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#006 Induced After-Death Communication with Guest: Noelle St. Germain-Sehr, Ph.D (Part 1)

Updated: Apr 15

Stephen interviews Dr. Noelle St. Germain-Sehr, a member of the team investigating the healing power of After-Death Communication at the University of North Texas.

*The show's host is also the writer/director of the award-winning documentary film LIFE WITH GHOSTS, now streaming at for a limited time.


Listen to the podcast here

Chat With Guest Noelle St. Germain-Sehr, Ph.D (Part 1)

In this episode, we have Dr. Noelle St. Germain-Sehr. We have a very interesting interview. Please, stay with us. Over to you, Stephen.

This is our sixth episode. It's been going great. More people keep on coming in. It seems like people like the show. We have around 2,000 views per show on YouTube and it's going very well. I thought it was a good idea before introducing my guest to restate the show's mission. In the first episode, I said that this show is going to be a little bit different from the movie. The movie got the same name, Life With Ghosts, but in the movie, I took more of an agnostic approach.

I didn't give away that I was a believer. I wanted to be very balanced and let people not be sure where I stood. Once I started the show, I felt like I needed to express my opinion, or else the show would be boring. My opinion is that it's fairly clear that our essence survives this bodily form. There's an overwhelming amount of evidence. I don't think we need to be coy about that any longer.

This show is about celebrating that our loved ones are still with us. I'd like to learn, and I'm sure you would also like to learn, all the different ways that we can contact them. We're going to be interviewing people professionals and non-professionals who are in the habit of talking with ghosts. So far, it's going well. I'm very happy about the trajectory the show is on.

My guest for this episode is Noel St. Germain-Sehr. I'm going to read her bio. Noelle St. Germain-Sehr is a Clinical Associate Professor of Counseling. She's a Licensed Professional Counselor and National Certified Counselor. She has advanced training in Transpersonal Counseling and is the Executive Director of the Center for Grief and Traumatic Loss. She is on the International Board of Induced After-Death Communication Therapy.

Informally, I met Noelle when I flew to Texas for the movie to have the protagonist in the film undergo or sit for Induced After Death Communications Therapy. Noelle was one of the professionals on the team of counselors who were administering that therapy. She works also closely with Jan Holden who's the Director of the study. Noel only got maybe a very short appearance in the film.

Noel is tapping and there's Noelle's face. There you are, Noelle. That was it. She was only in the movie for a couple of seconds but had I known, Noelle, that you were smart and as cool as you are, I would have given you a much bigger part. Noelle, thank you for joining us. I'm so happy that you're here and still looking forward to our conversation.

I'm so happy to be here, Stephen. Anytime.

The Center for Grief and Traumatic Loss that I mentioned in your introduction is the overseeing body of induced after-death communication. What is the relationship exactly?

The gentleman who started or discovered induced after-death communication, which I should mention is a therapeutic intervention that was discovered on accident by Dr. Allan Botkin when he worked at the Chicago Veterans Administration. He was working with veterans who had a traumatic loss, many of them due to the worst wartime situations and many with severe PTSD. He was doing a therapeutic protocol called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR with these veterans trying to help them with their post-traumatic stress related to traumatic grief.

He was working with a particular gentleman and made an alteration to the protocol. This individual had spontaneous after-death communication. After that experience, he had that connection with a child that he had been planning to adopt during the Vietnam War. That's who he had his ADC with or After-Death Communication. Through that experience, he had a resolution of his PTSD symptoms, which is unheard of. It's pretty startling that that happens so rapidly.

Al was very puzzled by this. He began exploring what happened there. To make a long story short, he started experimenting a little bit with bilateral stimulation, which is one of the components of EMDR. It has to do with moving the fingers or tapping. We use tapping in the video, as you saw, to stimulate both parts of the brain while focusing on core sadness. What he discovered was he developed a protocol, which he called Induced After-Death Communication.

It doesn't induce anything, except a relaxed state of mind but through this protocol, he was helping people resolve traumatic grief and loss. He developed an organization called the Center for Traumatic Grief and Loss. He trained therapists in this protocol, which became known as Induced After-Death Communication or IADC. He put them together for this body of practitioners who would oversee the training of IADC across the world. That's the relationship between the two.

