I had a debate with my friend on regression therapy as he feels it is an accepted method to discover a person's past life & his memories. I find it completely unacceptable to my sense.

What studies have been done regarding the effectiveness of regression therapy and to what degree is this practice accepted by mainstream clinicians?

I can agree regression therapy on to get to forgotten, ignored or repressed experiences that are bothering people and helping them to overcome their problems which similar to memory therapy. But I cannot understand the logic of extracting past life experiences and past life memory. It is totally indigestible that psychologists (specially in India) believe in these practices. Or is that a few of psychologists are misusing the profession for monetary gains.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to CogSci Aneesh! I think this is a good question, but in general we expect a degree of initial research. What do you know about the subject? Which resources that you know of support your assumptions? (also link to them) Please read 'how-to-ask' carefully. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Dec 19, 2012 at 10:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Glad to have you here Aneesh. In order to make your question more acceptable for the site, Chuck Sherrington and I have edited it to request specific studies and what degree the practice is accepted by clinicians. Answers on this site generally have to reference some sort of study rather than just community opinion. $\endgroup$
    – Josh
    Dec 19, 2012 at 15:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the response, Yes I agree Steven & Josh I will definitely keep it mind in future posts in following the guidelines. $\endgroup$
    – Aneosh
    Dec 19, 2012 at 17:28

1 Answer 1


There is an article on Wikipedia discussing past life regression.

A general scientific explanation of beliefs about past lives is that:

the memories are the result of cryptomnesia, narratives created by the subconscious mind using imagination, forgotten information and suggestions from the therapist.[1][2][3][15][16][17][18] Memories created under hypnosis are indistinguishable from actual memories and can be more vivid than factual memories.[2][19] The greatest predictor of individuals reporting memories of past lives appears to be their beliefs about the existence in reincarnation - individuals who believe in reincarnation are more likely to report such memories, while sceptics or disbelievers are less so.[1][5]

The study discussed in Spanos (1996) sounds particularly relevant to understanding the nature of such past life beliefs. To continue quoting the Wikpedia article:

Spanos' research leads him to the conclusion that past lives are not memories, but actually social constructions based on patients acting "as if" they were someone else, but with significant flaws that would not be expected of actual memories. To create these memories, Spanos' subjects drew upon the expectations established by authority figures and information outside of the experiment such as television, novels, life experiences and their own desires.

Thus, past life regression therapy is invalid in the sense that patients are not actually recalling past lives. Nonetheless, there still remains a question of whether it offers therapeutic benefits. Meaning, purpose, and self-esteem are all important human needs. For therapists and patients who believe in past lives, fleshing out past lives could potentially help to fulfil such needs. That said, I don't know of any scientific studies that have evaluated such therapy. Such therapy also raises a number of ethical issues in terms of fostering illusions in the client.


  • Spanos NP (1996). Multiple Identities & False Memories: A Sociocognitive Perspective. American Psychological Association (APA). pp. 135–40. ISBN 1-55798-340-2.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.