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Therapeutic and other hoaxes

12 more current suspected hoaxes

Some of the belief and therapy systems that we suspect to be hoaxes (or partial hoaxes) are listed below. Please read our disclaimer before going further:

  • Thought Field Therapy (TFT) This is a relatively new therapeutic technique which is a close cousin to EMDR. TFT attributes emotional problems to blockages in energy fields within he body. Pseudo-scientists often talk about energy fields or power centers in the body that cannot be detected by any instruments known to humanity.

    "In order to correct these perturbations, clients are directed by the TFT therapist to tap on the body's 'energy meridians' in specific sequences, called 'algorithms,' which vary based on the particular problem being treated. For example, the client may be instructed to tap at the corner of the eyebrow five times and then continue tapping on other parts of the body in a specific sequence as instructed by the therapist. In addition, the clients are told to roll their eyes, count, and hum a few bars of a song at various points during the treatment." 1

There are two positive features of TFT and EMDR therapy:

  • These treatment methods seem to have little opportunity to seriously damage the client, except financially.

  • Many therapists and counselors have switched from RMT therapy, which is profoundly dangerous, to TFT and EMDR

It will probably take another decade before these a consensus is reached that two therapies are useless. We hope that EMDR and TFT are around for a long time, because the new untried, experimental therapies that will eventually replace them may have greater potential to injure clients.

The Skeptics Dictionary reports that Monica Pignotti was trained in thought field therapy

"...and became a believer but then did a controlled experiment in which she treated half her patients with taps on the places taught by Callahan and the other half by tapping at random places. She says she got the same (good) results with both groups, which suggests that the power of suggestion (the placebo effect) is what is really at work here."

A similar study performed on acupuncture produced the same results.

  • Trauma Counseling: This involves counseling people who have just experienced a traumatic experience. Sometimes, trauma experts descend on a school after a shooting or suicide. About 9,000 experts came to New York City after 9-11. Although the therapists mean well, it appears that trauma counseling does not help; on average, it may make the victim worse.  Richard Gist, a psychology professor at the University of Missouri said:

    "If this was a drug, we'd take it off the market. Instead, it has taken on the force of a religious movement."

    Columnist Margaret Wente comments:

    "It turns out that the most effective form of trauma counseling is the old-fashioned, private, unprofessional, unpaid kind -- the kind delivered by your mother with a pot of chicken soup, or the folks next door who offer to look after your kids or drive you to the hospital or cut your grass, or the friend who just hangs out with you, and takes you for a movie and a beer, and isn't trying to debrief you."

To this, we might add volunteers at Distress Centers, (a.k.a. Crisis Centers, Suicide Prevention Bureaus).

She continues:

    "...the grief industry has trivialized grief. It has turned it into a pathology, then promised us the cure. It has infantalized our culture, and cheapened mourning, and encouraged us to lose our collective sense of what genuine tragedy is, and how time heals if we let it." 2
  • Contracting brain cancer from cell phones: Several researchers and activist groups have warned of the possibility of a link between the use of cell phones and several types of cancer -- including brain cancer. Some studies seemed to point to such a cause and effect relationship. However, a massive 30-year study of medical data on two types of brain tumors -- gliomas and meningiomahas -- has been completed. Included are almost the entire adult Scandinavian population -- adults aged 20 to 79 from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden between 1974 and 2003. A stead increase in tumor incidence was detected, but it started about 1974, long before cell phones existed. 3
  • Autism being caused by ingredients in vaccines: Various vaccination programs have had phenominal successes in controlling, and in some cases, eliminating diseases. However, they have always had their opponents. A recent movement has arisen that blames ingredients in vaccines for the drastic increase in autism rates. 4 It was triggered in part by a 1998 article in The Lancent, a British medical journal. It concluded that a link existed between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. It involved a small scale study of only 12 children. A dozen studies around the world have since shown that no such link exists. Subsequent investigations have alleged that a co-author falsified data and was paid by the parents of autistic children. The Lancet retracted the article in 2004. 5

    A massive study involving almost 5 million births in California has shown that autism rates rise with the age of the mother and sometimes with the age of the father. "Mothers who gave birth when they were 40 or older had a 51% increased risk of having a child with autism compared with those who were 25 to 29." 6 However, the age effect can only explain a small part of the overall increase. The major cause for such a major rise in Autism is unknown.