One of my favorite things about you is that you are a real researcher/scientist. You come across as erudite and professorial. When I started looking to cast this film, I wanted to make sure that the people who were in it were credible. You always come across as very credible and sincere, and I love that about you. You are one of the very few scientists doing this kind of research. I know it's becoming more acceptable or something like that but there's still a dearth of scientists who are exploring this area. Why is that so?

There's a lot of stigma still attached to the entire field of transpersonal counseling. When we talk about transpersonal, we're talking about anything that extends beyond the material experience of time, space, ego, or person. When we look at exploring that in a scientific manner, and there are a number of researchers across the world doing research whether it's clinical or non-clinical research, it's scientific research into these variety of different phenomena.

There's a lot of stigma still attached to the entire field of transpersonal counseling.

The problem is that there's still so much skepticism about the validity of these experiences and there's a lot of fear. We've talked among ourselves as researchers about some of the issues that limit people’s willingness to explore this and the scientific community’s willingness to accept that this phenomenon, which we have documented for many years, is real. When I say real, meaning they're measurable. They are things that we can study. They continue to reoccur. They have very specific qualities to them.

What we've discussed is not all scientists are this way but if the scientists are coming from a very materialistic view of the world, this is a very fixed perspective. We exist in a very limited framework. Our existence and everything comes from the brain versus maybe things we cannot explain outside of our physical material world.

If scientists are coming from a materialist perspective, it can be very threatening to say that there's anything outside of that because it uproots the entire belief system and everything upon which their science is based. It's very threatening because it uproots everything that they have built their beliefs on and their view of the world. That's where it comes from. It's very challenging for someone's religious beliefs. It's very unsettling. We see that in the scientific world as well.

When you're doing the AIDC Therapy, one question I get a lot, and you could answer this question better than I could, how do we know those people aren't just hallucinating who are saying they are experiencing their deceased loved ones?

There's a real difference between after-death communication and hallucination. We need to start with that because that's one of the questions I get a lot. “How do you know that a person who's experiencing even spontaneous after-death communication isn't just hallucinating?” We hear this term in the literature. I'm working with a research team at the University of Virginia in their Division of Perceptual Studies in the School of Psychiatry.

Life With Ghosts—LET'S CHAT! | Noelle St. Germain-Sehr, Ph.D | After Death Communication
After Death Communication: There's a real difference between after-death communication and hallucination.

One of the things we're looking at is all the different terminology that's been used in the existing scientific literature because there are a lot of different terms that have been used that make it very hard to pull together all the related literature when everybody's using different terminology. One of the most common things we see is grief hallucinations or bereavement hallucinations. Hallucination is a very clinical term and it has very specific qualities to it.

Some of those qualities have to do with things like it's distressing. Generally, hallucinations are not positive experiences for a person who's having them. After-death communication has been reported consistently in the literature by experiencers with a few exceptions but for the most part, it is experienced very positively, healing, and beneficial.

Hallucinations also generally are forgotten, almost immediately once a person maybe is stabilized on medication or has some other kind of stabilizing experience. Whereas after-death communication experiences, individuals can remember these and recall them vividly many years after the fact. Hallucinations are also oftentimes experienced in isolation. We have a term for mass hallucination but it's not the same kind of thing. Whereas, people can have shared after-death communication and well-documented. Oftentimes, people will report a shared after-death communication like parents are losing a child and things like that.

There are different qualities too after-death communication and hallucination. As to whether it is a real experience, it comes down to the person's perception. I have no way to know what another person experiences as real or imaginary but ultimately, what we see pretty consistently is that there's no convincing a person that this isn't real if they've had this experience. I've had clients who've said, “It's so real.” “What tells you that it's real?” They're like, “I just know it.”

