the client.

Because of the quickness of response, and their participation in the process, clients are far less likely to develop dependency on the hypnotherapist, as they often do when they go through two or three years with a regular counselor.

Not only that, the process is so natural for them, that they often believe they have come to it all by themselves. It is not unusual, for instance, to have solutions arise away from the therapist's office, once regression techniques have been used. It's as if a window has been opened between the conscious and subconscious mind. That which has been waiting to reappear usually does, in a way the client can handle with relative ease.

However, because this opening is possible, there may be times that the client needs to absorb this change with the help of the objectivity of the therapist. Therefore, having a session no more than a week from the regression, provides a safer way of handling whatever has arisen. It also allows the client to express and share the experience of the last session after getting some distance from it.

I have been practicing counseling for over 35 years now. Since 1986 I have been using various forms of hypnosis and other altered-state methods with my clients. The difference has been astounding at how rapidly they find healing of their problems. I would never return to the singular talk-counseling process.




Ask Del

About Hypnosis

About Del


For Therapists