Therapy Placebo

Are there “active placebos” in therapy and counseling?

I’ve been reading about author/reasearcher Andrew Weil who made a thorough study of various forms of healing in 1983. These forms included homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, traditional Western medicine, osteopathy, sorcery, and psychotherapy. Weil concluded from his research that “active placebos” most consistently account for positive healing results among patients.

In the then-classic study of a miracle cure for angina, surgeons treated two patients. One required intrusive surgical procedures to open the chest and close off the delinquent arteries. The doctor’s surgical intervention saved the patient’s life. The other patient with the same symptoms and severity of angina were likewise anesthetized and operated on. But the patient’s delinquent arteries were not closed off. Nevertheless, the patient still improved and got well!

Weil believes it is the doctor’s or therapist’s positive expectation, combined with some “active placebo” agents (e.g. psychological, physical, pharmaceutical, professional, environmental setting, dress) that facilitates the patient’s own body and mind healing themselves. It could be, Weil adds, that “active placebos” are able to create healing because the patient’s expectations for a successful recovery were maximized by them.