BBC series has an odd definition of alternative

The BBC have announced a new series which will investigate the scientific basis of three ‘alternative therapies’: reflexology, hypnosis and meditation – except that two of them, hypnosis and meditation, are well-supported scientifically validated treatments.

In fact, systematic reviews have found hypnosis to be an effective treatment for reducing nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, distress during childbirth, irritable bowel syndrome, and needle pain in children, to name but a few. That’s not counting the numerous studies on the cognitive neuroscience of hypnosis and hypnotisability.

Similarly, mindfulness meditation-based therapies have been researched extensively and found to be useful in a large number of conditions.

In fact, they are one of the best treatments to prevent relapse in people who have already had several depressive episodes in the past.

Both hypnosis and mindfulness-based therapy are used in Britain’s National Health Service and the Royal Society of Medicine has its own dedicated hypnosis section.

Although it’s probably true to say that meditation and hypnosis are also used inappropriately by quacks, so are vitamins, painkillers and exercise, none of which are thought of as ‘alternative’.

The measure of a treatment is not only what it does, but what it’s used for. Antibiotics aren’t an alternative therapy unless you’re trying to use them to cure cancer.

Presumably, the BBC’s next series on alternative music will feature The Rolling Stones and U2 (in contrast, I’m guessing reflexology is the Menswear of medicine).

Link to odd BBC programme announcement.


  1. David Malone
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    I think many lay people would regard meditation and hypnosis as alternative, and I suspect that the program will explain what they are good for, and what they are not good for (much like antibiotics). It sounds like a second part to this series, which covered acupuncture, spiritual healing and the use of herbs in medicine. I quite enjoyed these first time around.

  2. David Malone
    Posted October 18, 2007 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    It seems to have stripped out the URL I posted:

  3. Posted October 21, 2007 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I heard that in the US you no longer can get funding to study Hypnosis as an alternative therapy because it is no longer considered alternative.

  4. Kevin Kunz
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Reflexology has been well documented scientifically. Try One of the myths affecting reflexology is that there isn’t any scientific research. There is quite a lot of research.

  5. kiplinger
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    A treatment doesn’t stop being “alternative” just because it has been scientifically validated, it depends whether it has made it into routine conventional (ie orthodox medical) practice or not.
    The BBC’s definition is accurate: the programmes are dealing with treatments that are not the first-line, first-choice medical treatments — which are usually drugs and/or surgery — but are chosen as an alternative to them.

  6. philip1111
    Posted July 9, 2009 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    The hypnosis is a recommended medication technique in the US!!
    So the alternative techniques are really working as it is said to have no side effect!!
    brad pitt

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26,895 other followers