There's no tangible evidence per se but we do have these wonderful experiences of what we call vertical after-death communication, where an individual might get information through that communication with their deceased loved one. We're saying disembodied rather than deceased because it's a different way of existing. Their disembodied loved one may provide them with information that they otherwise couldn't have known that can then be verified by a third party or in some other tangible way. I've heard multiple reports of this and that does give us some conclusive information that they couldn't have hallucinated information that they didn't even know any other way.

The therapy featured in the film is Induced After-Death Communication Therapy. You are on the team like in that clip that was administering the therapy. The report was drafted. Was that you and Jan who wrote the report that was published?

Yes. Dr. Jan Holden was the Principal Investigator of the study. She, I, and a team of researchers wrote an article that's going to be coming out soon on Grief Matters, which is The Australian Journal of Brief and Bereavement.

We're not allowed to give the conclusion because it's not on the newsstands yet.

We talk about the results.

Something is significant about the results. Could you give us the bottom line? What could we say about the report? It's news because nobody else has this yet but it’s like, “This is my group so I get to spill the beans.”

We can talk about it for sure. What we saw in the study was for the participants who went through the induced after-death communication, we used a couple of measures like the Hogan Inventory of Grief-Related Symptoms. Hogan measures certain aspects of grief. On certain key aspects, individuals were showing significant improvement in their grief-related symptoms when they went through the IADC protocol.

Life With Ghosts—LET'S CHAT! | Noelle St. Germain-Sehr, Ph.D | After Death Communication
After Death Communication: Participants who went through the induced after-death communication protocol showed marked improvement in their grief-related symptoms.

We also looked at an inventory called the Continuing Bonds Inventory. That looked at the sense of connection that people had that the relationship continued with their loved ones. We saw again with IADC that scores were very high and they had a reduction in the distressing symptoms of grief on the Hogan. What we did was compare induced after-death communication with traditional talk therapy for grief. What's important here is that we only did two sessions of counseling or IADC in this study.

In regular counseling, you wouldn't go to counseling for two sessions of talk therapy and expect your grief to be improved. That's not realistic. In actuality, that's what we saw. We had some people who did the traditional talk therapy sessions, which increased their distress. We continued working with them. Many of them opted for the IADC protocol after the study ended and had improvement in their grief symptoms. Those who went through the IADC protocol in the two sessions showed clinically significant improvement in their symptoms.

In the field of counseling, this is pretty unheard of, to have that kind of rapid relief from distress particularly related to grief. What we've known up to this point has been talk therapy, either individually or in groups but usually, it takes a lot longer for people to feel relief. The most significant aspect of what we found in the study is this seems to be a shorter-term beneficial treatment for grief than what we've had historically

Could we say that it's vastly superior to traditional grief counseling because I got Jan Holden to admit that? Will you admit that?

The clinical results, in my opinion, are significantly better than talk therapy. I worked with a lot of clients in that study. Every single one of them walked out of there with some improvement. I can't say that's true for every client in a traditional talk therapy environment, particularly with grief. In two sessions, it's unheard of. Grief is persistent and pervasive. It changes over time.

When we talk about relief from grief, we're talking about a reduction in significant distress. It doesn't mean the person's not missing their loved one. You're going to miss them. It's not removing the connection or the loss but it improves the incredible pain of the distress. It seems to benefit in terms of some of those real significant distressing symptoms.

When you were talking about whether these things could be considered hallucinations, I forgot to mention that Allan Botkin, when he's asked that question, won't answer it. I thought you could tell me if this is true but he advised his therapist in the field to also not answer the question because it's up to the sitter. Is that true?

Everybody’s experience is the person's experience. I can never say as a therapist what's real for another person. Even as a human being, I can't say who's experience is real or not real, or valid or not. That's not for me to decide. It's important. What Allan is trying to say is that we have to be very humble in this experience as a therapist. We can't claim that we have some kind of way of knowing whether something is real or not real. To me, what matters is a person's quality of life improved. Does the person experience some healing? That's what I'm looking at. That's what matters to me. How that happens and in what form, whether it is mystical, transpersonal in nature, or something internal? I know what I believe but I'm not going to impose that on a client.

