Interview With

Allan L. Botkin, Psy.D.
Allan L. BotkinInterviewed by Michael E. Tymn via e-mail

In Induced After Death Communication, recently published by Hampton Roads, Allan L. Botkin, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist, tells of a new therapy for healing grief and trauma. The book is filled with dozens of fascinating stories about patients who have seemingly communicated with deceased friends and loved ones by means of the induced after death communication method (IADC), discovered by Botkin while he was working in a Veterans Administration hospital in the Chicago area.

Botkin and R. Craig Hogan, Ph.D. explain that IADC is an offshoot of EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy, which was discovered by Dr. Francine Shapiro of California. While focusing on the therapist’s hand, the patient is asked to move the eyes left or right rhythmically and focus on a disturbing thought, feeling, image, or sensation. In IADC therapy people grieving the death of someone or otherwise disturbed by someone’s death, are asked to focus directly on their sadness during eye movements. The typical IADC involves the patient reporting having seen a deceased person and that deceased person having told him or her that everything is OK and not to grieve. In a number of cases, the deceased person relates information previously unknown to the patient. The patients included atheists and skeptics as well as believers and religious. I recently put some questions to Dr. Botkin.

Dr. Botkin, can you briefly explain how and when you discovered IADC?

"I discovered IADC by accident in 1995 while working with psychologically traumatized combat veterans at a VA hospital. Our patients, who served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm, came to us after reliving the horrors of war in their minds for many years. In 1995 I and my colleagues had been using EMDR for a few years and we had found that we could routinely and rapidly accomplish psychotherapeutic outcomes with EMDR to a degree that we had thought was not possible. In short, we were able to eliminate the reliving component from their memories. I then experimented with a number of variations of EMDR, and I found that a few changes made the standard EMDR technique even more efficient. Once I began incorporating these changes, I was very surprised when about 15% of my patients reported after death communications during the procedure. Since these patients appeared to resolve their traumatic grief to an even greater degree, I went back through my case notes to find out if I had done something differently when these experiences occurred. I saw that indeed I did do something differently. In the cases in which the experience occurred, I provided an additional set of eye movements without providing any specific instruction to the patient. This additional set of eye movements induced this natural experience. The additional eye movements enhanced what I now call the “receptive mode.”

In the book, you state that IADC is not hypnosis. How does it differ from hypnosis?

"It is my belief, along with other professionals who are trained in both hypnosis and EMDR, that the two actually involve very different mental processing. Hypnosis induces the patient into a relaxed and focused state of mind. EMDR, on the other hand, increases information processing in the brain. When we dream, our eyes shift back and forth, and that is why dream sleep has been called rapid eye movement, or REM sleep. During REM sleep our brains process information at a more accelerated rate than when we are awake. It has been believed that this increased processing that occurs during sleep causes the eyes to shift in a rhythmic fashion. The discovery of EMDR appears to indicate that if the therapist has the patient move his or her eyes in a similar rhythmic fashion when fully awake, we put the patient’s brain into this higher processing mode. People in a hypnotic trance are also very susceptible to suggestion, and “false memories” that occur while in a hypnotic trance do not seem to be a problem with EMDR. In fact, as mentioned in the book, false memories can be corrected with EMDR.”

Would you mind summarizing one of your most dramatic or successful cases?

"The first time I intentionally induced an ADC in therapy I was working with a man named Gary. He had lost his daughter, Julie, when she was 13 years old. She had been severely oxygen deprived at birth and never developed mental abilities beyond those of a six-month-old child. Gary loved her dearly and included her in as many activities as he could. One evening Julie suffered a severe heart attack and was rushed to the hospital and placed on life supports. After a few weeks Julie showed some signs of being able to breathe on her own, so Gary and his wife made the difficult decision to take her off the respirator. Soon after she was taken off, she struggled to breathe, but then died in Gary’s arms. Tears rolled down Gary’s cheeks as he told me his story. I explained my new procedure to him and asked him if he wanted to give it a try. He said he was willing if I thought it might help, but he was convinced it wouldn’t work for him because he was an atheist and didn’t believe in such things. After I took him through the entire procedure, he closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes, he had a look of amazement. He then said, ‘I saw my daughter. She was playing happily in a garden alive with rich and radiant bright colors. She looked healthy and seemed to move around without the physical problems she had when alive. She looked at me and I could feel her love for me.’ We then talked about his experience. Gary was convinced that his daughter was still alive, although in a very different place. Gary’s look of amazement, however, then shifted to a look of sadness, and I asked him what was wrong. He said he still felt sad because he missed her. I then administered another set of eye movements and asked him to keep that thought in mind. He then closed his eyes and sat quietly for a few moments.

"When Gary opened his eyes, he was smiling. He said, ‘I was in the garden again and I could see Julie looking at me. She said to me, ‘I’m still with you, Daddy.’” He paused and looked at me. “That was really wonderful. You know, she couldn’t talk when she was alive.” Gary left the session feeling joyous and reconnected to his daughter. I followed up with Gary a year later over the phone. He continued to feel reconnected to his daughter. He was also convinced that “People don’t really die; they just take on a different form and live in a different place, which is very beautiful.”

