THE PLACEBO EFFECT
It was a sunny day in Essex many years ago in my early musical days. I was standing in a side street with my fellow guitarist looking forward to our gig which was very minor attraction because the Beatles were in town, Of course, we both had Beatles hair cuts as one did back then although it’s something I always seem to have had except when I was at university and had no hair cut at all! Anyway, a sweet old lady ambled past us and gave us a wink; amusing if somewhat disconcerting. Then she turned and came back, looked up at us and said, “I saw you on the telly last night, aren’t you lovely boys and so much better looking in the flesh”. (I made the last bit up!) We realised that she believed we were two of the Beatles – exactly which one I was is something that has occupied my thoughts in idle moments ever since. “Wait till I tell my granddaughter that I have spoken to you” she continued and was so overjoyed that it seemed cruel not to go with the flow and enjoy a few moments of stardom. The point is that belief is a wonderful thing. I met a hospital ward sister a while back and she told me that prior to the world getting its knickers in a twist about ‘human rights’, she used to give patients with insomnia two sugar pills at night and they slept soundly. It’s what is called the placebo effect and could save the NHS a fortune.
These days, as a complementary therapist, it’s something that sceptics often throw at one. “It’s just the placebo effect”, they scorn. Well, that’s fine, nothing wrong with someone believing they will feel better and improving their situation as a result. If I were just harnessing the placebo effect I would be offering something worthwhile but there is more to complementary therapy and there is an increasing bank of research to back up the claims of therapists. It’s true that if you are a ‘believer’ then complementary treatments might work quicker or better but even sceptics can benefit from sessions that are both relaxing and powerful.
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