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Pre & Peri-Natal Regression Therapy – William Emerson, PH.D

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Book Review – Collected Works, Vol. 2, Pre- and Peri-Natal Regression Therapy – William R. Emerson, Ph.D., Emerson Training Seminars, Petaluma, CA, 2000, pp. 226

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

“The quintessential possibility of regressive therapy is spiritual opening
and the emergence of a volitional relationship with one’s higher Self.”

– William R. Emerson

This second volume of collected works of Dr. William R. Emerson contains some of his most recent writings on the subject of regression therapy. The book is about the origins and treatments of traumas incurred during the pre- and peri-natal phases of life although one lengthly article deals with regression therapy with adults.

The first article, “The Vulnerable Prenate,” was adapted from a paper presented in 1995 at the APPAH Congress. In this article the author emphasizes that prenatal trauma has pernicious effects especially when when the trauma is reinforced during birth. A number of therapists believe that prenatal traumas are the most influential of all traumas. Emerson believes that emotions of the mothercan be perceived by the developing fetus – Dr. Frank Lake termed this process the “umbilical effect” – although the fetus itself is also capable of registering its own emotions in the uterine environment. Both of these early traumas prevent subsequent bonding with the mother and can result in the development of a sociopathic personality.

Problems with issues of aggression and violence can begin as early as conception. The conceptus “remembers” violence in the family home. Another very early stage which has psychological implications is implantation trauma. Terror of near-death or feelings of being unwanted can be felt by the conceptus during this stage of human development.

There are a large group of traumas common with adoptive issues when the fetus realizes that it is not wanted by its birth mother. Attempted abortions or even the consideration of abortion by the parents can affect the fetus as can pre-natal medical procedures, such as amniocentesis. In the chapter, “Psychotherapy With Children” Dr. Emerson explains that such therapy is nothing new but that the treatment of pre- and peri-natal traumas of children is a recent innovation. There are no surprises in the content of the repressed material in children being treated. Absence of parents, parental abandonment, narcissism, and psychological abuse are typical events during the childhood of these children. Specific categories include birthing difficulties, bonding difficulties, separations, abortion attempts, prenatal and postnatal family crises which include surgeries, deaths, divorces, circumcision, physical and/or sexual abuse of the pregnant mother, sexual abuse of the infant and the death of twins, both intrauterine and after birth.

The remainder of the chapter is devoted to the techniques used to uncover trauma in children, Emerson uses games, sand-tray work, and drawings. An empathetic connection with the child client is extremely important for this work to be successful. The author includes two case studies. Remission of common pediatric illnesses and the development of specific talents and abilities is a common result of the therapy. Another characteristic of children who completed the therapy is their ability to have transpersonal experiences.

A specific therapy technique for children is described in the article entitled, “Pre- and Perinatal Videoreflection Therapy.” The discovery was serendipitous. After sessions had been videotaped in play therapy a child-client asked to view the tapes. Upon viewing his play therapy tapes, feelings developed which the child had not noticed during play. Experiments ensued and the author discovered that especially with preverbal traumas, the eyes express the repressed feelings. When the child sees their expressions reflected in videotape, cathartic feelings can be expressed. Pointing out the body language to the child as it is expressed is not helpful – only the viewing of the incidents by the child can connect her to the traumatic memory. The incidents revealed on the videotape are called “nonverbal leaks” and are expressed in the voice, posture, gestures, movements and eye expressions. The chapter includes information about the necessary steps which should take place for the videoreflection process to occur and also mentions other ways in which video equipment may be used in treatment.

Another specific therapy technique for children is sandplay therapy. In this form of therapy the client places objects in a tray of sand for the purpose of uncovering repressed material by eliciting feelings. Sandplay therapy may also be used for diagnostic purposes . Dr. Emerson’s emphasis on its use is Jungian rather than biographically regressive.

At sixty-one pages, the chapter entitled “Regression Therapy With Adults” is the longest in this collection of articles and would be impossible to review in a paragraph or two, so I will simply list its sub-sections: Introduction, Regression and Consciousness, Types and Techniques of Regression Therapy, Theoretical Issues, Regression Therapy, History and Purpose, Regression and Somatic Memory, Integrational Therapy, Family Regression Therapy, Physical Illness and Regression Therapy, History of Psychosomatics, Personality Type and Disease Patterns, and Regression Therapy With Infants and Children.

Dr. Emerson writes that practically none of the techniques used for regression therapy with adults can be used with children or infants. However, the contrary is not applicable since therapy techniques of children, e.g., body-oriented work, are not only applicable for adults but sometimes are the only techniques which will work with them. Birth memories are more easily accessible with babies and children. The author speculates that this may be so because defenses in the young are not yet solidified. Another reason, he adds, may be because the young are closer in time to their repressed birth memories.

The chapter on “Somatotropic Therapy” is co-authored. Somatotropic means that the body mirrors or reveals the repressed trauma in both energetic and body patterns. It has evolved from and can include elements every form of therapy from Freud to the present time.

Emerson discovered that an important route to the feelings of trauma are through the posture one took and the movements one made during the trauma itself. The recreation of these elements assist in connection with the original experience. In this chapter the author goes into detail and explains the sequences which should be followed for success. He does not believe that one can develop spirituality unless such trauma residuals are resolved. As in the other articles, a number of case histories are presented.

“Somatic Birth Simulation” is the final and most technical article of this compilation. The author stresses that body work is essential to resolve pre- and peri-natal traumas. Trauma memories are stored in the body as positions and posture movements and in storaged areas and these areas are often from where the traumas are accessed.

Dr. Emerson has divided birth into four stages related to the position of the baby’s head viz á viz the mother’s pelvis. At this point the discussion becomes more and more technical. The remaining section of this article has many illustrations and deals with anatomical obstetrical issues.

The volume ends with three appendices comparing pelvic types and their effects on subsequent cranial shapes of birthed infants. Detailed anatomical and technical material is included since this volume of articles was orginally used by participants in the Emerson Training Seminars.

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