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It's bad enough that the Chirion Centre (Westbury-on-Trym's leading complementary healthcare centre) is now offering sessions in "Past Life Regression Therapy". But they even have the nerve to charge £50 per session for it.
The "Special Introductory Offer" for a session with therapist Joanne Cole (more on whom later) implies that the fifty quid is a discounted price. I would certainly need some therapy if I were going to pay that much for a session of pseudo-science of the kind being offered at the Centre on Westbury Road.
Cost aside, what of the therapy itself? Past Life Regression Therapy, according to a paid advertorial in this month's copy of the Bristol Nine, looks at "present emotional, physical and spiritual problems which may have their roots in lives lived many years ago." The ad is at least honest enough, therefore, to acknowledge that the practice is rooted in assumptions about the role of "karma" and "reincarnation" - thus locating the worldview of Past Life Regression clearly in westernized forms of Indian religious thought (Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism).
Joanne is explicit about the approach:
"After a pleasant relaxing hypnotic induction you are guided to access a Past Life that is relevant to the problem you are looking to be understood/resolved."
At one level, the editorial can be appreciated as a fine example of "assumptive marketing" - presenting an idea as if it were widely accepted and uncontroversial. Troubled by recurring headaches? Well, clearly you would want to find out how this problem originated, when you were a Japanese milk maid in the sixteenth century, or a French resistance fighter killed in action in the Massif Central. Wouldn't you?
Never mind the science (or lack of it) behind these assumptions.
What of the practitioner - Joanne Cole - who is now offering this "complementary therapy" at the Chiron Centre? Based in Midsomer Norton, Joanne has a string of impressive-sounding qualifications after her name. Let's find out what they mean.
First is her "Adv. Dip. SACH Hyp & Psych". This, I understand, is an Advanced Diploma in Hypnosis and Integrative Psychology awarded by the School of Analytical and Cognitive Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy. SACH (to give the School its official accronym) states that its aim is to "promote the subject of hypnotherapy and hypnoanalysis from the relative obscurity of the fields of alternative and complementary medicine to the mainstream of psychological academic studies, where it rightly belongs."
In light of such an ambitious goal, we could presumably expect to find the staff of the SACH being active in producing original peer-reviewed academic research within their specialist field. Alas, search online as I might for the published works of SACH founder "Professor Jure Biechonski", I cannot find a single published academic work anywhere on the Internet. Nonetheless, the President of the Estonian Transpersonal Association (I kid you not) describes himself as "creator of Transactional Hypnoanalysis" and "specialising in Psychoneuroimmunology."
The alleged-Professor does appear as a speaker at a specialist workshop co-sponsored by the University of Tartu in his native Estonia last month. It is interesting to note that Mr Biechonski is not described in that programme of events as a "Professor", despite formal academic titles being used of other participants in the related events.
SACH does make generic claims on its website about the research and qualifications of its teaching staff, but does not provide any specific qualifications or names of institutions where alleged qualifications were obtained.
SACH lists its address as Suite 105, Dorset House, Duke Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1TB. That'll be just above Mail Boxes, presumably, according to Google Street Map below.
As for the "Advanced Diploma" awarded to Joanne Cole, the course is equivalent to a City & Guilds NVQ Level 3 qualification in counselling, according to the SACH website.
The Cert E. Hyp is a Certificate in Hypnotherapy validated by The General Hypnotherapy Standards Council (UK). The Cert PLR is a Certificate in Past Life Regression (4 weeks, £299 by several course providers), while the Dip PICT is a Diploma in Parks Inner Child Therapy, a "rapid cognitive therapy". Other qualifications include the General Qualification in Hypnotherapy Practice (GQHP), LHA (Licentiate of The Hypnotherapy Association), and finally the LNCP (Licentiate member of the National Council for Psychotherapists).
It is worth clarifying that all of these courses, qualifications and membership affiliations are run by practitioners within the world of hypnotherapy and related therapies, rather than by external accrediting bodies or degree-conferring institutions.
Ms Cole may possess formal qualifications from mainstream recognised universities, but if so, she has chosen not to refer to them on her profile. Instead, on her website, Joanne reveals her interest in new age spirituality:
"I believe we are individual expressions of Infinite Being who chose to re-incarnate on Earth to experience life from our own unique perspective. We bring with us amnesia, intuition [and] our own personal karma."
We also bring our credit or debit cards, should we wish to divert our family food budget towards Westbury's latest self-actualisation fad.
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