Shamanic soul retrieval psychotherapy style

Mending the Fragmented Self With Soul Retrieval

 by Dr Keith Scott-Mumby

I turn now to the shaman model of healing called soul retrieval, not merely as a curiosity, but in considerable awe and respect for a tradition as old as consciousness and twice as old as other healing arts! It has worked so well for so long among so many peoples, it is in every sense a Super Healing technique.

The fact that most of the proponents are supposedly less sophisticated than ourselves does them less than justice and probably turns our blind eye of prejudice away from what may ultimately prove to be the best of all wellness approaches.

Journey with me and see if you agree [KSM].

Soul Retrieval

Quite simply, there is no real health without true being. We are not a body; therefore to treat only the body is to miss much of the impact and purpose of the healing arts. In the words of Sandra Ingerman, US career-shaman, “For shamans the world over, illness has always been seen as a spiritual predicament”. (Ingerman S, Soul Retrieval, Harper San Francisco, 1991, p. 17). Her lovely book is subtitled “Mending the Fragmented Self”, which says it all. Mechanistic reductionist science has little currency here.

One of the most succinct models for dis-ease in this domain is the “loss of soul” or soul parts. You might prefer the term “life particles” to soul parts. The concept is that of parts of the self being torn off and getting lost. This would typically take place at times of extreme suffering. Today we often find soul loss is a result of such traumas as incest, abuse, loss of a loved one, surgery, accident, illness, miscarriage, abortion, bad drug trips and military combat. Even witnessing traumatic events, such as a crime scene or bloody death, can cause loss through shock and horror. Coma, of course, is the most extreme form of soul loss.

People will often describe feeling as if they are incomplete after the calamity; “something died inside me”, “I don’t feel myself anymore”, “I left my heart behind”, “I don’t feel all here”, “I’m aching and empty inside” and so on. The hippies used to have an expression “feeling untogether”, which is a rather poetic way of putting it, though in their case it was often self-inflicted, due to recreational drug abuse.

What seems to happen is the patient loses some of their resources when the part or parts flee. Certain skills, qualities or other desirable character traits are no longer there and so he or she cannot act out these aspects of the self. The same is true in reverse, of course, and the skills and knowledge present at the moment of schism return remarkably when the retrieval procedure is completed. But the break is very real and the homecoming particles sometimes have to be brought up to date regarding what has happened to the patient in the intervening years in order to fully integrate.

Sandra gives a checklist of symptoms which might point to soul loss. I reproduce them here:

      1. Do you ever have a difficult time staying “present” in your body?
      2. Do you sometimes feel as if you’re outside your body observing it as you would a movie?
      3. Do you ever feel numb, apathetic, or deadened?
      4. Do you suffer from chronic depression?
      5. Do you have problems with your immune system and have trouble resisting illness?
      6. Were you chronically ill as a child?
      7. Do you have gaps in your memory of your life after age five?
      8. Do you sense that you may have blacked out significant traumas in your life?
      9. Do you struggle with addictions to, for example, alcohol, drugs, food, sex, or gambling?
      10. Do you find yourself looking to external things to fill up an internal void or emptiness?
      11. Have you had difficulty moving on with your life after a divorce or the death of a loved one?
      12. Do you suffer from multiple personality syndrome?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be dealing with soul loss. Important parts of your essential core self may not be available to you. If so, the vital energy and gifts of these parts are temporarily inaccessible. ” (Ingerman S, Soul Retrieval, Harper San Francisco, 1991, p. 23).

History of shamanism

The basic technique is remarkably similar and cogent in societies throughout the world which practice soul retrieval. Typically, the shaman was the one who did the travelling to other realities to look for the missing part or parts and invited them home. The technique I now propose to describe is easily done by the subject, with or without accompaniment. I believe it strengthens and educates the person more if they are held less passive and invited to actually experience the procedure for themselves. There is the additional advantage that the person acting as shaman does not need the same depths of transcendental skills. The therapist does not need to visit other worlds or speak to spirits (though it’s fine if you can do that successfully).

