Spirit Release

by  Alan Sanderson and Deena O'Brien 

(with an introduction by Elizabeth Winder )  




It is clear that many people going through psychotic episodes have strong spiritual and psychic experiences. This aspect is seen as a symptom of their delusions and otherwise overlooked by the statutory services, with medication being the first line treatment and other therapies not considered useful.  In the United Kingdom, psychological treatments are limited and difficult to access through the NHS.


Recent Dutch research with voice hearers (Accepting Voices, Romme and Escher, published by MIND) makes disturbing reading, since it indicates that voice-hearers find more support to develop effective coping mechanisms outside their contacts with the health services. Indeed many voice hearers never come into contact with the mental health services. At the same time the book relates the coping mechanisms voice hearers develop spontaneously to Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone's Voice Dialogue approach as well as beliefs in external spirit entities.


Healers and mediums through the ages have worked with spirits and exorcism. Reactions to this subject vary widely but may include disbelief, suspicion, fear, and rejection of the existence of the spirit world. These common reactions make things more difficult for people who hear voices or experience other unusual phenomena, and conceptualise them as originating in something external rather than their own unconscious.  Vocabulary  is everything here; the word pictures of ancient spiritualities, such as shamanism, may feel comfortably removed from the realities of the twenty first century and therefore safer.


Workers in the field include genuine healers who work to ethics recognised by other healers, and charlatans eager to exploit the vulnerable. The Spirit Release Foundation formed in 1999 brings together workers in this field, including psychotherapists and doctors. The Foundation's aims include enhancing holistic health through awareness and understanding of spirit attachment and spirit release, and introducing this awareness and understanding to healthcare practitioners.


We have asked Deena O'Brien and Alan Sanderson of the Spirit Release Foundation for further information about  the spirit release process.


Alan Sanderson writes:


Before my exposure to spirit release in 1992, I was practising psychiatry in the biological tradition.  Like my colleagues, I felt frustrated by the lack of progress along the conventional route.  By chance (Is there such a thing?) I met a spirit release therapist and invited him to demonstrate his technique on acutely ill patients in hospital.   One of my most difficult patients, a lad of 20 with schizophrenia, was bombarded by voices.  A danger to himself and others, he required one to one nursing.   Medication proved ineffective and I was at a loss to know what to do.  Half an hour after Lance started work on him, the voices suddenly stopped.  I was amazed.  I had never known such a thing to happen.   Although the voices returned, they were never as bad, and I was able to treat my patient outside hospital.  I wanted to do this work myself, so I trained in spirit release and began to use it with my patients, sometimes with excellent effect.


I have been doing this work for 11 years now, and as a result of my experience with hundreds of cases, I am convinced that spirits do indeed affect people and that their release can bring great benefit.  How do I balance a belief in spirits with my scientific training?   Evidence is growing by the day to substantiate the belief that brain activity is not essential, in all circumstances, for consciousness.  Extensive research by the psychiatrist, Professor Ian Stevenson, gives what seems to me irrefutable evidence in support of this thesis.  He has spent 40 years studying children who remember past lives and has also written an illuminating book on xenoglossy, the speaking of unlearned languages.  Countless reports of near-death experience, now gaining strong support from research studies, add strength to the argument.   The dramatic changes brought about by spirit release therapy is further powerful evidence, as also are accounts of mediumistic experience over more than a century of careful study. 


Of course, many questions remain to be answered.  Even if spirit attachment can be shown to contribute substantially to the picture of severe mental illness, can spirit release bring relief to these cases?   My experience indicates that successful treatment requires trust and cooperation, such as is not always forthcoming or possible.  In some cases malign spirits seem determined to remain.  Prayer and help by psychically gifted therapists over months or years may be required for their release.  It is important also to realise that spirit attachment, although commonly present, is not necessarily the chief cause of the illness.  Except in those who complain of spirit possession and experience obvious persecution, spirit attachment gives no recognisable signs.  The hearing of voices is indicative, though not conclusive.   The condition  must be looked for, using either hypnosis or psychic scanning.  One reason why it is so readily overlooked is that the impossible cannot be seriously considered.  The greatest gain that can come from recognition of this phenomenon is that we come to accept the spiritual dimension, not just as religious speculation or faith, but as a reality that can have powerful effects upon our health and our day-to-day existence.



