New York Strange Phenomena Investigators
"Hypnotherapy and Alien Abduction Phenomena"
by Jed Turnbull, LCSW, CHt
(December 13, 2008)
The use of hypnosis has a long-standing history of effectiveness. Even the American Psychological Association recognizes its value in clinical use: “Neuroimaging studies are helping hypnosis shed its 'occult' connotations by finding that its effects on the brain are real.” (APA, 2006). Hypnosis has been found to be a beneficial therapeutic tool in a wide range of healthcare from digestive problems (Ryan, 2004, Andrews, 2008) to insomnia (Fisher, 2008) and anesthesia (Kihlstrom, 2001). Nevertheless, two areas in the use of hypnotherapy have remained somewhat controversial. Those areas: (1) the use of hypnosis for recovering lost or hidden memories, and (2) the likelihood of ‘suggestibility’ by extrinsic influences on those undergoing hypnosis, pertain directly to some of the investigative methodologies of alien abduction research. Moreover, hypnosis has been considered a reliable and often necessary tool by abduction investigators in the assistance of recovering memories of possible abduction events that may otherwise remain hidden in the unconscious. It is in these two areas that questions of credibility have arisen in the past.
Many investigators and researchers claim hypnosis is a valid tool in enhancing and recovering repressed memories. Leading abduction investigator, author, and Temple University Professor, David Jacobs (1996), supports the use of hypnosis in his research into abduction phenomena: “Hypnosis properly used — asking the right questions in the right way at the right time — can elicit information that surpasses consciously recalled material in its detail and accuracy.” Additionally, in their study into hypnosis as applied in police investigative interviews, Geiselman and Fisher (1985) found: “Both the cognitive and hypnosis procedures elicited a significantly greater number of correct items of information from the subjects than did the standard interview.”
The inconsistencies of even consciously recalled memories are a universally recognized problem in police investigations and court testimonies. Just ask any police detective or trial attorney about the unreliability or inaccuracies of witness testimony to events. Because of this, hypnotherapists — especially those investigating abductions — must be vigilant in their procedures to ensure that factual accuracy is optimized and inaccuracies are minimized. Singling out key memories and thoughts, feelings and emotions, are essential in sifting through the personal belief systems or subjective biases of an individual. Clinicians working with potential abductees need to be acutely focused on the correct procedures and protocols so as to not become suggestive or “steer” the subject in a way that can misshape and unduly influence the outcome of a memory. Considering that most alleged abductees begin with fragmented conscious memories, navigating through their pre-conceived understanding of what might have already happened to them requires a competent assessment of their stability and credibility.
As in the case of John Predovan, a full interview and evaluation is carried out and measured against the preponderance of known, established information and scientific research in the abduction field. Investigators look for possible patterns that may or may not be consistent with the research and then carefully compare, contrast, and weigh the data collected against a wide array of possible explanations or syndromes. These patterns are both well known and published, or at times intentionally unpublished and known only within a select group of researchers. The later serves as a control sample of evidence. No single question can determine whether someone, including John, may or may not be an abductee. All subject/witness responses are assessed for credibility and consistency in consideration of these known patterns. It is only after extensive interviews and testimonies, further supported by scientific tests and evaluations, that an assessment is made as whether or not to move forward with a hypnotic regression.
John Predovan, for instance, met all criteria, and was, by all indications, found to be an excellent subject for a deeper investigation. Regressive hypnosis was used in an attempt to uncover the potential missing pieces and unexplained events of his account. All necessary precautions and preparations as outlined by my training, certification, and experience as a licensed, clinical therapist were implemented before the NY-SPI team proceeded with the hypnotic regression. What was shown on television was the actual hypnosis session conducted. However, please keep in mind that this session — in length and detail — was understandably edited and reduced for the benefit and continuity of the story. In fact, the full session — induction to completion (which included ego-strengthening reinforcement to alleviate his real trauma) — took well over 90 minutes.
When implementing hypnosis, framing questions in a non-leading manner is essential. Volunteering any information before the subject has mentioned it can be suggestive, contaminating and counterproductive. Nevertheless, misleading questions can be intentionally asked to gauge whether or not the subject can be led. These purposefully-driven questions are designed to lead to an answer that is known to be false. Hypnotherapists must be very cautious in this undertaking, especially if they find their subject can be led.
I will try to make myself personally available to discuss any aspects of my role in the NY-SPI INVESTIGATES show and the use hypnotherapeutic regression as a method to aid those who come to us with their own abduction experiences. Please keep in mind that discussing the specifics of John’s abduction and regression are limited to client/therapist confidentially privileges and to the extent that John has waved his legally-protected privileges for the greater good and education of this important issue.
Andrews, M., (2008), Hypnosis and Counseling for IBS and Crohn's, U.S. News ? World Report, Thursday, December 11, 2008 http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/digestive-disorders/2008/11/19/try-hypnosis-and-counseling-for-ibs-and-crohns.html
APA (2006), Winerman, L., From the Stage to the Lab, American Psychological Association, Volume 37, No. 3, March http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar06/lab.html
Fisher, L, (2008), How two hours of hypnosis ended my insomnia nightmare Daily Mail Online, December 6, 2008 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1092481/Id-hardly-slept-18-months-How-hours-hypnosis-ended-insomnia-nightmare.html
Geiselman, R.El, and Fisher R. P. (1985), Eyewitness Memory Enhancement in the Police Interview: Cognitive Retrieval Mnemonics Versus Hypnosis, Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 70, No. 2, 401-412 p. 1.
Jacobs, D.M., (1996), Suggested Techniques for Hypnosis and Therapy of Abductees, David M. Jacobs and Budd Hopkins, p. 1
Kihlstrom, J.F., (2001), Hypnosis in Surgery: Efficacy, Specificity, and Utility for: Institute for the Study of Healthcare Organizations ? Transactions, University of California, Berkeley.
Ryan, C., (2004), 'Imagine your gut as a river...' BBC News, Sunday, January 4 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3341093.stm