Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

The interface between clinical psychology and parapsychology is a fascinating area and one that has practical applications. This is the topic of Thomas Rabeyron’s new book Clinique des Experiences Exceptionnelles (Exceptional Experiences Clinic; Dunod, 2020).

Dr. Thomas Rabeyron, who teaches at the University of Lorraine in Nancy, is a French clinical psychologist and researcher with much experience in the clinical study of psychic phenomena. According to his entry in the Psi Encyclopedia: “He is director of the INTERPSY laboratory, which encourages collaboration between clinical psychology and medicine, with the aim of improving mental health care delivery. Since 2014 . . . he has been an honorary research fellow at the University of Edinburgh . . . Rabeyron’s research interests span understanding the clinical aspects of anomalous experiences and exploring precognition and presentiment effects. In 2009 he co-created the Centre for Information, Research and Counselling about Exceptional Experiences (CIRCEE), which counseling service he supervises” (click here).

Thomas Rabeyron 4

Thomas Rabeyron

The book has ten chapters about the following topics:

  1. Prolegomena to the clinical study of exceptional experiences
  2. Exceptional experiences across the history of clinical practices
  3. The paranormal solution, between trauma and psychic permeability
  4. Hallucinatory processes and altered states of consciousness
  5. Primary forms of symbolization and psi
  6. Abductions: Clinic of its origins
  7. Telepathy: Clinic of primary intersubjectivity
  8. Out-of-body experiences: Clinic of reflexivity
  9. Near-death experiences: Clinic of transformation
  10. Psychological counselling concerning exceptional experiences

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

In this book I present an in-depth study of exceptional (or anomalous) experiences from a clinical point of view using in particular psychoanalytical notions, but also recent discoveries from the field of neuroscience and cognitive psychology. It is composed of ten chapters describing both the phenomenology and the psychological processes associated with these experiences. More than fifty cases from my clinical practice illustrate this exploration at the frontiers of subjective experience and symbolization processes.

What is your background in parapsychology, and with the topic of the book specifically? 

I obtained a PhD at the University of Lyon and Edinburgh (under the supervision of Dr. Caroline Watt), where I conducted two retro-priming studies. I also took part in Ganzfeld, remote viewing studies and other psi research concerning retro-causal effects. I am currently Professor of clinical psychology at the University of Lorraine, Director of the InterPsy Lab and Honorary Research Fellow at the Koestler Unit (University of Edinburgh). My aim is to better understand exceptional experiences both from a “psy” and a “psi” point of views. In this regard, my background in clinical psychology, psychoanalysis and cognitive psychology is useful in order to propose complementary models of these experiences. One chapter of the book (Chapter 5) concerns in particular psi and clinical practice. I particularly discuss the Jung-Pauli conjecture as it is currently developed by Wolfgang Fach and Harald Atmanspacher, and the Model of Pragmatic Information (MPI) of Walter von Lucadou which are currently, in my opinion, the most promising theoretical models in psi research.

What motivated you to write this book? 

My motivation was to explore the clinical aspects associated with exceptional experiences, which led me to these general questions: How can we understand the origins and the nature of paranormal experiences? What are their contexts of emergence and the psychological processes that characterize them? How do they relate to psychopathological aspects? Are they a source of psychological transformation and what can they teach us about the profound nature of reality?

Why do you think your book is important and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

The Varieties of Anomalous Experiences recommended that clinicians should take into account these experiences in their clinical practices. My book could be considered as a direct response to this proposition. Also, compared to what already exist in the field, especially in English, the book offers an in-depth study of psychodynamic aspects associated with exceptional experiences. Researchers and clinicians like George Devereux, Jule Eisenbud, Jan Ehrenwald – and even Freud himself – have proposed profound and important analyses concerning the way these experiences are associated with unconscious processes. Since the 1970s’ most researchers have nevertheless privileged an empirical approach, which is, of course, also interesting. But you have only a partial understanding of these experiences if you don’t take into account psychodynamic processes. This is what I have tried to show in the book and in several academic papers about telepathy, out-of- body experiences, abductions, and near-death experiences. I have also proposed, in chapter three, the model of the “paranormal solution”, showing that these experiences are often a specific way to deal with negative life events and unconscious motives. Chapter ten describe the “Psychodynamic Psychotherapy for Exceptional Experience” which explain how to help people who are disturbed by these experiences. I rely in particular on my experience in the Counseling Service of the Center of Information, Research and Counselling about Exceptional Experiences (CIRCEE) co-founded with Renaud Evrard, one of my colleagues at the University of Lorraine working in the field of exceptional experiences.

Thomas Rabeyron is currently looking for a translator that would be interested to translate Clinique des Experiences Exceptionelles in English. You can contact him at Thomas.rabeyron@univ-lorraine.fr

Some Publications

Bem, D., Tressoldi, P., Rabeyron, T. & Duggan, M. (2015). Feeling the future: A meta-analysis of 90 experiments on the anomalous anticipation of random future events. F1000Research, 4. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.7177.2

Rabeyron, T. (2009). Les expériences exceptionnelles : Entre neurosciences et psychanalyse. Recherches en Psychanalyse, 8, 282-296.

Rabeyron, T. (2012). Psychopathological and psychodynamic approaches to anomalous experiences: The concept of a paranormal solution. In C. Murray (Ed.), Mental Health and Anomalous Experience (pp. 125-140) London: Nova.

Rabeyron T. (2014). Retro-priming, priming and double testing: psi and replication in a test-rest design. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00154

Rabeyron T. (2018), Clinique des expériences d’abduction: Trauma, clivage et logiques de l’originaire. L’Evolution Psychiatrique, 83(2), 355-379.

Rabeyron T. (2020). Clinique des expériences de mort imminente. L’Evolution Psychiatrique. In  press.

Rabeyron, T., & Watt, C. (2010). Paranormal experiences, mental health and mental boundaries, and psi. Personality and Individual Differences, 48(4), 487‑492.

Rabeyron T., & Evrard, R. (2012). Historical and contemporary perspectives on occultism in the Freud-Ferenczi correspondence. Recherches en Psychanalyse, 1(13), 98-111.

Rabeyron T., & Loose T. (2015). Anomalous experiences, trauma and symbolization at the frontiers between neurosciences and psychoanalysis. Frontiers in Psychoanalysis and Neuropsychoanalysis, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01926

Rabeyron T., & Caussié, S. (2016). Clinical aspects of out-of-body experiences: Trauma, reflexivity and symbolization. L’Evolution Psychiatrique, 81(4), 755-775.

Rabeyron, T., & Abchiche, A. (2017). Des processus psychiques en consultations de voyance. Le Coq-héron, 231(4), 123–133.

Rabeyron, T., & Minjard, R. (2019) Les expériences de mort imminente en service de réanimation et au-delà, entre logiques de l’opératoire et processus de subjectivation. Etudes sur la mort.

Rabeyron, T., Chouvier, B., & Le Maléfan, P. (2010). Clinique des expériences exceptionnelles: Du trauma à la solution paranormale. L’Evolution psychiatrique, 75(4), 633–653.

Rabeyron, T., Evrard, R., & Massicotte, C. (2019). « Es gibt Gedankenübertragung » : Transfert de pensée et processus télépathiques en analyse. Revue française de psychanalyse, 83(4), 1239–1252.

Rabeyron T., Charlet O., Rowe C. Mousseau-C., & Deledalle A. (2018). Anomalous experiences, mental health and creativity: Is psi the missing link? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 25(3-4), 207-232.