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.
Link to odd BBC programme announcement.