What is paranormal?
Paranormal is a term for exploring human experiences that transcend the five senses. These phenomena include consists of premonition, working with and reading energy, precognition, clairvoyance, telepathy, communication with ongoing consciousness, "hauntings" which involve memory stationed in a physical place or object, poltergeist, and the use of synchronicity to explain coincidental or correlating events.
How does psychotherapy fit into the equation?
Therapy involves understanding and explaining the functions of the mind or psyche using accepted theories and definitions in psychology and as defined in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). While western psychology paradigm doesn't acknowledge a healthy place for psi or psychic phenomena, parapsychologists and-psychotherapists sympathetic to psi utilize official therapeutic standards to determine if a client's extrasensory experience is normal or due to mental disorder (see Clinical Parapsychology by Theresa M. Kelly).
Keep in mind that the function of a therapist who works with psi isn't to 'prove' that such phenomenon exists. Researchers such as William James, father of western psychology, and others have explored psi with skepticism--that is, an open mind without succumbing to bias--using a hypothesis, social science, and the rules of laboratory such as replication to understand and, if possible, explain extrasensory experience. Therapy that considers the possibility of psi aims to assist clients with the impact of their reported extrasensory experience.
What can inhibit a therapist from helping a client who reports psi phenomena?
Yes If, for instance, a therapist sees psi as non-existent or evil, then such a conclusion could hinder the therapeutic progress. While the professional doesn't have to believe in psi, he or she should be clear of personal bias. And if push comes to shove, many psychotherapists adhere to personal, religious, or spiritual phenomena that fall under the category of unexplained phenomena and hallucinatory (i.e. claims of internal experiences without external stimuli such as "hearing God" or "something told me").
Second, there are biases promoted by cultural and epistemological norms that pathologize paranormal experiences (See An Introduction to the Psychology of Paranormal Belief and Experience by Tony Jinks) that can cause the professional to bypass any legitimacy to the client's psi and quickly judge the reported experience as pathological.
Often you hear about evidence-based material in therapeutic approaches. However, those who use such jargon to dismiss psi forget that their position is equally brought about by theory with its own strengths and limitations, personal and collective paradigms that 'determine' reality for all, and experiences, personal and otherwise. Psychology and science can get so attached to these sticky 'truths' that they forget on further testing their studies for possible expansion of consciousness. Worse still, under the guise of "detached observer" any theory explaining human experience outside the 'norm' these same researchers judge as illogical and, of course, without evidence (See Transpersonal Psychologies by Charles T. Tart, Ph.D.). Strangely, some convert friendly debate into antagonism: "...paradigm clashes have been characterized by bitter emotional antagonisms and total rejection of the opponent" (Tart, p. 19).
Isn't psi a sign of being "out of touch" with reality?
Moving in and out of trance states, which we all do, and intentionally using the imagination for constructive purposes such as healing isn't a move away from reality per se. Many religions, spirituality groups, and cultures understand as tapping into greater mysteries. However, those who experience psi should be aware of potential triggers that can commence or derive from a mental disorder.
Is psi the same as delusion and hallucination?
When I served as hospice chaplain, it was common to see patients prior to their transitioning reaching up to hold a loved one. Others were able to share that they had visitors. As far back as I can remember, all of these cases I witnessed and heard about involved loved ones who had died. Moreover, they were comforting in nature. In the medical field they call this hallucination. In the technical sense, they were because these patients were experiencing something (i.e. a felt sense, having a visitation and/or conversation) without external stimuli (i.e. no one was physically present).
The DSM-5, fifth edition 2013, states that "Delusions are deemed bizarre if they are clearly implausible and not understandable to same-culture peers and do not derive from ordinary life experiences" (p.87). Likewise, "Hallucinations are perception-like experiences that occur without an external experience" (p.87).
The DSM-5 seems to avoid making sweeping formulas when considering religion. It adds, "Hallucinations may be a normal part of religious experience in certain cultural contexts" (p.88). I do not have issue with using the term "hallucination" in reference to reported extrasensory experiences as long as a distinction between an experience without external stimuli and psychotic criteria is maintained.
Psychical experiences are said to be Schizoaffective Disorder?
I find this to be an unfair charge. Like schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder has hallucinations and delusions, which include disorganized thinking, depression, and/or mania. While psi can convert into psychosis with done without great care, it is usually orderly, structured, and within volition control, and doesn't take the place of reality as understood by "same-culture peers". Moreover, psi can result in personal healing, altruistic tendencies, and positive emotions that better the client in his or her environment. Schizoaffective disorder cannot bring about such desired outcomes.
What steps would you offer to those who believe in psi?
Accountability! It is important to connect with reputable associations and attend workshops facilitated by individuals with proper credentials to constantly assess and explore one's own psi and how it impacts mental, emotional, relational, and occupational systems.
Another step is to own personal biases. No one is neutral or objective, not even scientists and researchers. So, it is wise to have an open mind and allow for possible alternatives in explaining experiences.
And last, document experiences. Notes taken now can be used to compare with future experiences and, more importantly, possibly serve to detect concerns.