In my experience with IADC therapists, I probably interviewed ten or so for the film. They all said, “Yes, we're not supposed to say,” but when I said off the record, they almost seemed giddy about saying, “Yes, it's happening.” There's somewhat constrained formally but they wanted to tell me, “I believe this is happening.” That was a confidence builder for me.

As a therapist, it was amazing to me because I experienced things in the room that I couldn't explain. I had this client who was telling me she was having an after-death communication first with her brother and then with her deceased mother-in-law. She mentioned that her other relatives were there too but she was overcome with this feeling of peace and love. I could feel something in the room. It was this emotional overwhelm of love and peace in the room that was very hard to argue with. I could feel that.

There’s a subjective experience for therapists who have been in these experiences. I've also felt like a hand on my shoulder urging me on at different times. I've had transpersonal experiences as a therapist working with clients. I can't explain what it is but I can tell you what I feel whether it's in my body or experience. I know the difference between something that I'm thinking and hearing. It's not like an auditory hearing but it's not me coming up with it.

Here's a two-part question for you. What is the success rate of the therapy? Will it work for me if I'm a skeptic?

The success rate varies depending on what you look at. What Al found was in the beginning, when nobody had any expectations, he was having a 100% success rate with his client. Once he started doing this protocol very consistently and talking with people like, “This is what I'm doing,” people started having expectations. What we've seen, we thought in the study too, is that when people have a really strong feeling like, “I want this experience, I want to see my loved one,” we can't make that happen.

We can't induce an after-death communication. What we are inducing is a relaxed and receptive state. The bilateral stimulation, like an EMDR, increases the distress at first and then plateaus and drops off. At the point where it drops off, that's where people become a little more open and receptive. When they're focusing on that poor sadness related to the grief and the loss and they've had that distress reduced, they tend to have an IADC.

Not everybody does but I've heard 70% to 80%, it depends, will report having an ADC. What's funny to me is even though you explain to people what after-death communication may look like, some people will describe their experience and it's classified as an IADC but don't recognize that's what it is. I have one client who told me she felt her husband's hand on her hand but then at the end, she said, “I don't know if I had an ADC.” I said, “Technically, that's considered after-death communication. It's a tactile ADC.” It depends on how the person classifies it.

Even though you explain to people what after-death communication may look like, some people will describe their experience and it is it's classified as an ADC, but they don't recognize that's what it is.

The second part of your question was if you're skeptical, it is even better. If you're trying and you want it, that can get in your way. If you're skeptical, you're more open in some regards because even if you believe it's not going to happen, you're not trying to have the experience. That doesn't seem to block people from having it. What interferes is when people are grasping like that client I mentioned that communicated with her brother.

She wanted to talk to her mother-in-law. She was grasping and grasping at that. When she let go of that and went into gratitude, then she had the experience. Instead of, “I want to talk to her and know,” when she flipped over to, “I appreciate her,” and we processed through some of the grasping and she shifted that grasping to gratitude, she had an ADC. Al talks about it in his book. He's had several skeptics that came in and they had ADCs. Some of them are pretty profound.

Most people seem to be having a successful IADC experience but not everybody. I'll take the win but why isn't everybody having the experience?

There are a lot of reasons. One of them is some people might have the grasping or wanting a certain type of experience, which can block them from being open to what is there. If you want to see the person, for example, you might not be paying attention or being open to the fact that you might be having some other sensory or nonsensory connection.

A lot of ADC is a sense of presence. It's not that you hear or see the person, or smell their perfume, cologne, or aftershave. You might not even be allowing yourself to be open enough to recognize and experience. Some people might not have an experience because they might have fear of having an experience. For example, there was someone in the study whose religious beliefs were such that any kind of communing with the dead was forbidden. They didn't want to participate once they found out what it was about. Even if there's some fear, it can prohibit somebody from being open.

Remember, the key with any ADC spontaneous or otherwise is being open to whatever happens and not trying, also not being afraid. If you have fear about, “If I connect with my loved one, might I connect with something malevolent,” it might block you from being open. Those kinds of things can have an impact. There are some instances where a person might also have maybe a conflictual or might be afraid of connecting with somebody. Maybe they had an abusive relationship or something like that.

