40 years of service with The Confederation of Healing Organisations

8th April 2022

As part of our 40th anniversary year series, our first CHO Fellow, Diane O'Connell, who has made a significant contribution and commitment to both our organisation and the wider healing movement over many years, shares her thoughts on how the healing movement has changed. 

"I can’t quite believe it is 40 years since I went to the first meeting in London of what became The Confederation of Healing Organisations (CHO). So much has happened since then, not only in my own life but in the world of healing.  40 years is a long time.  

I think it was the autumn of 1981 when we had the first meeting. This was a big step for the Healing Movement in the UK.  Denis Haviland brought everybody together as he had a dream of healing being more acceptable.  He had had healing personally, which had really helped him and he wanted it available for others.  My memory is that, at that time, healing organisations were mainly membership organisations and were very territorial.  Each healing organisation sent a member as their representative to the meeting.  This enabled a wide range of healing organisations to be present.  My experience was that as we got to know each other we became less territorial and started to work for the good of the whole. 

One of the first major decisions that we made was to try to get Healing accepted in hospitals.  Any patient who wanted to have a healer attend them while they were in hospital to support their recovery and return to health would have their request accepted by the NHS.  It took time but with the help of Denis Haviland it was agreed.  If you had your membership card and the patient had requested that you attend them then you were allowed into the ward to carry out the healing.  I myself attended many patients in hospital and never had any difficulties.  The staff were always helpful and the curtains were pulled around the bed.  A big step in getting Healing accepted. 

Denis Haviland made a very generous bequest in his will to the CHO.  This enabled us to continue with our work and his dream of having Healing accepted in all aspects of health and wellbeing.  This was a huge responsibility and a challenge to know how to use the money wisely.  One of the things the money did allow us to do was to employ Sue Knight as our CEO.  As a Trustee and one-time Chair of the CHO, from my point of view Sue has made an enormous contribution, not only to the CHO but to Healing and the Healing Movement.  

The money also allowed us to do the research project with Northampton University.  One of the difficulties with Healing is that it is such an abstract experience and difficult to monitor.  As everybody is now looking for evidence about how things work, we felt one of the contributions we could make was to spend money on research into Healing.  It was incredibly exciting when we launched the outcomes from the project at the Houses of Parliament.  I felt we had made another move forward in the development of Healing in the UK 

Since 1981, there have been many changes in the movement.  The biggest was the Lords Report of 2000 where Healing was classified as a complementary therapy. This meant that all healing organisations had to implement codes of conduct, disciplinary procedures, and standards in training, which would go towards protecting the public.  This was a huge challenge for some of the organisations as they didn’t see this as any part of Healing.  However, this was brought in for every complementary therapy.  Students got used to this type of training and indeed were looking for it.  

Some of the CHO organisations at that time decided to get together to start UK Healers, which became the voluntary regulatory body for Healing in the UK.  It was UK Healers who took over, on behalf of the movement, the codes of conduct, disciplinary and appeals procedures as well as the training standards for healers and the verifying body for one of the CAM regulators, the CNHC. 

CHO Fellow, Diane O'Connell


An organisation called Skills for Health worked with the healing organisations to create National Occupational Standards (NOS) in Healing.  I represented the CHO and over a period of time we had put together the NOS in Healing. The CHO with UK Healers became the Joint Lead Body for Healing as recognised by the other CAM regulator, GRCCT, and together we created a Core Curriculum from the NOS, which provides a standard of training  that any training organisation in Healing needs to adhere to. 

One of my personal passions has always been that there should be well trained Healers working in the community.  Education therefore was a real interest for me.  Being involved in the CHO enabled me to put my energies into the new developments that came out of the Lords Report and I hope that I have been able to play my part in the vision that Denis Haviland had. 

When I was asked to put my thoughts together for the 40th anniversary of the CHO, where I have been involved since the beginning, I reflected that I have seen Healing go from being a gift that some people have, to a complementary therapy where skills can be taught with National Occupational Standards and a core curriculum.  From organisations being mainly for members with little or no training, to organisations with educational programmes for introductory, practitioner and advanced courses in Spiritual and Energy Healing 

In the last 40 years the CHO has gone from strength to strength and I am sure this will continue in the years to come."  

Diane O’Connell 

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