IGPP - Information and Counseling Services

History

Since its foundation in 1950 by Prof. Hans Bender (1907-1991), the IGPP has provided the public with an information and counseling service covering the whole spectrum of parapsychology, fringe sciences and anomalistic phenomena, summarized under the neutral term "Exceptional Experiences" (ExE). This includes information and material about the distribution and phenomenology of psychic experiences together with expert knowledge regarding the state of the art of interdisciplinary research related to border areas of psychology and anomalous phenomena. A special counseling program of the IGPP is designed to meet the individual needs of individuals who have to cope with "occult", supernatural or paranormal experiences causing them and others emotional distress ("mental hygiene").

General Patterns of Exceptional Experiences (ExE)

Depending on their cultural tradition or ideological background, "exceptional experiences" are described as supernatural, supersensory, magical, paranormal, spiritual, transcendent, transpersonal etc. For ages, such experiences belong to the varieties of human experiences that are well-known interculturally. The varieties of ExEs which are reported by IGPP clients can be grouped into six major categories: (1) As 'extrasensory perception' (ESP) such experiences can be described when persons outside their usual sensory channels get information about objective events unknown to them ("clairvoyance") or about thoughts and feelings of other persons ("telepathy"). This implies also the knowledge of unpredictable future events ("precognition", "announcing dreams"); (2) Poltergeist (RSPK) phenomena encompass physical anomalies (the disappearance or appearance of objects or their movement without apparent cause), acoustic phenomena (e.g., steps, raps) and visual impressions (appearances of lights or shapes etc.) are reported; (3) phenomena of a presence describe a diffuse invisible entity-like presence (beings, forces, atmospheres etc.). They were often reported during the awakening accompanied with an inability to move one's body (sleep paralysis) and frequently with sensations of pressure and touches ( "nightmare"); (4) experiences of being influenced manifest themselves in somatic symptoms and the hearing of inner voices often connected by the afflicted persons with strange forces, black magic or spells; (5) mediumship encompasses exceptional experiences occurring in the context of occult techniques such as moving glasses, table tilting, pendulum or "channelling" whose messages are often interpreted as coming from ghosts or departed persons; (6) as meaningful or fateful coincidences such occurrences or events are described which are subjectively perceived as being connected or determined in an extraordinary way (e.g. the frequency of accidents or mishaps, the special role of a certain number in a person's biography etc.).

Exceptional experiences are occurring mostly spontaneous, i. e. unexpected and without an apparent cause. They can be self-induced also by techniques like automatic writing or practices of meditation. In addition there are externally induced ExEs which are reported after having contacted healers, psychics, clairvoyants or after having experienced offerings of the esoteric scene.

A lot of people can appreciate such experiences in a positive way and are able to integrate ExEs in their world view without problems. Given specific circumstances however, ExEs can also induce emotional distress and anxieties and the afflicted persons have problems to cope with them in an adequate way. They often are looking in vain for explanations and practical help in the existing psychosocial care institutions. The goal of our counselling work is to improve the situation for such persons looking for help.

The Counselling Program at the IGPP

The offer for counselling is free of cost and open for everyone. The IGPP and its counselling team are ideologically neutral and institutionally independent. All collaborators are bound to observe confidentiality. Data protection is strictly maintained. Inquiries can also be made anonymous. The IGPP counseling team consists of trained psychologists with a clinical-therapeutical background and all members are familiar with issues of psychical research and parapsychology. There is a regular supervision and education. The team is offering on a regular basis accredited advanced training courses regarding counseling and therapy in persons with exceptional experiences. The two-day seminars target psychological and medical psychotherapists and counselors in psycho-social services. The aim of the seminars is the mediation of the counseling concept as developed by the team (for more information see below).

Documentation System

With the help of the documentation system (DOKU), introduced at the IGPP in 1998 in accordance with current standards for basic documentation, more than 4200 people requesting for counseling concerning ExE were recorded and evaluated. The results reveal over the years quite similar patterns concerning the reported exceptional phenomena, the sociodemography of the advice-seeking people and the distribution of clinically significant variables.

