Israeli hypnotists were told to refrain from helping clients explore past lives, following a recent decision on the matter by a special Health Ministry advisory committee.

The Advisory Committee on the Law on Hypnosis made the ruling following complaints by clients who said that they had sustained serious emotional damage because of reincarnation hypnosis sessions.

Israel has several experts on reincarnation hypnosis, who give sessions that aim to "discover who they were in past lives," as Dr. Lianna Sofer defines her treatments. "The reincarnation hypnosis allows us to return to the prenatal stage."

The ministry decided not to completely ban the practice, in keeping with the decision to allow a host of other practices which are not recognized as therapeutic by modern medicine but are believed by some to be remedial.

But Dr. Alex Aviv, from the Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Bat Yam, says that hypnosis and reincarnations have nothing to do with one another. "This is a mystical practice for people who believe in reincarnation. We've seen a number of cases where practitioners tried to perform this on patients and things went bad," said Aviv, who heads the advisory committee.

The ministry's ban on reincarnation hypnosis applies only to authorized hypnosis therapists, whose practice is recognized by the ministry.

Discussion on reincarnation hypnosis began two years ago within the ministry and ended with a explicit ban on offering the practice or for hypnotists to present themselves as experts in the field.

One of the cases which brought on this decision concerns a 23-year-old man from the center of the country who had retained the services of a clinical psychologist authorized to give hypnosis treatments. The patient suffered from depression after breaking up with his girlfriend.

The psychologist offered reincarnation hypnosis, suggesting that he might have experienced an event in a past life which is now making it difficult for him to let go of his partner.

The session turned south when the man became emotionally stuck in an experience which made him feel as though he was enclosed in a coffin. He began to gasp for breath. After the session the man suffered repeated panic attacks and respiratory problems, and he was referred for medical and psychiatric care.

"The patient suffered from a false memory which had been implanted into him and needed correction," Aviv, who treated him, said.

But Sofer said correcting problems "which began in an earlier life helps correct life in the present." She said she cured a woman from chronic neck pains after "discovering she had been decapitated in a previous life."