Either I am a “moron” or healing doesn’t work!

Here’s the problem: Ninety-nice percept of healing is a placebo.

Very few people can get their heads around this.  I believe that if you can understand this statement you are more likely to be healed or be able to heal others.

The “moron” part of the blog title is what I remember being called by the founder of an international healing technique. (She may have said “idiot.” I did my best to let go of it.)   I’ve written about this before, but it came up again today when a reader asked me how I could say that a healing technique was a placebo given that it “works” for him.  (My reply listed lots of good scientific studies, it’s worth reading it at the bottom of this page.)

It’s both new healing students and experienced teachers that get this all wrong. They don’t understand the placebo effect and as a result they don’t understand the meaning of the word “works.”

Of course healings “work” – if by that you mean that some people get better.  Of course placebos work – it’s well known lots of people given the sugar pill will heal.   But what does it mean to say that something really works?

What does “works” really mean?

The problem is that “works” is a subjective concept (whether it works depends on what I want and how I feel about it).  It’s also a statistical concept (whether it works depends on following a lot of people over a long period of time).

So how do I define the word “works”?  Well in relation to healing (including Allopathic medicine), the word “works” has a fairly precise meaning.  For instance a pharmaceutical drug isn’t approved unless the manufacturer can show that it is more effective than a sugar pill placebo.  If you give a sugar pill to your cancer patient and 20% of people heal because they believe in it, then the real drug has to heal more than 20% of people before you can say that the drug “works.”  If the drug heals 15% of people, it’s still great for those people, but you cannot say that the drug works.

What’s more, even if the drug is better than a placebo, doctors want to know if it “works” better than all the other drugs out there.  Suppose the existing drug for high blood pressure has a success rate of 50% (against a placebo effect of 30%).  If I invent a new drug that works on 45% of people, it’s better than a placebo, but does it really work?  No, not really.

So ladies and gentlemen, my definition of “works” is this: a treatment works if it’s more effective than a placebo AND better than the alternative treatment.

What’s this got to do with alternative healing?

Back to the teacher who sent me the aggressive email. She asked how stupid could I be not to see that XX healing works? In her mind, the fact that just one person was healed of something like cancer meant that XX works. I can certainly see her point of view. It’s not so much that we disagree but that we have a different definition of “works.”

So does healing work?

Let’s start with something pretty obvious. I think every healing technique can point to at least one success story.  They have to, I mean that’s where healing techniques start from in the first place. So the question is “Is it enough that some people healed, or do I want to know overall percentages?”

If you are with me then hopefully you’ll agree that we need percentages. Back to the lady who sent me the angry email. She claims to have had over 30,000 clients and has a few testimonials saying “she healed my cancer.”  But if the technique worked, wouldn’t there be thousands of testimonials?  Even a sugar pill placebo can usually help 20-30% (that would be up to 9,000 of her clients).  To say that something works, I’d want to see evidence of 10-15,000 of these instant healings.  Needless to say, that evidence doesn’t exist.  If it did, the entire world would know about that therapy.

So you see the problem wasn’t the therapy, but rather our definition of the word “works.”  Her definition was different to mine by a factor of about 1,000.  She was right – her technique did work (for 10 or 100 people) and I was right because it did not work for 1,000 people, let alone 10%.  We were both right, but the definition was wrong!

What does this mean for you?

This information is vitally important for you as a consumer.  For example one of the worst culprits of this “works” scandal is the network marketing industry.  There’s always a hot new designer supplement. You’ll hear about how person X experienced a miraculous healing, and on the basis of that you’ll be asked to part with your hard-earned cash.  But does it really work?  In almost all cases, independent analysis of network marketing supplements suggests the answer is “no.”  Most of the products help (they are supplements) but offer little or no added value over the much cheaper alternatives.

The same applies to the next healing workshop you are considering investing in, or the next therapy session.  Will some lucky souls experience a breakthrough? I’m sure of it. Will you? It is statistically unlikely. It’s like the lottery –someone is going to win money, but it is still irrational to try.

What can you do about this?

Be a smart consumer.  Ask a therapist or teacher about realistic meaningful results. Ask to speak to people who have done the course, and then ask them about how everyone else on the course went. Try to ascertain what percentage of people got the claimed results.

In theory all practitioners should keep a track record of their success rates. In practice almost none do. One reason is that it is hard to keep up with all ex-clients.  I found a way though – offer a money back guarantee. By offering to refund unhappy clients, you make sure you know about them.  That way you can continually strive to reach that 100% goal.