Does it work only on patients who are experiencing profound sadness or grief?

"The IADC procedure works equally well for people experiencing little or no grief at all. It should be pointed out, however, that although some people report having no lingering grief associated with a death that occurred many years in the past, rather frequently EMDR “pulls up” significant residual sadness that the patient was not aware of.”

If someone undergoes the therapy with a very skeptical attitude, is there less likelihood of it working?

"The answer is “no.” In fact, there is a tendency for the opposite to be true. When I first began using IADC I was working with patients in a VA hospital who came to see me to work on their traumatic memories, and were not aware of IADC. When I explained the procedure to them during the course of therapy, a vast majority were very skeptical. Under these conditions, my success rate was 98%. When I retired from the VA and went into private practice, I actually considered offering the guarantee to my clients that they would have an IADC. I figured I could survive financially by not having 2% of my clients pay for their sessions. I was shocked and dismayed when my success rate among people who came to see me for an IADC, and who were not at all skeptical, dropped to about 70%. I am convinced at this point that people who have strong beliefs about the experience have a more difficult time achieving an ADC because their expectations interfere with the receptive mode. ADCs that occur spontaneously come as a surprise to people at times they are not expecting it. A similar psychological state is necessary for an IADC to occur. Of course, the fact that 70% of people who come to have an IADC still have one indicates the power of EMDR to assist one in achieving this naturally receptive state.”

You state that the IADC experiences are different from dreams, imagination, and fantasies, and that the patients are not hallucinating? In what way are they different?

"The most compelling evidence is that all people who have IADCs report them to be very different from all other experiences. Technically, hallucinations are perceptions without corresponding sensory input, which means that hallucinations are all in one’s head and have nothing to do with any reality that exists separate from us. Hallucinations generally have a very negative content, vary considerably in content from person to person, and are thought to be a symptom of a severe psychological disorder. It is clear, however, that IADC content is uniformly positive, very consistent in content from person to person, and very healing psychologically. Another observation that indicates that IADCs are related to some reality that exists separate from us is that we have some strong evidence that two people who do the IADC procedure at the same time can have the exact same experience. I have called this phenomenon “shared IADCs.”

You further state that you are concerned with the effect, not the cause, so that if the patients are not really in touch with departed friends, relatives, or enemies, it doesn’t make any difference as long as there is healing. If patients have doubts or recognize your doubts as to the actual cause, doesn’t that negate the healing to some extent?

"Not at all. As a psychologist who is primarily interested in healing people who suffer so profoundly, I have taken the strategy to not engage in arguments about beliefs. Believers and skeptics have been waging this battle for some time. I believe that if I take a side, and get placed in one camp, it will be more difficult for me to get help to those who need it. In addition, from a logical point of view, my neutral stance can only affect my patients’ responses to IADC to the degree that it affects their own beliefs about their IADC experience. But, it is very clear that patients are healed by their IADC experience regardless of what they believe, both before and after their experience. It just makes no difference. Although a vast majority of patients believe their IADC was real, even patients who don’t are healed to the same degree. The IADC experience heals, and it appears that beliefs are completely inconsequential.”

Has there been any study as to the long-term effects of the healing? Is it lasting?

"So far, all of our data is based on a few thousand clinical observations made by myself and my IADC trained colleagues. To date, all clinical follow-up data indicates that IADC holds up extremely well over time. Of course, scientifically controlled studies are needed to verify these clinical observations. Professor Jan Holden and her colleagues at the University of North Texas have begun to investigate these clinical findings in a more rigorous and formal way. It is my hope that other university departments will also contribute to our understanding of IADC.”

How has mainstream psychology reacted to your new therapy? Have there been any new developments since you finished the book?

"When I first began to make IADC available to the general public and to the professional community, I expected some harsh criticism from professional colleagues. Although this criticism may yet be forthcoming, so far, professionals have been extremely supportive. Many EMDR trained professionals have become interested in formal IADC training because some of their clients spontaneously experienced an ADC during the course of EMDR therapy. Grief therapists and hospice workers, who are very aware of the healing associated with spontaneous ADCs have also been very supportive. I suppose die-hard skeptics, who are entrenched in their own rigid belief systems, will eventually take a shot at me. When they do, it will be OK, because I am prepared to respond to their criticism.

"Since finishing the book, interest in IADC has come from a number of people. In addition to the research that is underway at the University of North Texas, perhaps the most significant development is that two movie producers, Patrick Wells and Craig Rice, have begun the process of making the IADC discovery into a documentary film. I also recently had the opportunity to work with my first 9-11 survivor, who experienced a very profound IADC. My primary job at this point is to get help to people who need it, such as combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and survivors of Katrina and Rita. To accomplish that, I need to first make this information available to the largest number of people I can. This interview is one important step in this process. Thanks for listening.”

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