Both present life regression and past life regression therapy are common hypnotic approaches to helping clients transform present life issues and difficulties. How and why does regression therapy work, and what are the differences in the effects of both kinds of regression therapies?

If a client requests present life regression therapy or inner child work, the interview focuses on what she wants and expects from present-life regression therapy. A detailed discussion emerges which outlines the therapist and client's responsibilities in doing present-life regressions. I explain that we can focus on current presenting issues with pragmatic goals as the outcome and that the present-life regression work becomes a means to an end, not an end in itself. Because of the legal limits of the use of hypnosis in California, I make sure my client has informed consent and understands that any information she accesses in a hypnotic state is not admissible in a court of law nor can it be used in a deposition for testimony. I make sure my client has her own healing and wholeness as the focus of the work and that she understands that uncovering memories does not necessarily prove that what was remembered is factual. The client is informed that the inner child work is a process to which one must commit in her own time and way, and that the present-life regression work, itself, is just one important step of the healing process.

I tell the client that it is my responsibility as the guide to ask open-ended questions and to allow the content of the experience to arise solely from herself. I explain that I will be a "tour guide", but that she is the "driver" of the experience. I empower the client to verbalize any needs that arise during the regression and to feel free to comment on any questions or concerns she may have while experiencing the hypnotic state so that I can assist her process. I inform her that accessing in hypnosis is a skill and by being communicative of what is and is not happening, I can help her learn how to access more easily while in the hypnotic state. I encourage the client to tell me if "nothing" is happening and assure her that "nothing" is "something" and is perfectly all right.

I use impeccable language patterns which are non-directive and client empowering and, after the client has experienced the present life source of the difficulty, I ask the client to reframe or rescript the childhood experience. I also know as a long-time recovering codependent people helper, that I need to stay out of the client's process and content so that I am not acting out my own "needs to be needed". Most importantly, the client needs to experience her own inner resources for healing so that she learns that she is not dependent on a outside resource or "authority" for answers and healing. Also, to facilitate the integrity of the session, the hypnotherapist needs to avoid asking directive questions, telling the client what to do and to be careful that suggestions are not embedded in the language patterns. The client's higher Self as an inner parent (see my previous article on Creating the Inner Family) is always used as the resource and as the director of the reframing or rescripting because the higher Self can and will create an appropriate corrective and healing experience for the incident or memory. There is no one else who could possibly know the child's needs or support those needs better than the client herself. To support the client's higher Self in doing the work, I generally ask: "What does the child need?" The client's self-directed inner response is typically spontaneous and wise.

In hypnotherapy, inner child work or present-life regression therapy has several purposes. The first is to free the subconscious from having to hold the lid of repression in place. This uncovering, in itself, can bring relief and free up psychic energy. Secondly, through present-life regression therapy a client can get new insight as to why and how she has developed the adult personality style and current defenses. The client can have a very conscious and direct experience of the long-term effects of unmet needs. Thirdly, in a present-life regression a client's childhood experience witnessed from the client's adult consciousness helps a client realize how, as the child, she may have misinterpreted actual events and made decisions which are not based on whole truths. (This is how I explain to clients that present-life memories can be "real" even if they are not based on facts.) In all these situations, the child's needs which were never met at the time of the memory can finally be met through either reframing or rescripting of the incident. This creates a corrective emotional experience which allows the ego to heal and to move out of a negative experience which in some ways has the client "frozen" back in time and currently responding based on old perceptions or childhood "realities". The details of the work, however, must come from the client, NOT, from the therapist.

Past-Life work, from my perspective, has very different purposes and effects. Where present-life regression supports psychological healing, ego development and the ongoing sense of an emerging self, past-life regression therapy supports soul healing and the knowing of Self.

Past-life therapy opens the client to the transpersonal realms of experience... to a level of understanding that goes beyond the ego and personal self. It is my experience both as a client and a guide of past life therapy, that it is common for a past-life experience to propel the client into a greater understanding of the "why me?' and the cosmic purpose or soul lesson behind an experience. Once the lesson is gleaned, there is an acceptance of the past-life event as a teacher of the soul lesson. The work in the inter life through which the client can know soul purpose really supports this spiritual and transpersonal level of understanding.