Deena O'Brien adds:


Spirit attachment is not a new concept.  The idea of non-physical beings, presences that come to be attached to people is a concept thousands of years old.  The Ayurveda, the traditional healing of India, has a section devoted to how spirit attachment affects human beings; in acupuncture the concept of discarnate spirits forms part of the diagnosis and healing protocol; and in tribal societies the shaman works with extraction medicine to remove attached entities.  Even the accepted traditional Christian bible teaches that Jesus was often called upon to remove unclean spirits.  See: Luke 4, 35. 4, 41. 6,18. and Luke 8, 27-36. 


Traditionally these attached beings have been held to be responsible for various emotional, mental and physical problems.  A person can be affected by an attached spirit in many different ways, the discarnate entity retains the knowledge of its own ailments before death and can produce in the host symptoms of physical illness.  Discarnate entities are also able to connect emotionally to their host, exacerbating any negative emotions and thought patterns that may be present, such as depression, anxiety, anger, fear, guilt or shame.  Some are able to give the sensation of voices in the head, particularly where the patient may be unknowingly clairvoyant.


Attached entities are most often found to be earthbound spirits, the surviving consciousness of deceased humans; the disembodied consciousness being able to influence thought, emotions and behaviour of the host.  A sudden traumatic death or a strong loving connection may cause a spirit to become earth bound.  Equally drug, alcohol or food dependence in life may cause the deceased to continue craving the addiction and needing to satisfy this by connection to a living person.  Some people simply don’t realise they are dead, and lose their way, seeking companionship with the living.


Other types of attached entities may be thought forms (a projection of consciousness from another living person); mind fragments (sub-personalities of the patient) or non-human entities such as substance spirits, elementals, dark force entities or extra-terrestrials.


Spirit Release Therapy (SRT) is most definitely not a classic exorcism as performed by the Christian church.  It is, rather, a clearing, a caring clinical approach which has as much thought for the attached spirit as fir the patient.  As a lay approach, it is not encumbered by any religious perspective, but operates at the psychotherapeutic/transpersonal level.  There are two main types of SRT, the intuitive and the interactive.  The intuitive is the method that has been used for millennia, and is still practised today.  There are, and always have been, people who are able to ‘see’ discarnate entities and who actively work to remove them by communicating directly with the entity and persuading it to go into the light, often to find the light within to go to the place where spirit is meant to be when not incarnated into form.


The interactive process operates through the gentle use of hypnosis, allowing the therapist to speak to the entity via the host (the patient).  This method of working is empowering for the patient as he or she can come to understand how the entity became attached, and is respectful of the patient, in that they can describe what they experience in their own words, and know for themselves when they are clear.


Sometimes there can be confusion between sub-personalities and attached spirits.  A sub-personality is part of one’s psyche which has developed over many years, and is self-generated, whereas an attached entity is something that has suddenly entered into the patient, even if it was at a very young age.  Voice Dialogue technique (developed by Drs Hal & Sidra Stone), allows the therapist to talk to these sub-personalities.  The patient is generally not in a hypnotic trance state, but is able to change position in the room to speak as each sub-personality.  In addition, the patient is able to ‘own’ each voice as part of themselves.  In SRT the patient knows that the entity that is speaking through them is separate from them.  In most forms of psychotherapy, the patient is encouraged to step outside of the ego state of “I am afraid”, “I am unhappy” to the more healthy disidentified place of “I am feeling fearful, but I am not my fear”. Generally, in contemporary western psychotherapy, the mind with attendant ego states is considered the whole of the person, but with SRT the spiritual, transpersonal dimension is accepted as relevant.  The therapy is clear, methodical, organised and holistic.