With our work, RPT, we are sitting on a success rate above 80%, I think it’s about 90%.  Whilst that’s not perfect, it’s much higher than pure chance and at least 5 times higher than any other healing technique that has been scientifically tested.

The purpose of today’s blog was to educate smart consumers of healing.  When you read about healing claims ask “would this apply to me?”  Ask “how many people get these results?”  And more than anything, be a smart consumer. All of those questions should be asked to RPT, and the right teacher for you is the one who can answer them.

I look forward to hearing your comments


PS Newer visitors to this blog might like to read some of my other detailed papers about the placebo effect.  Please click here and see the more detailed article in the PDF link at the bottom.

February 22, 2012 in Placebo effect

20 Responses

  1. Was i the first post? Hooray i just wanted to claim this title.

    Another interesting read. I have a few thoughts but not enough time to respond.

    Thanks for another informative post.


    Simon Rose Reply:



  2. This is very interesting and somehing I remember I wanted to help alleviate a while ago.

    What I looked at was building an alternative healing website, where people could post reviews of workshops, therapies and practitioners, kinda like the amazon.com review system.

    Anyway, barring that it’s all word of mouth, and it’s like travel, most people say they had a great trip, and if the trip sucked they don’t talk about it much… also people need quite an extensive network to be able to inform themselves about any random therapist. Much like the regular doctor, I guess, most people take the one they get.

    But you’re right we should all be smarter consumers, that goes for alternative therapy, clothing we wear (how old was the maker of that ten rupee tshirt you found in the market stall in goa? oh those stylish hippie chix…. ), food we eat and political parties we support… but what to do?


    Simon Rose Reply:

    Is that the Scandinavian way? Wow, here it’s the opposite. If someone had a good trip you hear nothing. But if something went wrong – that’s a story.

    You can see this clearly on TripAdviser. Plenty of people have perfect holidays and don’t really bother leaving a review. But one bad experience and they are all over the internet. I am the same – I comment more on Trip Adviser when I need to “warn” others than when I had the same good experience as everyone else.

    I’m not sure if this is relevant, just thought it was interesting to share a different perspective.

    Otherwise your review site is a good idea.

    My friend Richard Swift has talked a lot about his “Compare Results” preoject which is a public website to compare results from everything from sports training methods to healing techniques. I can’t wait for it to be public as I will be a big user. I really want to make the results of RPT public and transparent.



    Geir Reply:

    Hard to say, maybe it IS different here? OR my friends are more about the positive aspects?

    I dunno, hopefully some other Scandinavians can chime in on that one ;)

    Do we speak more about positive sides of movies, trips and healers than the positives? Or is it random/ up to the person, and not about nationality at all?

    Anyway I think it is good you called me on it, sometimes I use too many metaphors.


    Healing seeker Reply:

    if your site is not big the doctor might come himself to rate him, or send his stuff and you will have 100% positive results for the worst doctor.
    On the other hand you might save money for some lawyer for the case some doctor get a load of bad results

    just my 2 cent

  3. For me the key word is ‘Heal’.
    It’s a totally misused word! To heal something means to solve the problem permanently (to me). And yet – in my experience – most ‘healing’ methods rarely solve a problem fully and permanently. As you say Simon, some do sometimes, but usually the ‘healing’ is just a temporary (and often euphoric) relief of symptoms. And then the problem comes back, in one form or another, because the real *cause* of the problem has not actually been addressed.

    That’s why I was drawn to RPT – it recognizes TRAUMA as the cause of our problems (something that makes perfect sense), and furthermore provides a simple and elegant method of healing the consequences of trauma (thus removing the cause of the problem, permanently).


  4. I’m not sure…

    If something “works” for a lot of people it doesn’t mean that it has to work for me, too.

    If it does work for all of my friends and I’ll try it, too there’s a lot of expectation and – perhaps – pressure… and how do I feel if it doesn’t work for me?

    So what does a success rate about 90% mean to me if it doesn’t work for me?

    Doesn’t that just make me feel more bad?
    And doesn’t it get harder for me to get success with the next method – no matter what success rate it has?

    Even though I think there’s not “one thing” that works for all people and problems.



    Simon Rose Reply:

    Michaela, my gut feel is that a technique that works is one that should work for everybody. Clearly no technique does work 100% of the time but that’s because of issues like secondary gain.

    However – and this is the key bit – the blocks that stop RPT working all the time are blocks that would block any other technique.

