Regression therapy is an intervention that focuses on uncovering subconscious memories, or traumas, from your past.

Have you ever struggled through something you just couldn’t find the words for? Or noticed that you have behaviors that you can’t rationalize? If so, you’re not the only one.

It’s possible to have fears or phobias that you don’t know the cause of, or feelings of guilt or shame that you just can’t seem to understand. If these unexplained scenarios cause you discomfort, affect your health or relationships, it may help to try and access the cause of your reactions and work on creating a plan to heal from it.

Regression therapy aims to find out the root cause of your present-day thoughts and reaction. Therapists who use this practice may employ techniques like hypnosis to unlock subconscious memories that are directing your current behavior.

Regression therapy remains controversial, as there is limited research to support its use and some experts believe that it could lead to false memories.

Regression therapy is a form of therapy that combines hypnotherapy and psychoanalysis techniques to identify past events, memories, and trauma that could be negatively impacting you in the present.

According to “The Art of Hypnotic Regression Therapy: A Clinical Guide,” practitioners of regression therapy believe that the subconscious mind can repress trauma inflicted at an age when the mind was incapable of appropriately processing it.

In regression therapy, the therapist uses hypnosis to bring memories to the surface — often childhood memories specifically.

“The therapy is based on core psychological principles of the conscious and subconscious and studies the effects of stored memories on the psyche,” shares Bryan Bruno, MD, medical director at Mid City TMS in New York City.

Hypnotherapy and psychoanalysis — the core techniques used in regression therapy — rose to prominence in the 1950s, while regression therapy developed in the late 70s and early 80s.

Regression therapy is primarily used to help you better understand past experiences that could affect your emotional reactions in the present. In many cases, “regression therapy is used to help those who’ve had traumatic experiences as children determine how those memories affect their behavior now,” explains Bruno.

When asked about who practices this type of therapy, Bruno said that “therapists who practice regression therapy typically specialize in trauma recovery, especially in resolving early childhood trauma or determining the causes of current phobias or feelings of guilt and shame that have no recognized cause.”

There are three main types of regression therapy:

Hypnotic regression therapy

This is the most well-known type of regression therapy practice. It uses hypnosis to help you access your subconscious mind — and any memories of trauma that may be stored there.

Age regression therapy

“This style of regression therapy aims to bring you back to a childlike state of mind by using breathing exercises and pointed questions,” explains Bruno. Like hypnotic regression therapy, this treatment style intends to unlock any forgotten trauma.

Past life regression therapy

This version of regression therapy is practiced by those who believe trauma in past lives affects the mind in the present. Due to its controversial (and unprovable nature), it is not recognized by most hypnotherapists.

There can be many benefits to unlocking your subconscious through memory regression, including resolving past trauma and uncovering where certain (previously unexplainable) behaviors come from.

“By understanding how and why a patient reacts a certain way to trauma improves the patient’s relationship to themselves, and it gives them a clearer picture of how to improve,” says Bruno.

“Regression therapy also helps therapists to get to the core of their patient’s issues so that they can develop an individualized treatment for the patient quicker.”

Regression therapy may help individuals get to the bottom of:

  • fears or phobias that seem to have no explanation
  • feelings of guilt, shame, and self-consciousness with no known cause
  • recurring relationship challenges
  • prevalent intimacy issues

It is important to note that while it’s possible to experience positive results from regression therapy, the benefits are not yet backed by scientific evidence.

Though many support this therapeutic practice, some risks and controversies surround regression therapy. For one, “it is hard to determine if the regression itself improves a patient’s state of mind or if growth is due to other factors, like a placebo,” says Bruno.

While more research still needs to be done on regression therapy, a 2017 study argues that past-life regression, specifically, is unethical. The study’s main reason for deeming past life regression unethical is that it’s not evidence-based. Similarly, many in the medical community dispute the benefits of regression therapy.

One of the most well-known controversies around the practice is the risk of false memories, and it’s one of the reasons that the American Psychological Association considers age regression therapy controversial.

“There is a chance that a therapist’s or hypnotherapist’s leading questions can lead to the implantation of false memories that fulfills the therapist’s or the patient’s desired diagnosis,” explains Bruno, who also identifies another risk: unqualified practitioners.

“There are many people who claim to be trained hypnotists but do not have any medical or therapeutic training — therefore, they are not trained or certified to diagnose and treat any supposed mental health conditions,” says Bruno.

Controversies aside, it’s up to you to weigh the risk and the benefit of life regression therapy. You choose what is ultimately the most helpful to your healing, and that can look however you need it to — even an alternative therapy.

There are many insights and answers that could be found in your memories, and regression therapy could be one way to explore that.

If you’re curious and thinking about trying this type of therapy, consider seeking out a hypnotherapist that is also licensed to avoid some potential risks. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to try an alternative approach, as long as you educate yourself about it.

You deserve to get to the bottom of what’s negatively affecting you, and you don’t have to keep running around in circles trying to find an explanation. There’s a chance that that explanation is inside your subconscious, and that once you uncover it, you can finally heal from it.