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What Is Age Regression Therapy?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on May 13, 2021

Age regression therapy involves acting younger than you are, whether that is only a few years younger than your current age or returning to a child-like or infant-like state.

Age regression therapy can help you handle stress and deal with the pressures of everyday life. It’s also used in hypnotherapy and psychology to help people with trauma.

What Is Age Regression Therapy?

Age regression is a form of therapy that encourages you to access and relive your memories by reverting to a younger state of mind.

It can be self-induced or induced by a hypnotist or therapist. This practice can be done to explore childhood memories, relieve stress through escapism, or access hidden memories and aspects of your personality.

Different psychiatrists have had varying notions about the purpose of age regression. According to Sigmund Freud, age regression is a defense mechanism used by the ego to protect itself from anger, stress, and trauma.

On the other hand, Carl Jung believed that age regression could be a positive experience. He envisioned it as a way for people to open up and de-stress.

You can use age regression to address a variety of issues, although using it in certain circumstances can be controversial. This practice can be done in a clinical setting or by yourself as a form of self-help.

Age Regression in Clinical Therapy

Age regression can be used in clinical therapy to help you move on from trauma. By encouraging you to look back at your childhood memories, you and your therapist can work together to overcome trauma and painful experiences.

Your therapist will use hypnosis to take you back to the past so you can find what is bothering you. You may want to undergo age regression therapy in a clinical setting if you:

  • Feel guilty about something in the past, but you don’t know what it is
  • Have difficulties being emotionally or physically intimate
  • Have relationship problems
  • Have conditions such as dissociated identity disorder (DID) and you want to understand your distinctive personalities better
  • Have fears without knowing why 

While hypnotized, you will start acting at a younger age. Memories you may have pushed to the back of your mind will resurface to your conscious mind and you will be able to relive and talk about these emotions and memories. Proponents of age regression therapy believe that by talking about them, you will be able to free yourself from the past.

Stages of Age Regression in Clinical Therapy

Relaxation

This stage begins with hypnosis, which the therapist uses to relax your mind and coax you deeper into your memories of the past.

The therapist will speak to you gently and slowly to guide you into a trance, which is a heightened state of awareness. In this state, you will be so focused on reliving the past that you will block out everything else around you.

Visualization

Visualization is the second stage of hypnosis, where the therapist asks you open-ended questions. These questions have no yes or no answer, so you will be encouraged to talk about your memories and emotions.

Being in a trance makes you intensely focused on the period of time you’re reliving, so you will have fewer hesitations in uncovering aspects of the past you would not ordinarily talk about.

Talking About the Memory

Once the session ends, the therapist will talk to you about what they learned while you were in a trance. They may offer notes or recordings of the session to help you put your thoughts and emotions in perspective.

Age Regression in Self-Help

You can also practice age regression by yourself to block out the stress of adult life.

As a form of self-help, practicing age regression at home can bring back great childhood memories of a time when you felt secure and cared for. This can be a positive and enriching experience. However, if this practice becomes an obsession, this may be a sign of a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety. If this is the case, ask your doctor about what could be a better alternative to age regression.

Is Age Regression Safe?

Age regression therapy can be a controversial practice, particularly if combined with hypnosis. Some studies have suggested that you can uncover “false” memories during this type of therapy, which can cause emotional distress.

On the other hand, self-induced age regression is perfectly safe, as long as it does not become an obsession. It is also important for you to have control when you regress. If you don’t have control over when you revert to a younger age, you need to speak to a mental health professional. This may be connected to an underlying mental health issue.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis: “Age Regression to Infancy by Adult Subjects in Deep Hypnosis,” “Hypnosis and the Immune System: A Review with Implications for Cancer and the Psychology of Healing.”

American Psychological Association: “Hypnosis, age regression, and memory.”

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: ”Hypnosis, suggestions, and altered states of consciousness: experimental evaluation of the new cognitive-behavioral theory and the traditional trance-state theory of "hypnosis".”

International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis: “Hypnosis, Context effects and the recall of early and autobiographical memories.”

Nursing Science Quarterly: “Self-Care: A Foundational Science.”

The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology: “The mechanisms of hypnotic age regression: an experimental study.”

The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders: “Regression: Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Management.”

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