Nov 05 2009

No, You Should Not Use Hypnosis, Guided Imagery or Other Trance Type Therapy to Recover Abuse Memories

Published by at 12:27 pm under Counseling & Psychotherapy

I am writing to suggest a caution about “searching for abuse memories” generally and any “trance” based method, such as guided imagery, hypnosis, past-life regression, or age-regression therapy specifically.

It is widely held science now that any therapist led search for abuse memories is not recommended. Hypnosis, imagery, past-life or age regression type therapy has been the source of many lawsuits, ethical violations, and clinical problems. These methods are highly, highly discouraged.

Here is a link to research on 105 malpractice cases against therapists for using hypnosis


, guided imagery, and age regression. The legal terms used in the lawsuits are “negligent encouragement and implantation of false memories. It is chilling reading.

Using these methods. there are many possible ways a therapist opens themselves to legal action and ethical complaints…especially from those made angry by the recovered memory, such as the person who may be accused of the abuse.

It is best for us to be informed, but compassionate listeners to the stories of abuse we hear. There are many clinical methods available to help people process the impact of the abuse, but we should in no way ever help someone recover memories through trance work or other similar methods.

Here is what Jim Hopper says on his website about the search for abuse memories:

“It is true that, for some people, focusing on the contents of abuse memories, including recovered memories, can be part of a second stage of the healing process. (Again, for some people this may not be necessary and may not be something they are interested in doing.) For those who do choose to explore their memories, several important cautionary points should be kept in mind:

If abuse memories do not emerge spontaneously, this may be due to healthy and protective psychological “defense mechanisms.”

“Digging for memories,” or trying to force abuse memories to emerge, is almost never a helpful approach, and can cause a great deal of harm. This can cause increased distress and confusion, and behaviors that are harmful to oneself and important relationships (including false memories and mistaken accusations).

Attempting to recover abuse memories using hypnosis or other mind-altering techniques is almost never a good idea. The risk of creating very distorted or outright false memories is increased by such methods.

Even focusing on abuse memories one already has, without proper preparation, will almost always increase distress, instability and self-destructiveness.

Though new memories may emerge during the course of therapy, and managing and making sense of such memories can be part of the healing process, recovering memories of abuse should never be the focus, or even a goal, of therapy or counseling.”

There has been so much research in this area, it is very helpful to keep it in mind when we practice.

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