No ceremonies are needed. We are better off without them. There is always the danger that the methodology becomes identified with the ceremony. This makes it easy for cynics to scoff. If there is drumming, they will argue that drumming cannot make the psyche whole; if there are scents and candles, critics will suppose that there was a trance state. Of course it is the re-integration that makes the person whole, not the accompanying music or rituals.

Additionally, there is no reason to blindly observe ritual and history, beyond its proper context. It seems right to take older practices and modernize them, in accordance with later learning. To do otherwise is to accord too much significance to the act and not enough to the knowledge process. Yet there are people who think to change procedures or improve them is to be “wrong” and that one has become somehow disrespectful.

Gestalt Model in Shamanism

Since this brief tract will be read by people from many disciplines, a general overview would be appropriate.

The psyche, spirit or soul is creative in at least as much as we experience what we want to experience, (often) independently of outer reality. That there are many aspects to the way we react to our surroundings is simple but adequate evidence of a multiple-viewpoint personality. The modern gestalt view that we are a sum of parts and integrated as a greater whole is more or less sufficiently self-evident as to be regarded as axiomatic.

People are naturally whole and integrated. We have all the qualities and resources we need. This needs interpreting with care, however, since we do sometimes find the missing part far into the past (previous incarnation). Such a person was not born whole in this life.

The idea of losing a part of oneself seems quite natural, once the spiritual model is entered. People readily grasp the metaphor of losing a part of “self” leaving it behind in some other place or some other time. Occasionally we find the part has drifted off into other realities (magical zones and fantastic environments).

If you don’t like the notion of a soul (many people object to the word because of its identification with a restrictive religious context), you can still get the idea of a personality in many parts. Gurdieff spoke of many “I”s. To lose one is to lose a part of one’s self; to be less than whole. Some people experience many “I”s as an everyday reality. The fact that they tend to be considered mad and treated as such may have more to do with prejudice than exact psychology. However, it is worth observing that such individuals do tend to have difficulty coping with themselves and ordinary reality, so it is not a state one would like to share with them, even if it is true they are seeing deeper into the reality of our nature.

Definitions for Soul Retrieval

“Lost”, in this context, means can’t contact or integrate with the part. The practitioner will readily learn that the person always knows where it is. A “part” means an awareness or energy entity – a grouping of personal qualities, attitudes, abilities and emotional feelings that is not complete in itself but can have some of the characteristics of a whole being.

When this part is lost, the person also feels they don’t have those qualities or abilities. For example, a child heavily abused may be incapable of love in later life – because her ability to experience it fled under the duress and is still missing.

NLP has a technique called re-imprinting, where the subject is asked to revisit old and painful areas and re-establish them with the missing resources. It seems to me that this is very little different from a soul-retrieval; merely different terminology and a different model.

Either what we do is merely a metaphor and actually works mechanically as described in NLP. Or, quite validly, NLP provokes the missing soul part back to life and leads to a natural (almost inadvertent) soul re-integration.

Make up your mind after you have done a few!

Soul Giving and Soul Theft

The usual cause of this phenomenon, which might logically be called dis-integration, is some powerful emotional trauma. Very little matches up to the psychic violence of losing a loved one, whether through death or infidelity and separation. Sometimes the things a person says give the game away. We hear expressions like “That man took away my soul”, “She stole my heart”, “I’ll always be with you in some meaningful way”, and so on.

The very essence of a loving relationship is that ego boundaries go down and we share “as one”. So it is quite natural for bits to end up in the wrong place after a marriage or relationship breaks up. Sometimes a person goes off with a piece of a loved one, stealing it, clinging on to it for their own needs, usually to avoid the sense of desolation which follows. This leaves the part unavailable to the owner and is a major infringement or transgression (although there may be no mal-intent).

In other cases, the person leaves behind a part of their own soul, a sort of gift (usually unwanted). What manifests here is that the person who is dumped with the gift continues to manifest traits they don’t really want; these have come from the departed one. Removing the stuck part and sending it back to its owner is both a kindness (for them) and a release for the patient in question.

