by Paul W. Schenk, Psy.D.
The author presents a layered genogram model for conceptualizing and utilizing hypnotic phenomena of the “past-life” type. An earlier article (Schenk, 1999) discussed a different model which bypasses the question of reincarnation by interpreting the client’s “waking dream” as a purely metaphorical projection from the unconscious. The model presented here incorporates reincarnation concepts by adding a fourth dimension to family/systems models of psychotherapy. The article then applies the model to several case studies to demonstrate some of its clinical applications. Whether the hypnotic imagery is understood as factual or symbolic, a growing body of literature indicates that treatment strategies associated with past-life therapy are often effective in treating Axis I symptoms which have not responded to other treatment approaches. These techniques can also bring about, albeit more slowly, durable Axis II personality changes similar to those seen as sequella of near-death experiences.
Psychotherapists risk professional ostracism from their colleagues when they work in an area that is perceived by many as lacking scientific credibility. This creates a classic double bind: Scientific credibility can only be established by those who are willing to risk their own credibility by doing research in areas where credibility has not yet been established. For the clinician doing research in past-life therapy, however, this double bind is accompanied by an additional obstacle. Past-life therapy presupposes reincarnation is a reality – a possibility that many therapists and lay people believe is impossible because their religious convictions exclude it. The author finds this particularly ironic, as this kind of psychotherapy tends to be intensely spiritual.