Scientific evidence for the effects of non-contact healing

23rd February 2015

The Confederation of Healing Organisations (CHO), sponsors of the largest meta-analysis ever undertaken into the scientific evidence for the effects of non-contact healing, today announced the positive results from this research at an event co-hosted by David Tredinnick MP and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Integrated Healthcare. These were presented by lead researcher Professor Chris A. Roe (University of Northampton) and showed, “a statistically significant cumulative effect of healing intention on a range of human and non-human living systems, tested under conditions that control for expectation and placebo effects, indicating that healing intention can have tangible beneficial effects.” The presentation was followed by a detailed ‘Question & Answer’ session before a wider discussion took place about the implications of the research and what this means for Healing as a complementary therapy alongside and within the NHS.

While surveys have shown that many members of the general public believe in the power of healing, medical science has tended to be sceptical, citing a lack of robust evidence as its underlying rationale. As the leading charity advancing awareness of and the practice of Healing, the CHO funded Professor Roe and his team to carry out an updated review of published trials of healing and to examine critically whether this literature showed evidence of an effect of healing intention. In order to reduce potential biases from placebo and expectation effects, this meta-analysis examined trials carried out on cell and tissue cultures, small animals and plants, as well as on humans. In total the meta-analysis covered 57 trials of healing intention on humans, and 49 trials in other living systems. Combining all the evidence provided the team with a fairly small, but highly statistically significant effect size of .193.

Professor Chris A. Roe comments on the research:

“We found a wide variation in the effects reported, and also in the quality of the different trials, with some positive results possibly being attributable to poor designs that did not effectively rule out normal explanations. However, even when such trials were excluded, a significant benefit was found for groups allocated to healing intention groups, in comparison with those not treated. Positive effects from studies using biological matter such as cell cultures, animals or plants are particularly difficult to account for in terms of expectation and placebo effects. We conclude that the collected findings are sufficiently promising to warrant further, more systematic research, and we have provided guidelines for the design of higher quality replications.”

Professor Paul Dieppe (University of Exeter and Trustee of the CHO) comments on the findings:

“This is a rigorous, high quality scientific report, and it clearly shows that healing intention can have beneficial effects on living systems, both human and non-human. Now we need to explore questions such as who does it work for and in what circumstances, as well as the how and why questions.”

The audience, which comprised of representatives of the media as well as those within the healing community and/or with an interest in healing as a complementary therapy, were then able to engage the researchers in a ‘Q&A’ session about the research and the results. There then followed a very positive discussion led by David Tredinnick about the implications of the results and what this means for Healing as a complementary therapy within and alongside the NHS.

Commenting on the success of the evening as a whole, Chief Executive of the CHO, Sue Knight, is understandably very positive:

“Professor Roe’s research is precisely the kind of work that the CHO exists to support. We are delighted by the results, which confirm what our many members experience on a regular basis, that healing can make a genuine and positive improvement to a person’s quality of life. We are also encouraged by the consensus of support expressed by the broad range of interest groups represented in the sizeable audience that attended, for working closer together in the future. Encouraging unity and facilitating co-operation is one of the key aims of the CHO and we look forward to working with all relevant bodies, including the NHS, to further the awareness and acceptance of Healing as a complementary therapy.”

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