It may be obvious from what material you are offered while working that such a phenomenon has taken place. Great compassion and insight is needed in these tricky situations. You often feel like you are dealing with more than one patient! Discuss matters with the client and get her agreement and understanding.

When to do Soul Retrieval 

The most fruitful time to do self re-integration is after you have been cleaning up a stressful event or area of a person’s life. The actual technique you are using doesn’t much matter, provided it drains off or as we say “reduces” the adverse emotional and spiritual energy (sometimes also called “discharging”). Usually from this sort of regression approach, done properly, you get a resurgence and the individual brightens up considerably. It is as if black energy has been cleaned off and they have been freed up from an area where their attention has been stuck for so long.

However, it is sometimes obvious that, despite the benefits, the individual is still to a degree stuck there. He or she feels “better” or even “great” but they are not congruently clear of it and you can see that doubt or dispersal still lingers.

This happens when a part of the self was shed and the loss has not been spotted. A full recovery would need retrieval of the missing part and re-integrating it.

The detailed and highly effective procedure is given below. I got this from a guy called Allen Wright, who taught me in 1995.

[I usually work with a psycho-galvanic skin response meter. But when I come to soul retrieval, I disconnect the electrodes, pack away the meter and sit back comfortably, to make it abundantly clear there is no technological intrusion.]


An incident is encountered and reduced by some kind of therapy or de-stressing procedure (abreaction).

A soul retrieval step would be considered if:

the person wasn’t balanced, content and whole afterwards

it was “logical” that the soul broke up or parts were lost (NDEs, severe injury, shock, dreadful emotional harm such as abuse cases, threat etc).


 Ask: “During this incident, did a part of you leave?” or

“At that time (long period) did a part of you fade or leave?”

If the person says “No” and she has no reality on this concept, you have nothing to do.

If she says “Yes,” continue

If the next action is needed, put on your big-hearted shaman’s hat, create a huge amount of loving space which enfolds your subject. Talk gently, wisely and calmly. Proceed as follows:


If she is convinced that a part of the soul left, explain “we will do a journey to locate it”.

The part could be in ordinary or non-ordinary space and maybe in the past. Bearing in mind you are the shaman – you can participate in the search if you wish. You may even see where the missing part is, before the subject finds it. In shamanic practise the shaman makes the journey alone and retrieves FOR the person. We find that aware individuals do best if they make their own journey.

“Where does it seem to be?”

It could have the age, emotions and attitudes that were appropriate at the time it left. Get into gentle communication and rapport.

Say to the part “We are here to help you”.


Almost invariably there are other soul parts, from other beings, mixed up with the subject’s own. These would usually be people involved in the original event (check also for soul gifts and soul stealing).

Tell your subject: “Look at it (the soul part) – are there other parts or energies present?”

Instruct her to unravel “who” is involved. Separate them out, being kindly and gentle. Once unravelled it will be easier to see who is there.


NB. Always do the person’s own part last, when all the others are gone, otherwise it would be rude to those entities.

Explain we want to send each part back home.

“Who do we take up first?” There will be an appropriateness in this, as in all other stages.

Have him or her locate the being with part(s) present, as they are in real time-space (If dead, use other-reality). Have him or her thank the part for its good intentions. Then:

Have the subject mock up “hands” and put the part cupped into one hand and the real-life being in the other. He or she now simply brings the hands together gently. The part will be perceived to have rejoined and leave.

Check for more parts and repeat.


Ask “What happened that caused you to separate?”

“Would you like to return?” but don’t invite it yet.

Possibly “What resources can you bring that will be beneficial?” but don’t imply barter.

Shift of attitude: All this has been done with a loving, clam and gentle manner, with a BIG safe space. Now switch back to therapist mode.


Focus on the subject (not the part): “Would you like it to return?” [this is not a given!]

“Do you have space for it?”