The key with any after-death communication, spontaneous or otherwise, is just being open to whatever happens and not being afraid.

I had a client like that in the study. She did connect with her husband, even though they have had an abusive relationship. She had a positive experience of that because it was very healing for her in terms of what she got from that experience. If somebody's afraid like, “I'm not sure I want to connect with my father, my mother, or whoever,” then that may block it too. There are a variety of reasons that could keep a person from having an experience because it relies on being open.

We heard of Graham Maxey, who also does induced after-death communication therapy. If people want to have an ongoing relationship with their deceased loved ones, Graham said something about how once you know the way there, you can get there. Is that true?

I firmly believe that. It's my experience and belief. What IADC does is something anybody can do for themselves. A lot of people, when they hear about IADC, they're like, “I want to do that.” Remember, this is a therapeutic intervention for grief. It's something we want to be available for people but you don't need it to be able to connect. The key is learning how to be open and deeply feel the connection that already exists between you and your loved ones. It's already there. It's believing that the connection persists that gets in people's way of feeling it.

Life With Ghosts—LET'S CHAT! | Noelle St. Germain-Sehr, Ph.D | After Death Communication
After Death Communication: The key is learning how to be open and really deeply feel the connection that already exists between you and your loved ones.

One of the other keys that IADC does is it creates a relaxed calm state. There's too much mental chatter that we usually have so meditation is something a lot of people have done on their own that has helped. I even had a client who was doing meditation after his mother died and had a spontaneous ADC with her. Part of that is because of getting quiet and still, getting the mental chatter out, letting go of some of the, “I need to connect,” but rather, “I'm open,” and allowing that kind of openness in a still quiet environment to be there.

The connection is there. We've heard that. I had a profound experience. My very last client in the study had an amazing connection with his wife and fiancé, both of whom had died. He was communicating with them and verbalizing things as he was hearing from them and talking back and forth with them but he was doing it out loud. I could hear the dialogue. One of the things that he was saying was they want to connect with us. They need us to shut up and let them in. He didn't say it that way but that's what it sounded like to me. They need us to get quiet, still, and open.

That was one of the revelations I had in the making of this film. I didn't realize that they're just as interested in us as we are in them. They want to hear from us and talk to us. They want to assure us and they miss us. It makes sense that it would be equal.

I talk to my mom all the time, Stephen. Sometimes, I hear from her and sometimes, I don't. Another thing is if we continue the connection, there's more of a chance that you'll get something in return. My father told me about what we refer to as symbolic after-death communication where he sees something. I remember he told me about a license plate he saw one day that had something on it that was like my mother talking to him. He knew. Those kinds of things happen all the time if we remain open and aware. One of the myths is, “That's wishful thinking. You're putting these connections together.” That's not what we see when we look at research.

I have to admit something to you, Noelle. You’re a counselor. I could talk to you candidly. It's just between us. I'm very open and welcoming to my deceased loved ones. I'm always trying to be very generous of spirit, as they would say. When I want a sign or haven't got any sign, I can get frustrated. Sometimes, I even get a little bit annoyed with my deceased loved ones who are not showing up.

We had somebody on, Cheryl Page, who set us all straight by saying, “This is not a spectator sport. You have to invest some time and energy yourself. Ask for what you want and pay attention. If you're not seeing signs, ask them to help you. Figure out what the signs are.” That was very helpful. I wanted you to comment on this. I get frustrated with them.

To me, that is natural. Think about it this way. You're talking about a relationship. This is your relationship with people who are no longer embodied with us. If you have a relationship with somebody who's here and you're trying to talk to them, and they're preoccupied with their phone or not available, you get frustrated with them too. In other words, we have this expectation that just because they're not embodied, they have all the time in the world hanging around waiting for us to contact them. They're sitting there going, “I'm here now.”

It is a two-way street. We have to recognize that if it's a continued relationship and they continue to exist, the expectation is that we put forth effort and they put forth effort. They're trying but they have to work like we have to work to connect. We have to work to connect with our loved ones who are still here. We have to work to connect with them and they have to work to connect with us.