It may be that a patient is afflicted by various problems which would indicate spirit attachment, but who has little or no spiritual beliefs.  The level of the patient’s belief may affect how the patient feels about the attachment, but need not affect the process. When working with patients, the therapist remains matter of fact and relaxed regarding the therapy.  The therapist may choose to explain that this is simply one way of looking at the problem, may use the terms energy, negative energy, or simply talk in terms of shapes, colours, feelings etc.  The therapist might say “If that feeling had a voice – if the negative energy that is your fear had a voice” and so on.  This allows the process to begin, and gives the patient the space and the permission to use their own words to describe what is attached to them, yet separate from them.


The benefits of SRT are many.  On release of the attached entity, the patient often experiences feeling lighter as though a load has been lifted from them.  They generally also experience more energy and love of life.  People who are addicted to drugs, alcohol or food can often find it easier to stop misusing these substances.  Physical symptoms lessen, and eventually disappear, and often other difficulties improve.  There have been cases where transvestites have given up the desire to cross dress, and transsexuals have let go of their desire for gender reassignment.  In those cases, it would seem that the problem had been one of attachment by an entity of the opposite sex influencing and confusing the patient. (see Baldwin 1991).  In all of the above the memory of old patterns of behaviour or emotion is erased from the psyche over time.


Some investigators in the field estimate that more than 50% of the population may be affected or influenced by one or more discarnate entities at some point in their life (Fiore 1987).  A sudden change in behaviour, sudden onset of depression for no discernable reason, strong emotions such as anger, fear, guilt or any sudden physical or emotional disturbance may reflect the actions of entity attachment.  Cases where patient hear voices, or feel driven by someone or something outside of themselves may be signs of entity attachment.  Physical intrusions such as surgery can lead to attachment as can any form of physical trauma.  The symptoms may be very subtle, and may seem to be the unpleasant but normal behaviour of the host, particularly if the entity has been attached since the host’s childhood.


On the other hand, if a person suddenly changes aspects of their behaviour, uses unusual ways of communicating, begins to dress differently, or act differently, particularly if the changes appear extreme or very negative, then spirit attachment may be suspected.  Often a patient will know that something is wrong, will feel that they are under some kind of threat, or control by something external to themselves, but unseen.  An afflicted person may also experience frightening images of faces or figures.


In everyday therapeutic practice, a therapist trained in SRT can recognise situations and experiences of the patient that might indicate spirit attachment, and work with the patient to remove such entities, helping the patient to move on and recover a sense of equilibrium and wholeness.


The Spirit Release Foundation is an organisation founded in 1999 by a small group of mental and complementary practitioners to bring knowledge of this work to a wider audience, and to support those working in the field.  It promotes the understanding of spirit attachment and its affects, and fosters the practice of spirit release.  It now has over 150 members world-wide, and offers training, presents conferences, publishes a newsletter and maintains a website.  Membership is open to all those interested in spirit attachment and spirit release.  To find out more, please contact: janenewsonsmith@btopenworld.com or see www.spiritrelease.com  




Baldwin, WJ (1992), Spirit Releasement Therapy, Headline Books 
Fiore, E (1987), The Unquiet Dead. New York: Doubleday
Stevenson, I. (1984), Unlearned Language: New Studies in Xenoglossy. University of Virginia
Stone, Drs Hal & Sidra,  Embracing Ourselves

horizontal rule




Alan Sanderson is a consultant psychiatrist, who retired from the National Health Service in 1997, but remains active in private practice.  In 1999 he was co-founder of the British Association for Spirit Release, of which he is chairman.  He often communicates, through his patients, with what appear to be spirit presences.  Alan believes that such influences affect human behaviour in health and disease.


Deena O'Brien has a degree in psychology and qualifications in counselling, hypnotherapy and other therapeutic practices.  Her practice in Maidenhead combines counselling and supervision with traditional shamanic practices such as soul retrieval and spirit release.  She is an accredited member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.