In a landmark decision, the National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) has issued a policy statement concerning alien abductions. So far as I am aware, this is the first time that any of the professional bodies representing British hypnotherapists has made an official pronouncement on this issue, let alone issued guidance to its members.
The driving force behind this initiative is psychotherapist and hypnotherapist David Howard, with whom I have been working for some time. David is an NCH member with an interest in a wide range of paranormal and psychic phenomena. He has worked with several people who believe they are abductees/experiencers (some of whom I have referred to him) and had for some time been concerned that this important strand of his work was one that was unsupported by any official guidelines. On the basis of his knowledge and experience in this field he raised this issue with the NCH and offered some suggestions. I too submitted a paper to the NCH, drawing on my official Ministry of Defence research and investigation into this phenomenon, and subsequent work that I have undertaken in a private capacity.
On 14 December 2001 the NCH wrote to David Howard, enclosing a document entitled Alien Abduction Policy Statement. The text was as follows:
“With the recent interest in this phenomenon, the National Council for Hypnotherapy issues the following guidelines.
Alien Abduction Clients (AAC) are to be treated with the same respect and courtesy as any other client. Regression techniques that should be utilised with AACs should follow these guidelines:
a. Non Directive
b. Non Leading
c. Preferably Indirect
The therapist must also be aware of the implications of False Memory Syndrome (FMS). We recommend that therapists should not introduce the subject of Alien Abductions unless the client refers to it in the first instance. Additionally, therapists should not engage in corroborating these incidents. Therapists should take a neutral stance on the existence of Alien Abductions.
Because of the necessity of regression in AACs it is essential that therapists ensure that clients’ full medical and mental health history is taken before the commencement of treatment.”
It is important to recognise that hypnotherapy and regression hypnosis are controversial techniques, on which there is much scientific disagreement (For a summary of this, see my book The Uninvited, especially chapters three and four). It is also important to recognise that the NCH is not the only organisation seeking to meet the needs of British hypnotherapists. But in issuing this policy statement the NCH has taken a courageous step and has recognised that whatever the truth behind claims of alien abduction, there are numerous people actively seeking advice and help on this issue, who genuinely believe that they have had an experience. Up until now, such people have had nowhere to turn. Now this is no longer the case, and abductees can rest assured that if they approach any hypnotherapist affiliated to the NCH, they will at least be dealing with somebody who has a basic awareness of the phenomenon, coupled with an understanding of how best to take forward an investigation. This is a major step forward, and should be welcomed.
What else is planned? David Howard intends to write something for the NCH’s journal and will act as the organisation’s focal point on this issue. He’ll also post something on their website www.hypnotherapists.org.uk NCH members will be encouraged to undertake research into this subject, whether as part of a post-graduate qualification or independently. At the discretion of the editor, their results may be published in the Hypnotherapy Journal. Both the website and the journal can be used to bring together people with research interests in this area, and it is likely that a debate will start on the NCH’s discussion forum.
Prior to the NCH’s initiative, the best known fact about British ufology’s attitude to regression hypnosis was probably the British UFO Research Association’s 1987 moratorium on the use of this technique. Although well-intentioned at the time, this moratorium now looks somewhat quaint. One cannot put the genie back into the bottle, and the fact of the matter is that increasing numbers of British abductees and experiencers are now seeking to undergo regression hypnosis. While any responsible ufologist will ensure that these people are aware of both the pros and cons of this technique, we must listen to the people at the sharp end, and pursue the sort of witness-led methodology advocated by researchers such as Dr Alex Keul and the late Ken Phillips. After all, if somebody wants to be regressed, they will doubtless find a way. This being so, we should at least ensure that such people are able to seek out somebody who has an awareness of the phenomenon and is prepared to look into cases in an even-handed and responsible way.
Doubtless, the debate about regression hypnosis will continue. But when mental health professionals such as Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Dr. John Mack say that the technique is valid both diagnostically and therapeutically, we have to be grown-up about the issue. Like it or not, regression hypnosis is here to stay. It may enable us to access new data about the phenomenon and in many cases it leads to a catharsis on the part of the abductee/experiencer. This being the case, we need to ensure that the technique is used responsibly. With this in mind, the work undertaken by David Howard and the NCH should be welcomed by anyone with an interest in the alien abduction phenomenon and anyone - believer or sceptic - who is genuinely concerned for the welfare of the abductees and experiencers themselves.
This new initiative will doubtless be supported by some and opposed by others, and a lively debate is sure to ensue. Provided this is carried out in a constructive manner, this can only be of benefit to ufology.