What Is Regression Therapy?

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Regression therapy is a type of psychotherapy (also called talk therapy) that guides people to remember past events and traumas buried in their subconscious. Age regression therapy and past-life regression therapy are two versions of this method.

The practice, which was first developed by Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, is based on the premise that addressing past traumas and releasing the difficult emotions they caused is key to well-being. Regression therapy practitioners believe emotions are buried by the mind to protect a person from their intensity.

These buried emotions can affect a person with both physical and emotional symptoms, including headaches, sleep problems, and anxiety. Regression therapy aims to release those emotions and thereby heal the body and mind.

This article covers the methods, benefits, and risks of hypnotic, age, and past-life regression therapy.

therapy session

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Types of Regression Therapy

Three common types of regression therapy are hypnotic regression, age regression, and past life regression. Below are more details on each one of these types of regression therapy.

Hypnotic Regression Therapy

Hypnotic regression is when a psychotherapist helps a person tap into buried memories with hypnosis.

Hypnosis is a trancelike state in which a person seems detached from the outer world while being extremely attuned to their inner world. The state of relaxation that people experience in hypnosis makes them more open to suggestions from a therapist.

During hypnotic regression, a therapist might use imagery, exploration of physical sensations, and storytelling to guide their patient through the past. Once a difficult memory is found, emotions that had remained buried could come to the surface to be released.

The memory and its effects could also be reframed to feel less painful to the person. As a result of releasing these emotions or reframing the difficult events, a person might experience improvement in their daily life.

Age Regression Therapy

During age regression therapy, a therapist uses hypnosis to guide a person to remember a specific age or past event, usually in childhood. The therapist might gradually approach the age in question by going through each earlier year.

The relaxed state a person is in, along with the safe environment of a therapist's office, can make difficult childhood memories less frightening to address and process.

Note that this type of therapy is used in both treatment and forensic settings but that the use of age regression in either context is controversial.

Past-Life Regression Therapy

Past-life regression is a controversial hypnotherapy technique that claims to help people with remembering lifetimes that supposedly existed before they were born.

Those who believe in past-life regression believe in reincarnation, the idea that the soul of a dead person is reborn as a new person. Past-life regression practitioners believe there are traumas from other lifetimes that affect people in their current lives.

Most psychologists do not support the practice and believe it is a product of suggestion from the therapist. Some say past-life memories could just be information people had gleaned from from books, television shows, and familiar places when they were younger.

Some practitioners believe that even if reincarnation is not real, past-life regression could be an effective role-playing technique that can help with labeling subconscious issues. Others say there is a risk that past-life regression could plant false memories, and if those memories are traumatic, the person could experience harm.

Regression Therapy Uses

Regression therapy could be effective in treating:

Regression Therapy Benefits

Benefits of regression therapy include:

  • The method creates a safe environment for accessing difficult emotions.
  • The relaxed state of hypnosis might make a person feel more open to addressing their inner lives.

Regression Therapy Risks & Concerns

Risks of regression therapy include:

  • Revealing false memories of traumas or events that are not real.
  • Some false memories could lead to legal action, such as memories of alleged abuse.
  • Unearthed or false traumas could be harmful to a person.
  • Reframing events in regression therapy might be dishonest and the person could become numb to trauma instead of addressing it directly.
  • A person might not want their pain to be released. In this case, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on how thoughts and beliefs affect behaviors and emotions, might be more effective.

Hypnosis Myths

Many believe that hypnosis is a completely altered state. In reality, those under hypnosis are usually aware of their surroundings. Hypnosis is not just about physical relaxation; it also includes being extremely focused on any sensations in the body and images in the mind.

Hypnosis allows a person to experience their inner lives without distractions from their surroundings. We experience mild forms of hypnosis when we read a book or drive without thinking. In a hypnotic state guided by a therapist, a person is better able to focus on and describe their memories.

What to Expect

During regression therapy, a therapist will encourage the person to relax by closing their eyes. This might include going under hypnosis. Other techniques used during the session might include:

  • Visualization
  • Describing past events from a personal point of view
  • Feeling and labeling the physical sensations and emotions memories cause
  • Going back to a specific time in childhood
  • Catharsis, or an intense outflow of pent-up emotions

Regression can take several sessions, and ideally, it would result in healing from issues that interfere with daily well-being.

How to Find the Right Regression Therapist

It's important to find a regression therapist you feel comfortable with. In addition to personal compatibility, you might consider:

  • Licensing and credentials
  • Regression therapy experience
  • Hypnosis experience
  • That the therapist uses scientific methods that have been researched
  • Experience with your specific concerns
  • Long-term availability


Regression therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which a therapist leads a person to remember events buried in the subconscious. The goal of regression therapy is to bring repressed emotions to a conscious state and then release them. Regression therapy can include hypnosis, a trancelike state in which a person is open to suggestions.

Regression therapy has been used to heal depression, anxiety, phobias, PTSD, insomnia, and other physical and emotional ailments. It has a success rate of about 60% to 70%, ranging from mild improvement to complete healing of symptoms.

Regression therapy can be risky for some since it might plant false memories or unearth traumas that are difficult to process. Some people might find it difficult to relax enough to succeed with regression therapy, while others might prefer to stay attached to their emotions.

A Word From Verywell

Everyone has past hurts that can affect them in the present day. These can be mild events that simply shape us or traumas that interfere with our well-being. If your past negatively affects you but you don't know how to begin to address it, you might consider regression therapy.

When searching for a regression therapy practitioner, it's important to pick someone ethical and experienced, as there could be a risk of harm from traumatic memories or experiencing false memories.

If you cannot afford regression therapy or find a practitioner in your area, you might consider online help or support groups for sharing your memories with others. Talking to trusted loved ones about memories you're unsure of might also help clear up hazy incidents from the past.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does a regression therapist do?

    A regression therapist first guides you to a relaxed or hypnotic state where you feel safe and open to memories that might surface. Then, you're asked to describe events from your past from a personal standpoint. Any emotions that come up are validated and encouraged to be released. With age regression, a therapist might gradually take a person back over time until reaching a specific age or buried trauma.

  • Is regression therapy safe?

    Regression therapy is mostly considered safe, however, there are some concerns. Some people could become newly traumatized by memories they experience in hypnosis, while others might experience false memories. These false memories could even cause legal trouble, such as with false memories of violence. It's important to pick a licensed, experienced practitioner with whom you feel comfortable when considering regression therapy.

  • What are some uses of regression therapy?

    Regression therapy can be used to find the root of unexplained physical or emotional pain. The method can help with understanding the effects of the past in a specific, personal way. As a result, a person releases pent up emotions or reframes a situation so it no longer negatively affects their daily life. Regression therapy has been used for depression, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, migraines, unexplained pain, phobias, and low-self esteem, among other ailments.

  • Does regression therapy actually work?

    Regression therapy might help improve or cure symptoms in about 60% to 70% of those who try it. While it might not address all the causes of a problem, the method can help with starting the process of addressing past wounds. For those who are not comfortable with hypnosis or not open to moving past painful emotions, regression therapy might not be effective.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Psychological Association. Hypnotic regression.

  3. Williamson A. What is hypnosis and how might it work? Palliative Care. 2019;12. doi:10.1177/1178224219826581

  4. American Psychological Association. Age regression.

  5. American Psychological Association. Past-life regression.

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By Neha Kashyap
Neha is a New York-based health journalist who has written for WebMD, ADDitude, HuffPost Life, and dailyRx News. Neha enjoys writing about mental health, elder care, innovative health care technologies, paying for health care, and simple measures that we all can take to work toward better health.