Number of IGPP Counseling Cases

From 2012 to 2013, except from more than 1000 general requests for information (see below), about 300 persons from all over Germany make use of the special counseling service for people reporting ExE and seeking advice. An estimate based on the data from 2012 for both years shows that ca. 25% of all inquiries came from the county state of Baden-Württemberg, and among them only about 2% from the Freiburg area. Approximately 53% of all first counseling contacts were established by phone. All 300 inquiries taken together required about 1500 counseling contacts, 54% of all contacts were realized by e-mail, 37% by phone, 7% by letters, 2% face to face at the IGPP or at home of the clients. In addition there are more than 1000 requests for information (by e-mail, telephone and letters) coming from the general population, including for example journalists, students, scientists and others regarding all possible aspects of parapsychological research and anomalous phenomena in general which are not recorded especially by the DOKU system.

IGPP Clients

Almost 63% of the clients are women, and the average age is 42 years. Almost 35% of the clients are nondenominational. In accordance with the data from recent years, there is a high educational level: 47% obtained a high school diploma (Abitur/Matura), 27% are graduates of a technical school or a university. A conspicuous trend to social isolation was also found to be without change: About 60% of the clients are singles, divorced or widowed. Approximately 35% is living without a (marital) partner, 40% live on their own. At the moment of first contact, about 45% were unemployed, unable to work, or retired. 90% of the clients report social conflicts (divorces, financial difficulties, etc.), 70% report psychological problems (proneness to fear, depression, etc.), and 75% complain about physical symptoms and diseases. Accordingly, 80% of the clients feel distressed and burdened by their general living conditions even independent of ExE. Despite missing data in the majority of cases, it is quite certain that 20% of the clients had psychotherapy and/or psychiatric treatment before or during their counseling contacts with the IGPP. By a conservative estimation, the percentage in fact may be around 40%. About 50% of the clients reported and described symptoms which were assessed as psychological impairments by the IGPP counseling staff. About 60% of all persons who had contacted the IGPP, evaluate their ExE clearly negative and experience them as stressful, while the rest is mostly ambivalent in their assessment. About 90% of the reported ExE happened unprepared and unexpected. Only in a few cases they are induced by psychotechniques and other methods such as glass tilting or automatic writing. Yet less frequently they are related to contacts with healers, psychics and suppliers from the esoteric scene.

Exceptional Experiences (ExE) Among the IGPP Clients

On average the phenomena reported by the clients are associated with of one or two ExE-patterns. Coincidence-Phenomena like Extrasensory Perception (clairvoyance, telepathy, precognition) or Meaningful Coincidences are the most common with 37%. External anomalies, especially kinetic and acoustical phenomena, belonging to the ExE-pattern Poltergeist and Apparitions, comprise 29%. About 28% are belonging to the pattern of Internal Presence and Influence with somatic phenomena, thought insertion and hearing of voices. Finally, 6% are Dissociation-Phenomena in which – often connected with sleep paralysis – an invisible External Presence and Nightmare or Automatisms and Mediumship (e. g., automatic writing, channeling) are reported.

Research Project (1) - Studies with the Questionnaire to Survey the Phenomenology of Exceptional Experiences (PAGE-R)