The other thing that Al said was that he heard from a client who was communicating with his brother. He asked about connecting. One of the things that the client's brother said is, “You're not in charge. We decide when we come through if we come through.” It's always based on what's best for the person who's still living or the person who's still embodied. It's not up to us to decide.

We may want it. We may feel like we need it but that's another part of it. That's coming from Al's experience but it is something to consider. We sometimes are grasping at what we want without consideration for their capability at the moment or how much energy it might take for them, whether it's right for us or it's what we need.

I also appreciated what Cheryl Page said. Don't forget to ask if they have a message for us. We concentrate on our agenda that we forget that they might want to impart something in this direction.

It’s like seeking a higher wisdom and being open. I can't stress enough the idea of openness. There are times in my life when I miss my mom terribly. I would do anything to be able to connect with her and have her here. It may not be what I want or need now. Be open to that sense of, “What do you think I need now? I'll stay open to it.” It may come in a form I don't expect. That's the other thing. They might be helping us but if we want it to look a certain way, we may miss it.

A lot of people will ask this question also. Can I use this therapy if I want to connect with my Saint Bernard?

Yes. People have spontaneous after-death communication with pets. If you can have spontaneous after-deaf communication with whatever, you can have an IADC or an ADC that's facilitated with a deceased or disembodied pet. Al talks about that in his book. He has a pretty funny story about it. Graham has told me about his cat visiting him and things like that.

Gary, do you have any questions for Noelle?

It’s a very dynamic interview. You're such a great speaker. Thank you so much. Graham mentioned when he was on that he didn't name it IADC. He thought it was a bit of a misnomer because you're not inducing anything. You're bringing a person to a state of relaxation. He said, “All the work is happening with those on the other side.” You agree with that. I can see it from your nods.

I do. Al said the same thing. He said, “I regret naming it that but I can't change it because it's out there.” I am a full-time counselor educator so I get a lot of requests for doing IADC but I don't take new clients. I just refer people the therapy. The induction induces a relaxed state. It's unfortunately named.

It’s exactly what meditation does, right?

That's what I was saying before. You can do this on your own with other forms. Psychedelic-assisted therapy is another one that people are talking about. It has the potential for people to have transpersonal experiences of all varieties. If done well, psychedelic-assisted therapy is incredibly healing. There are many different types. There's Guided Imagery and Music, meditation, and other types of interventions that are either facilitated or you can do on your own that can help to bring about these kinds of centered, quiet, and calm receptive states.

Noelle, this has been delightful. I could spend another hour talking to you. Hopefully, we'll have that opportunity at some time in the future. Go ahead, Stephen.

Thank you so much, Noelle. That was a lot of fun. I think you already know this but I love you. I love you, everybody.

I love you too, Stephen. I think you know it.

Thank you so much for being here. Is there any message you would like to leave everybody with before you go, whether it’s a mission that you have or contact information if you want to give that?

I have an IADC website and my contact information is available through that website. The main thing is that grief is an experience. It's very personal and individual. No person's grief is like any other person's grief. No grief around one loss is the same as grief around another loss. It's all very unique. One of the main things is recognizing that even though people talk about having these experiences, and it can be easy to think what's wrong with me if I'm not having these experiences, our life is about living our lives and allowing ourselves to do the things that bring us as much peace, joy, and happiness as we can while we're here.

I believe in trying to take every day like, “This is the day or moment that I've got.” It's so valuable. For me, much of living is about not taking it for granted. I want to leave people with that. Enjoy as much as you can enjoy. If there's healing to be had, I believe that suffering has a purpose but we do not have to stay in suffering. We can find healing. For each person, it's a personal journey. Everybody's doing their work and everybody's got their suffering. There are ways of trying to support each other and help each other through that. It’s what makes a better place.

 Very well said. Thank you so much, Noelle.

Thank you, Stephen. I appreciate you creating space and a healing environment, also holding space for people to share their experiences, be together, and be curious. Thank you, Stephen and Gary.

Thank you for saying that.


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