Possibly add: “Will you honour this part if it comes back?” Discuss the possible implications of this.


Back to shaman mode:

Run out the part’s distress if necessary, otherwise you might bring it along.

Then ask it home. Get the subject to cup the part with “hands” and draw it in, willingly, welcomingly and non-judgementally. Nine times out of ten it will just come in.

Tell the subject “I would like all your cells to wake up and receive this energy back”. Warn her it often fizzes and scintillates. There will usually be some heavy emotions running at this point (heart-breaking sobs that go on and on). But eventually the storm calms and the sun begins to come out once more. Simply wait for a sensible moment to break off and go onto the final stages.


Now comes the fun step! Take your subject out to open ground and in contact with the earth.

Do the Gaia step. Have the subject make contact with the earth’s heart, feel the physical connection, and ask the Earth Goddess to renew her energies and sustain them.

Usually the subject will become aware of ribbons of energy firing up and coming into her feet and up through the body.


Now go on to produce the power animal learning. It is very simple; you don’t have to visit another world to find the power animal. Have the person in their new state of awareness run a few swift paces across the earth, leap high into the air and then take up an instinctive gait upon landing. Usually they burst into some kind of stylized movement.

Ask her what animal it feels like.

Tell her to honour and respect this new power animal and use it OFTEN. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it gift. The secret to using your power animal is to take some time (often) to look out from the animal’s own eyes at the world and see what new hidden signals appear.


The whole process of re-integration and adjustment can take days, weeks, even months. Many things will change for the individual. Most of it is very holistic and personal but there may be real psychological initiatives too.

It is vital that you instill one or two warnings. The new soul part which came home is often very disoriented. It may have been alone and isolated for decades and be very uncertain of its new environment.


There may also be strange emotional reactions, some of them unpleasant. Ask her to stay calm and talk gently and reassuringly to the new part, as if educating a child (which is basically the case).

Possible problems with Soul Retrieval

If it gets stuck or won’t come home:

Check for other parts that may be stuck to it. Clean them up and then try again.

The part may need more understanding of the present-time situation (explain to it). Remember, it may have been out of the equation for decades and be totally unaware of the subject’s present status or mindset. I have seen soul parts come back that didn’t even understand modern technology and machinery (motor cars and computers).

Try negotiation: “What would it take for you to come home?”

If still no response, try running its departure incident again.

Ask again: does the subject really WANT it back? Would he/she honour it and use it? Talk through any rejection, fears or doubts.


Here’s An Example Of A Soul Retrieval

To get more of a grasp of how this can go, let me outline a soul retrieval session. The patient was a 35-year old female aromatherapist with severe ME. There was no couch, no music, no psycho-galvanometer; just the patient sat in an upright chair, relaxed, with her eyes closed. I decided to begin exploring the psychological aspect of her eczema, which continued unresolved.

Exploration of life issues revealed the fact that she had been left somewhat bereft since her grandmother had died painfully of cancer a few years previously. Father was evidently quite controlling and domineering and perhaps grandmother had been to a degree able to intervene and protect her, if not physically, then with mental resources at a distance.

We reduced the force of the death and bereavement. There were tears. From what was said it was obvious that the patient was still very connected; her images were of “sailing away in a boat” with grandmother. A soul loss was discussed and this seemed real to the patient, who was very aware of higher consciousness issues (but knew nothing of the soul retrieval model).

On the day in question I re-oriented her to the issue of grandmother and asked directly: At that time did a part of you leave? She affirmed yes. I asked her gently “Reach out and find it… in this space, other space or any universe or dimension, wherever”. After quite some time she reported having made contact.

I asked her where is the part? She said “up among the stars, playing with grandmother”. I told her to say hello and tell it “We are here to try and help”. Again, this took some time but eventually she nodded that this had been done. I asked what was happening and she said that grandmother was laughing and playing with the soul part

I said to thank grandma for her good intentions but to ask her respectfully if she would be willing to give back this soul part. The request was denied and grandmother continued to laugh and play. I was careful not to think any judgemental thoughts about grandmother’s attitude, in case these were imparted telepathically and closed down the session.

