Understanding the Placebo Effect in Complementary Medicine: Theory, Practice, and Research

By David Peters | Go to book overview

7
Psychoanalysis, complementary
medicine and the placebo
Robert Withers
Introduction
Acupuncture and the placebo
Reflection
Mind—body link
Analytic concepts
Factors within the therapeutic relationship
Factors outside the therapeutic relationship
Homoeopathy and the placebo
The role of the relationship
The consultation
The role of the remedy
Conclusion

Editor's note

Bob Withers is a rare combination: a trained Jungian analyst who is also an acupuncturist and a homoeopath. His MPhil research explored the psychology of homoeopathy and as an analyst he is committed to the idea that the unconscious is all around and constantly at work. His concern in this chapter is with communication at a deeper level: of a kind that almost always evades our attention. It has been said that the existence of placebo effects demonstrates that nothing goes into the mouth without going through the imagination too. Bob might well respond that nothing enters consciousness without also making unfelt waves beneath our everyday awareness. This idea should certainly make us more curious about the role of the imagination in healthcare, and particularly the impact of complementary therapy with its rich images and mysterious intentions. Bob invites us to consider two examples: one explores the imaginal power of acupuncture and its needles; the other looks at some interesting undercurrents in a homoeopathic case. Both are disciplines whose underlying theories and approach to history taking strikingly blur the distinction between mind and body. Bob looks at the implications of this important common feature, then shifts his perspective to show how consultations often reflect unacknowledged or unspoken emotional difficulties; and most significantly the life issues that practitioner and client share. He comes to the conclusion that the most effective consultations occur when the patient feels the clinician's intervention has somehow made these unspeakable elements safe. Bob suggests that in these and other ways the unfolding therapeutic relationship can unfreeze stagnant self-healing processes, and perhaps even more interestingly that

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