    In other words if someone says “RPT didn’t work for me” then I guarantee you it’s due to secondary gain and outside interference. That’s OK (I mean not anyone’s fault) but sadly, no other technique is going to work either. Secondary gain blocks everything till it’s healed.

    So in that sense I agree:
    > And doesn’t it get harder for me to get success with the next method – no matter what success rate it has?

    maybe not for the reasons you were thinking (which was negative thinking). Rather, the real reason why something like RPT failed will ensure everything fails – until that “blockage” is cleared.

    That’s why we do so much secondary gain work in RPT.

    Your question is great and this is just a summary. I am posting a full article today inspired by your question. A big THANK YOU!



    Michaela Reply:

    Hi Simon,

    my thoughts are running… ;-)

    I’m just thinking about this
    “In other words if someone says “RPT didn’t work for me” then I guarantee you it’s due to secondary gain and outside interference. That’s OK (I mean not anyone’s fault) but sadly, no other technique is going to work either. Secondary gain blocks everything till it’s healed.”

    When someone comes to you and he’s not feeling better after working with you, your belief is that no other method will be able to help him?

    So what do you say to the client in this cases?
    Sorry.. seems that there’ll be no solution for you?

    Or do you have an idea how to “catch” the missing 10%?
    Or any suggestions what the client can do to get better?



    Simon Rose Reply:

    It’s an excellent question Michaela, but I don’t have an easy answer. It’s something for us to all discuss.

    My strategy as much as possible is to guide the client to taking personal responsibility. Many succeed. And those that fail – well they aren’t ready yet. And I would bet $1 million that if RPT fails for this reason, then every other technique will fail for the same reason.

    Notice how I said “for this reason.” There are other reasons a session might fail that aren’t included in this prize. For instance the client might just not like the practitioner. Or the other way around. That’s not necessarily a responsibility issue.

    Back to your question, no I don’t say “there’s no solution.” I say “here is the road-map to your success. Sometimes it’s a quick fix, but this is one of those times where there are steps to take, obstacles to overcome. Here is some homework for you and I want you to report back to me in a few weeks with how you are going.”

    Up to a point you can use the tools of RPT to fix the problem that’s blocking personal responsibility (e.g. fear). But we can’t fix everything, and that’s why we say it’s about 90% successful. It could be more, but it’s not 100%.

    In the class I give detailed case studies of all the clients I can think of that didn’t heal, and I explain why not. I think this is important, though one of our teachers said that I sounded pessimistic – it sounded like I spoke about more failures than successes! This is because I guess I take the successes for granted – it SHOULD work so I’m not surprised when it does. And you can learn more from failure.

    Well that’s my view anyway, as they say “you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.” that’s how it is with healing.


  5. @ Ben

    I think it’s not just RPT that sees a trauma / event / energy blockage as a cause of the problem.
    A lot of other modalities do, too.
    And each of it has it’s own way to unlock the trauma / event / energy blockage.



    Simon Rose Reply:

    hi Michaela
    I realize your comment was aimed at Ben but I know him well and feel I can answer on his behalf as he hasn’t responded yet. (Ben jump in if you need to.)

    Yes there are many techniques focusing on trauma. RPT was not original, we got this idea from others. And yes, every technique has it’s own way to *try* to unlock that trauma.

    So Ben agrees with you, but with the greatest of respect, I think you missed Ben’s point. Ben wasn’t saying that RPT was unique in the respect you mentioned. Rather, he’s saying this (to quote him):

    >and furthermore provides a simple and elegant
    >method of healing the consequences of trauma

    RPT is unique, not because it can heal trauma but in HOW it heals trauma. That’s the “simple and elegant” bit.

    For example, prior to RPT, I believe that every single successful technique for clearing trauma required the person to re-live the trauma to some extent. Even if not fully re-living it, it was necessary to talk about it – to tell the practitioner that X occurred so that it could be healed.

    RPT is unique in that this is unnecessary. You can heal the trauma, in fact you can heal hundreds of traumas simultaneously, without even working on trauma. The best example of this is the fertilization exercise on Level 2. As all Level 2 graduates will agree, we demonstrate in class that a client can list 100 traumas without telling the practitioner anything at all. All can be healed at once, without even talking about trauma. We just use the egg metaphor.

    So yeah, there are other tools for trying to heal trauma, but to me they seem barbaric. They make the client re-live their darkest days, and just as bad, they make the practitioner listen to it (causing secondary trauma).

