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Therapeutic and other hoaxes

12 more current suspected hoaxes

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Some of the belief and therapy systems that we suspect to be hoaxes (or partial hoaxes) are listed below. Please read our disclaimer before going further:

  1. Thought Field Therapy (TFT) This is a new, experimental therapeutic technique which is a close cousin to EMDR. TFT's efficacy and safety have yet to be evaluated.  However, this does not stop large numbers of therapists and counselors who have started to use it on their clients. TFT attributes emotional problems to blockages in energy fields within he body. Pseudo-scientists often talk about energy fields or power centers in the body that cannot be detected by any instruments known to humanity. "In order to correct these perturbations, clients are directed by the TFT therapist to tap on the body's 'energy meridians' in specific sequences, called 'algorithms,' which vary based on the particular problem being treated. For example, the client may be instructed to tap at the corner of the eyebrow five times and then continue tapping on other parts of the body in a specific sequence as instructed by the therapist. In addition, the clients are told to roll their eyes, count, and hum a few bars of a song at various points during the treatment." 1

    There are two positive features of TFT and EMDR therapy:

    bulletThese treatment methods seem to have little opportunity to seriously damage the client, except financially.
    bulletMany therapists and counselors have switched from RMT therapy, which is profoundly dangerous, to TFT and EMDR

    It will probably take another decade before these a consensus is reached that two therapies are useless. We hope that EMDR and TFT are around for a long time, because the new untried, experimental therapies that will eventually replace them may have greater potential to injure clients.

    The Skeptics Dictionary reports that Monica Pignotti was trained in thought field therapy

    "...and became a believer but then did a controlled experiment in which she treated half her patients with taps on the places taught by Callahan and the other half by tapping at random places. She says she got the same (good) results with both groups, which suggests that the power of suggestion (the placebo effect) is what is really at work here."

    A similar study performed on acupuncture produced the same results.
     

  2. Trauma Counseling: This involves counseling people who have just experienced a traumatic experience. Sometimes, trauma experts descend on a school after a shooting or suicide. About 9,000 experts came to New York City after 9-11. Although the therapists mean well, it appears that trauma counseling does not help; on average, it may make the victim worse.  Richard Gist, a psychology professor at the University of Missouri said:"If this was a drug, we'd take it off the market. Instead, it has taken on the force of a religious movement."

    Columnist Margaret Wente comments:
    "It turns out that the most effective form of trauma counseling is the old-fashioned, private, unprofessional, unpaid kind -- the kind delivered by your mother with a pot of chicken soup, or the folks next door who offer to look after your kids or drive you to the hospital or cut your grass, or the friend who just hangs out with you, and takes you for a movie and a beer, and isn't trying to debrief you."
    To this, we might add volunteers at Distress Centers, (a.k.a. Crisis Centers, Suicide Prevention Bureaus).

    She continues:
    "...the grief industry has trivialized grief. It has turned it into a pathology, then promised us the cure. It has infantalized our culture, and cheapened mourning, and encouraged us to lose our collective sense of what genuine tragedy is, and how time heals if we let it." 2

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  3. Contracting brain cancer from cell phones: Several researchers and activist groups have warned of the possibility of a link between the use of cell phones and several types of cancer -- including brain cancer. Some studies seemed to point to such a cause and effect relationship. However, a massive 30-year study of medical data on two types of brain tumors -- gliomas and meningiomahas -- has been completed. Included are almost the entire adult Scandinavian population -- adults aged 20 to 79 from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden between 1974 and 2003. A stead increase in tumor incidence was detected, but it started about 1974, long before cell phones existed. 3
     
  4. Autism being caused by ingredients in vaccines: Various vaccination programs have had phenominal successes in controlling, and in some cases, eliminating diseases. However, they have always had their opponents. A recent movement has arisen that blames ingredients in vaccines for the drastic increase in autism rates. 4 It was triggered in part by a 1998 article in The Lancent, a British medical journal. It concluded that a link existed between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. It involved a small scale study of only 12 children. A dozen studies around the world have since shown that no such link exists. Subsequent investigations have alleged that a co-author falsified data and was paid by the parents of autistic children. The Lancet retracted the article in 2004. 5

    A massive study involving almost 5 million births in California has shown that autism rates rise with the age of the mother and sometimes with the age of the father. "Mothers who gave birth when they were 40 or older had a 51% increased risk of having a child with autism compared with those who were 25 to 29, the largest age group." 6 However, the age effect can only explain a small part of the overall increase. The major cause for such a major rise in Autism is unknown.

    Unfortunately, many parents have not had their children vaccinated. This has caused an increase in childhood diseases and deaths.

  5. Other therapies: There are many therapies and belief systems that we have not studied in depth, but which we suspect are useless and/or dangerous. Some are:
     
    bulletAlien abductions: the belief that LGM (little green men) from outer space kidnap humans, take them to their space ships and perform intrusive medical experiments. This belief appears to be false, and is caused by sleep paralysis
     
    bulletAstrology: the belief that the location of some of the planets (but not others) in the solar system at one's birth have a significant role to play in the person's life.
     
    bulletDream analysis: That a person's emotional distress can be understood by analyzing their dreams.
     
    bulletHoroscopes in the media: the belief that every person on earth can be divided into 12 groups depending upon their birth date, and that events in their day can be predicted with accuracy.
     
    bulletNumerology: the power of numbers in one's life.
     
    bulletPalm reading (a.k.a. Palmistry, Chiromancy, Chierology): the belief that markings and folds in one's palm predict the person's future and reveal their past.
     
    bulletReflexology: the belief that areas on a person's feet are linked to specific organs in their body. Treating the feet is believed to cure ailments in the organs.
     
    bulletFuture memory recovery: This is a variation of recovered memory therapy. However, it is not memories from the past that are sought after as the cause of present-day emotional distress. It is memories from the future of events that have not yet happened.
     
    bulletVarious therapies: According to a Victoria, Australia newspaper, Consumer Affairs Victoria warned that "con artists were keen to profit from those seeking the divine." A search of Australian web sites showed:
    bulletA Melbourne school which offers certificates in spiritual healing for $480 Australian dollars.
    bulletA four-hour "soul retrieval" for $60 in Queensland.
    bulletA "DNA upgrade" by the same Queensland company. 4

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare the above essay in 1997 and update it more recently. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Brandon Gaudiano & James Herbert, "Can We Really Tap Our Problems Away?: A Critical Analysis of Thought Field Therapy," Skeptical Inquirer, Volume 24, #4, 2000-JUL-AUG. Online at: http://www.csicop.org/
  2. Margaret Wente, "Big business: the trivializing of trauma," The Globe and Mail, Toronto, ON, 2002-SEP-7.
  3. Jason Frenkel, "Witches win converts," Herald Sun, 2002-JUL-1, at: http://heraldsun.news.com.au/
  4. "KNOW...The Autism - Vaccine Connection," KNOW, at: http://www.know-vaccines.org/
  5. Jessica Berman, "Lancet Disavowal of Autism Vaccine Connection May Lead to More Immunizations," Voice of America, 2010-FEB-11, at: http://www1.voanews.com/
  6. Tod Neale, "Autism risk linked to maternal age," MedPage Today, 2010-FEB-08, at: http://www.medpagetoday.com/

Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics > Hoaxes menu > here

Copyright © 1997 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Written on: 1997-SEP-05
Latest update: 2010-FEB-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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