Past-life therapy has the purpose and effect of disengaging the client's unconscious identification with a past-life event by helping the client know from her own experience that there is continuity of consciousness through which much can be known, healed, and integrated from all of one's lives. From the transpersonal perspective, the client has a direct experience in dis-identifying from the roles she has played and knowing that she is, in reality, none of the people of past-lives; nor is she, in reality, the person of the present-life. She is a soul which takes on different roles in each life to learn soul lessons; all of which are in support of the soul remembering who it is: a spiritual being having a human experience.

Healing the past-life is, in part, realizing that we have the life experience to learn lessons which support us in remembering who we are. The healing is from the meta-consciousness or knowing that we, as souls, transcend identification with the suffering and the ecstasy of all human experience. Going through many experiences allows us to dis-identify from the drama and attachment to all of life's ups and downs.

Through engaging in past life regression therapy clients experience that there are soul agreements with other souls which we choose in the inter life before incarnating. We engage with each other to play out specific roles in each lifetime so that we can interface with experiences which provide the opportunities to learn the life lessons.

In a past-life session, the client is supported in coming to her personal knowing of her soul's journey for the purpose of remembering who and what she is in the larger spiritual reality. It is this new spiritual awareness that will support the client in her present life to live more fully in the moment with loving acceptance of the way it is and with the awareness that the way it is, is perfect. She will also see that her current life situations are also a part of the divine plan. Through the karmic difficulties and the joys of the past, we are brought back home to ourselves. Part of a past-life healing is a higher understanding of one's experience and lessons which leads to forgiveness of self and others. Forgiveness clears the way to the experience of love.

A holistic approach to helping a client with present life issues would be to facilitate both present and past life therapy. Here is an example of a client who presents an issue of abandonment as her focus. As a child, Janet's parents divorced and as an adult she's had two marriages that ended with both of her husbands leaving her for other women. She is tired of the fear that she lives with from the abandonment and she wants to heal the recurring patterns and her on-going emotional pain.

In her present life regression work going back to the abandonment she felt during her parent's divorce, she experiences that she blamed herself for the divorce and she still held the belief that she wasn't lovable and deserving of someone staying intimately connected to her. From her adult perspective, Janet realized that her child perceptions were still currently affecting her self worth and beliefs. Through a series of sessions of inner parenting, reframing, and creating corrective emotional experiences for her inner child, she was able to change her beliefs and begin to love and accept herself.

In Janet's past life work she accessed several related past lives in which she was abandoned as a child by her mother who died, she was abandoned by a fellow soldier on the battlefield and left to die, and she was abandoned and betrayed by a political leader in Russia after "sacrificing" herself and her family to move up in the military ranks to have more money and power. Janet also regressed to past lives when she was the abandoner from which she felt heavy guilt and remorse. Through the past life regressions Janet was able to understand her current life patterns and see that the unresolved guilt of abandoning others was the cause of attracting the abandonment experiences of her current life. Working holistically, with both present and past life regressions, Janet was able to come to an understanding of why she had the abandonment patterns and the karma of how her past actions are related to the current effects in her present life. Janet also came to understand from the regressions that she had been abandoning herself by withholding self-care and self-love. She is now at peace, feeling more self-acceptance, and self-love. Janet is in a new relationship in which she enjoys expressing her new sense of wholeness rather than the old unconscious guilt and a lack of self-love.

Regression therapy is a profound way to come to healing in both present and past lives. Present life regression supports the ego or personal "I" in feeling more empowered and whole and past life regression therapy assists the client in accessing the meta-consciousness and remembering the higher Self's knowing of the perfection of the life journeys, the workings of cause and effect, and the awakening to remembering and knowing, who we are, what we are doing here in this lifetime and understanding why we have the experiences we have attracted to ourselves this life time.

Author's Bio: 

For over twenty years, Holly has been training and mentoring hypnotherapists at HCH Institute, a California state approved school, which is one of the oldest hypnosis schools in the US. Working with the transpersonal model of hypnosis, she empowers her clients to access their higher Self as an inner resource for healing and transformation. At HCH, Holly traines and certifies hypnotherapists, energy therapists and offers an on site and distance learning program in Parapsychological Studies taught by Loyd Auerbach. In her private practice she combines psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, sandplay therapy, and Emotional Freedom Technique with Reiki and EMDR. Read her FREE ebook Spiritual Hypnotherapy, her blogs and listen to samples of her hypnosis CDs on her web site. Holly is available for on line video sessions.