Based on the completely revised and re-conceptualized "questionnaire to survey the phenomenology of exceptional experiences" (PAGE-R) in 2011, a corresponding online version 2012 has been developed and implemented. It is used routinely in addition with the data collected by the counseling staff with the documentation system (DOKU), to collect further information on the ExE based on self-assessments of the clients. Whereas the DOKU is used to record only ExE that are relevant during the actual counseling process, the PAGE-R registers the occurrence and frequency of phenomena and ExE-patterns of all four basic classes (external phenomena, internal phenomena, coincidence phenomena, dissociation phenomena) over the entire life time. In addition, the corresponding time frames, states of consciousness, external circumstances, the subjective evaluation, and the importance of ExE are obtained systematically.
As part of a research project at the Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich, an online survey of the Swiss general population was carried out in 2012 with the PAGE-R. It was representative concerning gender, age, and education. It included a systematic comparison of this sample (N=1352) with the IGPP clientele on the basis of a follow-up survey in 2011 with the PAGE-R (N=176) and counseling cases recorded between 1996 and 2006 with the DOCU (N = 1465).
In all samples, ExE of all four basic classes occur in comparable frequency proportions: coincidence phenomena ("extrasensory perception", "meaningful coincidences") are dominant, internal phenomena ("internal presence and influence") and external phenomena ("apparitions and poltergeist-phenomena") are about equal in second or third place, and dissociation phenomena ("mediumship and automatisms", "sleep paralysis and nightmare") are the rarest.
Whereas the IGPP-clientele is consistent in both datasets, there is an important difference to the Swiss sample of the general population. Both the frequency and the intensity of ExE were rated significantly higher by about 50% concerning all ExE-patterns by persons looking for advice at the IGPP. Furthermore, IGPP-clients regard their ExE as more important for their life and valuate them on a high degree as "positive and enriching" and as "negative and burdened" at the same time – an ambivalence that is not found on such a level in the general population.
No significant differences could be found between both groups concerning the external circumstances. In all samples ExE occur predominantly in the waking state and mostly spontaneously. Mental techniques, drugs, contact with occultism and healers, or contexts of extreme situations do not play major roles.
The fact that all ExE-patterns occur not only in clients seeking help but also, although less often, in the general population gives reason to suppose that ExE are widespread and continuously distributed in their intensity and frequency. Only ExE that occur to a great extent seem to be companied by stress and mental disorders.
Further collaborations are taking place with Dr. Christine Simmonds-Moore, assistant professor of psychology at the University of West Georgia. She is preparing an English translation of the PAGE-R with the intention to use it in a cross-cultural comparative study about the distribution of ExE in different local areas. In addition, there is an exchange with Professor Ann Taves and other religious scholars of the University of California at Santa Barbara, who are also interested in an English version of the PAGE-R to investigate the distribution of ExE in different cultural contexts.

Research Project (2) - ExE and Dual-Aspect Monism

Based on Metzinger's postulate that the human model of reality is composed of two basic elements, the self model and the world model, four classes of ExE as deviations in the reality model are possible: Internal phenomena in the self domain and external phenomena in the world domain can be predicted. Concerning the dichotomy of self and world, coincidence phenomena as extraordinary connections of ordinarily disconnected elements, and also dissociation phenomena as extraordinary disconnections of ordinarily connected elements of both domains, can be expected. The good agreement of extensive empirical material (see above) with the theoretically derived expectations justifies the assumption that the phenomenology of ExE is grounded on fundamental ordering principles.
With ideas and notions of quantum theory as a conceptual background, Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Gustav Jung conjectured a dual-aspect monism framework in which ExE appear as acausal mind-matter correlations arising from a psychophysically neutral and unitary reality, the "unus mundus".
Although this is at variance with Metzinger's naturalism and his strictly epistemic interpretation of the mind-matter dualism, his notions of self model and world model can be mapped onto the mental and the material aspects of the Pauli-Jung-approach. It suggests a distinction between two basically different kinds of mind-matter correlations: Splitting of the unus mundus generates structural mind-matter correlations that are persistent and reproducible. Additionally deviating and elusive mind-matter correlations can be induced by psychosocial contexts and psychodynamic processes that manifest in ExE, e.g. synchronistic phenomena, i.e. acausal meaningful coincidences. Additionally supported by empirical results, induced mind-matter correlations are to be expected as accompanied by unconscious conflicting complementary human needs, especially bonding and autonomy. Each ExE-pattern seems to occur under specific social and psychodynamic conditions and corresponding with different amounts of bonding and autonomy in satisfaction of needs.
The systematic investigation of complementary aspects in the phenomenology and psychodynamics of ExE permits specific intervention strategies and has a strong potential for the future development of counseling and therapy concerning clients afflicted by ExE.

Accredited Advanced Training Courses on Psychotherapy and Counseling in Persons with Exceptional Experiences

Since 2003, the IGPP counseling team offers regular advanced training courses regarding "Counseling and therapy in persons with exceptional experiences". The two-day seminars target psychological and medical psychotherapists and counselors in psycho-social services. The aim of the seminars is the mediation of the counseling concept as developed by the team. The implementation of these seminars is due to various intentions: Our clients frequently report that their ExEs are met by therapists and physicians with insecurity, skepticism or pathologization. Hence, we aimed to conceptualize a service offering colleagues qualified strategies for the therapeutic coping with ExEs. With this offer, which from the outset has been accredited with CME points by the state authorization associations for psychotherapy and medicine in the mandatory training for psychotherapists, we also pursue the idea to install the topic of ExEs in general therapeutic coverage. Moreover, the seminars yield contacts to colleagues throughout German language countries, to whom clients could be referred to if needed.