So I instructed the patient to ask grandmother if she would be willing to speak with me directly — I explained there was no need for magic or mysticism: the patient would be acting as a relay messenger for my words. Yes, grandmother was willing, I was told.

So I asked the patient to explain to her “I am trying to help you (the patient) and that you might need the resources of this other part in order to fully regain your well-being”. Grandma apparently understood but was reluctant. I said “Please tell her from me that she might want to move on to another incarnation and work on some more karma”. But grandma hesitated and didn’t think this was possible. I asked “Is there anything standing in the way of you taking a new incarnation and coming down here again with us?”

The answer was that there was a black sticky cloud hanging around making it difficult. As a shaman, I knew right away what it was and had the patient ask her: “Is this the pain and unhappiness surrounding the final disease?” The answer was yes. The patient now told me Grandma had stopped laughing and fooling around; that she had started to cry and felt confused. Grandma simply didn’t know what to do.

Via the patient I explained that I wanted both of the ladies to carry out a task for me, which was to pour glowing bright energies on the blackness and blow it away: “Gold is best but white or blue will do fine”. I thought it was a good idea to get the patient helping in this task too, since she loved her grandmother so much and would clearly want to help.

Considerable time passed, in which I watched various facial and energetic phenomena. I encouraged them both with various comments and was kept informed as it was melted away. After a long pause I checked and was told that it had gone but it kept coming back. So I said to explain to grandmother that this black mass was her creation but that it was not her self. She should separate from it and stop putting it there. She had done that bit of karma and wouldn’t need it again in the next incarnation, I told her. Yes, she now understood this.

I now turned attention to the missing part and had the patient speak directly to it and ask: “Would you like to come back?” In reply, it said it was unsure. So I left it for a moment and asked the patient: “Would you like the part to come back?” She said yes but I told her not to invite it home yet. I then had her turn back to Gran and ask her: “Would she be willing for the part to come home, that you need it?” Progress; Gran was now fully in agreement!

Back to the patient; I said to her to explain to the part that everything was now OK but that it would now be holding Gran back if it clung on, that she needed to wrap it up here and move on to her next stage of karma. It agreed, reluctantly, to come home.

Setting the stage ready, I had the patient tell Grandma to mock up some beautiful loving hands, ready to hand back the soul part and to mock up some loving hands of her own, ready to receive the part. Ready? Everyone was now poised. “Now take it from her, with love, and say thank you, and then start to pull it towards you”.

After some struggle with this move it was obvious there was still some resistance. I asked the question : “Ask the part what would have to happen for it to be happy to come home?” It answered “I want to be able to see grandma when I wish to”. A little bit of horse trading was called for here.

So I had the patient tell it that Grandma needed to move on, that she had her own purpose to lead, and that if she was truly free she could come down here to earth again and be with those who were dear. I explained that there were many loving couples meet up this way is successive lifetimes and that might be a good answer. I told the part that I had a patient who was the incarnation of her own grandfather.

This seemed to do the trick and the patient at last started to reel it in gently. As the part arrived I saw her face suffuse with a beautiful glow and a smile. I had her welcome it and show it love. This was a very special moment.

All that remained was to sign off with Grandma. I told the patient to go out to her again and say that the time was close for the last farewell. “Not this moment but please decide what course you want to follow and I’ll leave it to you to break the connection and I will know. And I hope to see you again soon”.

Everything seemed OK and, although she was clearly emotional, the patient was smiling with love and sentiment. I ended off and, after giving her the warnings referred to above, took her out for some Gaia energy and a grounding. It seemed like just a matter of moments but the while thing took about 90 minutes. The following week she reported sparkling fizzy energies, which lasted for several days before calming down.

I find it difficult to know what to charge for professional fees with soul retrieval. It almost seems indecent to put such magic into monetary terms.

Copyright (c) 1996 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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