Jan 28, 2016

The Gargoyle: Senate appointments panelist uses discredited pseudoscience to recover 'past lives,' treat phobias

January 19, 2016

One of the ad hoc panelists named by the Liberal government to a board that will select new senators tries to recover the past lives of people she treats using a largely debunked psychological technique.

Manitoba folk singer and hypnotherapist Heather Bishop is one of nine “eminent Canadians” who will help choose candidates to fill the 22 vacancies in the Senate, Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef announced Tuesday.

But for a government that prides itself on evidence-based policy, her addition to the Senate advisory board may raise a few eyebrows.

In addition to hypnotherapy, Bishop practises “time line therapy” and something called “neuro-linguistic programming,” or NLP, according to her personal website.

Neuro-linguistic programming came into vogue in the 1970s, along with other self-help techniques such as EST. Self-help guru Tony Robbins is its best-known practitioner.

NLP supporters claim it can treat a wide range of psychiatric illnesses, including anxiety, phobias and depression, by changing behaviour through the use of language.

“The unconscious mind does not hear the negative,” Bishop explains. “You learn tricks about never expressing anything in the negative, always express it in the positive.”

She said that she uses NLP, along with hypnotherapy and time line therapy, to help people get to the root of phobias, even delving into past lives.

“Your unconscious mind stores all of your memories on a line and we call that your time line,” she said.

To treat a client with a phobia of dogs, for example, “I would put you into a trance. I would put you on your time line and tell you ‘Go back to the time you first locked in your fear of dogs.’ ”

This fear, she says, could originate even further, requiring what Bishop calls “past-life regression.”

“It could have been in a former lifetime. It might not be from this life. Sometimes people will say, ‘It was from before I was born.’ We go back to how many lifetimes ago.”

Peer reviews studies of NLP have mostly concluded that there is no evidence to support its claims, however.

A panel of the U.S. National Research Council called NLP “an unvalidated technique” and said that studies supporting it failed “to provide an empirical base of support for NLP assumptions … or NLP effectiveness.”

NLP is based on an “outmoded view of the relationship between cognitive style and brain function (and) ultimately boils down to crude analogies,” according to another study.

Another found NLP based on theories that are “laced with numerous factual errors.” Others dismiss it as “new-age fakery” on par with astrology.

Monsef’s office provided no immediate comment in answer to the Citizen’s query about Bishop’s selection.

Bishop describes herself as “social activist, keynote speaker, visual artist, published author, teacher, and tradeswoman.” She is a member of the selection committee for the Order of Manitoba.

She said she learned she was being considered for the Senate appointments board when she received a phone call from Monsef’s office. She said she doesn’t know who put her name forward.

While she believes the science of NLP is legitimate, she says she won’t be using it to select new members of the upper chamber.

“This has nothing to do with with my appointment.”



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