From 2003 to 2007 there was one seminar annually; in 2005, due to a great demand, there were two identical events. In response to various requests for immersion seminars, the team developed a new concept and has offered two events per year with different foci since 2008. In the first seminar, the focus is on theories and models to understand conditional and contextual factors related to the emergence of exceptional experiences. The second seminar, which is practice-oriented, is focused on the mediation of our counseling concept.

In total, until 2013 more than 200 colleagues from various professional backgrounds from Germany, Switzerland and Austria have attended. The seminars reveal that the topic is relevant in the practice of resident colleagues. Evaluations by means of written and oral surveys after each seminar has hitherto revealed a high degree of satisfaction in attendees regarding content, scientific standards and practical relevance.

English Publications Describing the IGPP Counseling Work

Atmanspacher H. & Fach W. (2013a): A structural-phenomenological typology of mind-matter correlations. Journal of Analytical Psychology 58, 219-244.

Atmanspacher H. & Fach W. (2013b): Encouraging metaphysics: A reply to the commentary by David Tresan. Journal of Analytical Psychology 58, 254-257.

Atmanspacher H. & Fach W. (in print): Mind-Matter Correlations in Dual-Aspect Monism According to Pauli and Jung. In Beyond Physicalism, eds. by E. Kelly & A. Crabtree, Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham.

Bauer E. (2012): Parapsychology - Quo Vadis? Journal of Parapsychology 76 (Supplement). Special Issue Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Journal of Parapsychology. Where Will Parapsychology Be in the Next 25 Years?, 7-9.

Bauer E. (2013): On the Magic Hill. In Men and Women of Parapsychology, Personal Reflections. ESPRIT Volume 2, ed. by R. Pilkington, Anomalist Books, San Antonio / New York, pp. 30-59.

Bauer E. & Belz M. (2012): Counseling at the IGPP: An Overview. In Exceptional Experiences and Health. Essays on Mind, Body and Human Potential, ed. by C. Simmonds-Moore, McFarland, Jefferson, NC / London, pp. 210-222.

Bauer E., Belz M., Fach W., Fangmeier R., Schupp-Ihle C. & Wiedemer A. (2012): Counseling at the IGPP - An Overview. In Perspectives of Clinical Parapsychology. An Introductionary Reader, eds. by W. H. Kramer, E. Bauer & G. H. Hövelmann, Stichting Het Johan Borgman Fonds, Utrecht, pp. 149-167.

Belz M. (2012a): Clinical Psychology for People with Exceptional Experiences in Practice. In Exceptional Experiences and Health. Essays on Mind, Body and Human Potential, ed. by C. Simmonds-Moore, McFarland Jefferson, NC/ London, pp. 223-241.

Belz M. & Fach W. (2012): Theoretical Reflections on Counseling and Therapy for Individuals Reporting ExE. In Perspectives of Clinical Parapsychology. An Introductionary Reader, eds. by W. H. Kramer, E. Bauer & G. H. Hövelmann, Stichting Het Johan Borgman Fonds, Utrecht, pp. 168-189.

Fach W. (2014): Complementary aspects of mind-matter correlations in exceptional human experiences. In The Pauli-Jung Conjecture and Its Impact Today, eds. by H. Atmanspacher & C. Fuchs, Imprint Academic, Exeter, pp. 255-274.

Fach W., Atmanspacher H., Landolt K., Wyss T. & Rössler W. (2013): A comparative study of exceptional experiences of clients seeking advice and of subjects in an ordinary population. Frontiers in Psychology 4, 65. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00065.

Kramer W. H., Bauer E. & Hövelmann G. H. (eds.) (2012): Perspectives of Clinical Parapsychology. An Introductionary Reader. Utrecht: Stichting Het Johan Borgman Fonds.

© 2007 IGPP  (imprint)
last revision: Sep 5th 2014