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The Case Against Private Client Cases - When is help not helping?

There's a lot to be said about how to present yourself or your team as investigators of the paranormal. There's every combination of ways to describe your work, your endeavor, and your overall goal for working in the paranormal. The task is somewhat monumental - the initial impression of yourself or the group you represent is identified by the statement that succinctly and effectually gets your core message across.

It's easy to take a page from any of the thousands of teams and persons out there who publicly investigate, in order to build off of established ideologies or ethics. I think what anyone going out there to publicly present themselves should take into account is what they really want out of investigating. A pivotal question for paranormal investigating that I've asked myself repeatedly, and keep reminding myself to ask, is "who am I doing this for?"

This can become the most complex when a group sets out to enter private homes and investigate for paranormal activity. The premise is nearly always along the lines of "we're here to help", but the definition of help is so obtuse in the context of the (literally) unexplained, that boundaries barely exist, and ideologies are all over the map. Help itself is difficult to define. Boundaries of moral behavior differ across the field of in-home investigators, just as they do outside the paranormal.

A website is usually the main headquarters for presenting all of the things about oneself or team. The About Us, or similar section of so many paranormal groups is rife with one thing that lets me know the most about them: the size of the ego. Sometimes its individual, sometime's its collective. It only takes a quick googling to find scores of websites of teams and read their identifying statements. It doesn't take long to find the ones with egos. Identifiers of the ego are apparent when a team states they exist to help others, but there is no mention of a psychologist, therapist or counselor trained to work with individuals going through grief or particular family crises. Without training to help others with emotional or mental trauma they're experiencing, or perceiving to experience, the ego of the paranormal investigator(s) can become dangerous to the client.

The help the paranormal team offers feels authentic, and like a kind and innocent gesture, but the implications and consequences of helping where there is an inadequacy of ability, can have negative repercussions. I've personally experienced situations where an investigative team entered the home of a family and spent many hours of the night trying to witness and capture something paranormal, all in an endeavor to understand it, or make some sort of logic from it, and interpret it to the family. The final goal was to somehow assist them in lessening their fear, and finding answers. The second part is nearly impossible in the paranormal, the first part is where professionally trained individuals would have the most effective methods.

Many times, a paranormal team is not equipped to provide therapeutic or professional counsel. Some teams recognize that and present a waiver to the clients to exclude them from any damages or consequences. In a way, that might be even more insidious of the team, since they are offering help, with not just zero guarantee, but a legal way out of any negative effect. Is that truly an offer of help?

The lens of perception, however, is so broad in the paranormal (we believe so many different things, that investigations of one property for one family, can end up at odds with each other's findings. This I have been witness to as well. Two teams end up "assisting" the same family, and the results are wildly different, or at most not related at all. Further complicating such a situation is what the family comes to believe of their home, time and time again reporting what was captured by others, not just what they've witnessed while living in the home.

I can't get into the complications of investigators trying to act on some sort of perceived standard of ethical behavior - because again - those things differ between individuals and groups, just as much as paranormal beliefs do. In that sense, it feels nearly impossible to offer help through an investigation to families or individuals in distress without a thorough, legal, professional vetting and interviewing process to screen for alternative causes of distress outside of paranormal phenomena. That is not instituted across the thousands of teams who go into homes to help clients, and it is unlikely to ever become so.

When I ask myself "who am I doing this for", I repeatedly come to a place of self, and want. I want us to experience the paranormal, and I want us to create a beautiful and entertaining way of presenting that experience. I know we can't count on activity everywhere we look for it, and we refuse to lie about that, so we will still make something we're proud of to present our experience to the world.

While I'd love to help anyone I can, I know my limitations and the implications of trying to provide my own perceived answers or ideas to others' lives through the paranormal. We can't in good faith try to do that knowing we're not trained to do so professionally. Investigating a home and sidelining the consequences of potentially hurting someone for the sake of investigating, or gaining from it, can only come from a place of ego.

Simply put: to want to experience the paranormal is fine, but doing so at the expense of others is where the problem lies. The more I witnessed the outcome of some private client cases resulting negatively, the more I understood my direct participation in the potential exploitation of the client's emotional and mental wellbeing. That's where I checked out of private client cases altogether and why FDP doesn't partake in them, and never has.

There's probably a ton of reasons why the ego starts to arc out of control for so many people in the paranormal. When it comes to those groups or individuals, it's only helpful to us in how we identify those we may or may not want to put our support behind. We just don't want to hurt people through something we love and hope to experience, and we wish more folks took a look at why and how they're going about the paranormal when it comes to private clients. Can help really come to anyone, if it comes from an egotistical place in the helper(s)?

Thanks for reading,


I'm Amy L. Bennett, a writer, multimedia artist, recovering archaeologist and YouTuber from Upstate, New York. I've been invested in all things strange and unusual since my dad gave me the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy when I was way too young. Along with my fiancé, Ryan, we've explored countless haunted locations in the US and abroad in search of the Weird.
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