    I vote for the simple and elegant way.



    Ben Ralston Reply:

    Hi Michaela, I have annoyed people in the past with my writing about RPT as ‘the best’… I don’t know if it is the best – there may be other techniques out there that work as well, or better. But I haven’t heard of them.
    And i don’t know how much you know about RPT, so I hope you won’t feel patronized by what I’m about to say – could be that your meaning of ‘energy’ is different to mine. But RPT doesn’t actually ‘unlock an energy blockage’ as you say (at least, that is not the intention). And I think that most ‘energy healing’ is ineffective for precisely this reason – that it focuses on ‘energy’ (which is a very hard thing to define anyway). RPT is much clearer in it’s purpose – which is to release the *instinct*, and the deep feelings associated with it.
    To me the key is what Simon talks about a lot (and I learnt it from him in the first place!) – results. A good RPT practitioner can guarantee results (around 90% of the time). Very few practitioners of other methods would do that.
    With love, Ben


    Michaela Reply:

    Hi Ben,

    thanks for your answer.
    I’m not annoyed about what you’ve written.

    I like disussions like this.

    They give me new insides and sometimes a new points of view. ;-)

    I’m always looking for methods that work gentle AND effective.

    I think we’re thinking differently about energy.

    90% results is really wonderful.

    So I love to learn more about it and we can discuss again after it. ;-)



  6. Hi Simon,

    first I have to say that I don’t know the “new” RPT yet – so I can’t talk about the differences.

    >I vote for the simple and elegant way.<
    I totally agree.

    In ZPoint (www.zpointforpeace.com) for example there's no need to tell anything about the problem and you don't have to re-live it.
    It's a really painfree method.
    And if you get the right one then all the traumas that "built up" on the first one will disappear or heal at once, too like a domino effect.

    But.. we've got to work on something. ;-)

    I'm looking forward to experience your new work. Perhaps I see it differently afterwards.



  7. A comment on placebos. I was recently watching a Oprah show with Anthony Robbins. At the end of the show they did a firewalking ceremony. After researching how firewalking really works, I am thinking that this is the ultimate placebo. However if it makes a person more empowered good for them.



    Simon Rose Reply:

    An excellent example Jim. Also Anthony is an example of what Dmitry and I were commenting on the master/guru phenomenon. His stuff works not because of NLP but because of his amazing energy.

    As to the fire walking – you know why the warn the participants “don’t do this at home”? It’s because it’s quite safe to walk on the right type of coal, because it’s porous (mostly air). All of the positive thinking etc is just smoke and mirrors, it’s safe to walk on hot coals.

    What’s NOT safe is to make a fire at home and walk on it. New burnt wood is not porous like old coal. It burns. So you get these poor shmucks who drink the Kool Aid, go home espousing the positive thinking mantra to their skeptical friends, build a fire to prove it, and get terribly burned. Sad but true story proving your placebo theory.

    That said, Robbins gets results and I respect that. As long as people don’t know the truth about the coal (and don’t do it at home), it changes lives for the better.



  8. Healing seeker

    Dear simon,
    “Many succeed. And those that fail – well they aren’t ready yet. And I would bet $1 million that if RPT fails for this reason, then every other technique will fail for the same reason.”

    I take that up. You seem really confident about this. So what about a method that softly prepares the client and already begins to work before the client is ready for the actual deeper work.

    Lets say one might give some prayer or some chant for preparation which will soften the heart. Lets say the client is a little afraid to open to the doctor and don’t want to really cooperate some meditations made at home could soften the fear and let the client open himself for the session. Does rpt already cover this case?

    Hereby i admit that i don’t know anything about rpt and it is really hard to guess where you might some loophole in your radar which would make it not working for some special type of case.
    But i am quite interested in the challenge, even if it is only on a theoretical level.
    best greetings


  9. This blog has an eye catching title, but I would say that neither statement is true. Healing works and clearly Simon isn’t a moron. I really rather enjoy healing. And if that means I am the one person out of three that heals from a placebo then so be it. It doesn’t really matter to me how it’s perceived, defined or explained. I’m always happy to improve, heal and evolve and I’ve found RPT to be a quintessential tool for this… Perhaps even the favourite in my healing tool box.

    You may have already seen this documentary on the placebo effect but if not it’s WELL worth a look http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvbQnMvhQFw&feature=related

    I especially enjoyed the segment from about 39 minutes in.

    I’m glad this blog is still open to comments, placebo and nasebo are fascinating topics.



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