    Unfortunately, many parents have chosen to not having their children vaccinated. This has caused an increase in childhood diseases and deaths.

  • Other therapies: There are many therapies and belief systems that we have not studied in depth, but which we suspect are useless and/or dangerous. Some are:
  • Alien abductions: the belief that LGM (little green men) from outer space kidnap humans, take them to their space ships and perform intrusive medical experiments. This belief appears to be false, and is partly caused by sleep paralysis.

  • Astrology: the belief that the location of some of the planets (but not others) in the solar system at one's birth have a significant role to play in the person's life.

  • Dream analysis: That a person's emotional distress can be understood by analyzing their dreams.

  • Horoscopes in the media: the belief that every person on earth can be divided into 12 groups depending upon their birth date, and that events in their day can be predicted with accuracy.

  • Numerology: the power of numbers in one's life.

  • Palm reading (a.k.a. Palmistry, Chiromancy, Chierology): the belief that markings and folds in one's palm predict the person's future and reveal their past.

  • Reflexology: the belief that areas on a person's feet are somehow linked to specific organs in their body. Treating the feet is believed to cure ailments in the organs.

  • Future memory recovery: This is a variation of recovered memory therapy. However, it is not memories from the past that are sought after as the cause of present-day emotional distress. It is memories from the future of events that have not yet happened.

  • Various therapies: According to a Consumer Affairs Victoria -- a newspaper in Victoria, Australia:

    "... con artists were keen to profit from those seeking the divine."

    A search of Australian web sites showed:

    • A Melbourne school which offers certificates in spiritual healing for $480 Australian dollars.

    • A four-hour "soul retrieval" for $60 in Queensland.

    • A "DNA upgrade" by the same Queensland company. 4

Prayer, a practice that might possibly be ineffective at assessing the will of God:

Most theists pray to God. Sometimes, the purpose of their prayer is to assess the will of God. Opinions differ greatly about this specific activity:

  • Atheists, who have no belief in the existence of deities, generally assume that there is no God to which one can pray.

  • Agnostics, who are undecided whether a deity exists, are generally undecided.

  • Jews, Christians, Muslims, Wiccans and other theists, who believe in a God or Goddess or a pantheon of deities are typically certain that one or more deities exist to which one might pray.

Near the end of the 20th century, we noted a strange phenomenon occuring during a few national religious assemblies. Various liberal and mainline Christian denomonations in the U.S. were debating what position their denomination should take about marriage equality: should loving, committed same-sex couples have the right to marry? This was typically a very controversial topic with many delegates holding strong and opposing opinions. Often, the moderator of the assembly would stop the debate and ask the delegates to go off by themselves and attempt to assess the will of God on the matter. It appeared that when the delegates returned from prayer, that few, if any, of them had changed their beliefs about same-sex marriage.

This observation triggered a pilot study by the people at this web site to determine whether visitors to our web site who had an active prayer life could assess the will of God on this very controversial topic. We found that, initially, all of the 85 subjects had an opinion:

  • 65% of the volunteer subjects initially favored marriage equality.

  • 35% were initially opposed to equality.

After praying to God:

  • The vast majority felt that they had assessed the will of God during prayer.
    • Those who personally favored SSM found that God also favored it.

    • Those who personally opposed SSM found that God also opposes it.

    • God did not appear to disagree with any of the participants' beliefs, even though they are in total conflict.

We concluded that prayer was not a useful technique to detemine the will of God, at least on this topic. We had hoped that other groups might be inspired by this pilot study to conduct a study of their own with a larger number of participants, and better design and control. During late 2017-JUL, some 17 years after our pilot study, a Google search for:

assess will of God through prayer

found about 25 million results.

  • Results 1 to 3 linked to the menu and two essays that described our study.
  • Result 4 was John Tyrrell's 2014 article titled: "Meditation 1124: Prayer and the will of God" 7

Sadly, as of 2017-JUL-26, nobody had commented on John's article. Nobody recommended it, so I clicked on the heart, and added my own comment. Also, to my knowledge, nobody has replicated our study or conducted a similar one.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare the above essay in 1997 and update it more recently. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Brandon Gaudiano & James Herbert, "Can We Really Tap Our Problems Away?: A Critical Analysis of Thought Field Therapy," Skeptical Inquirer, Volume 24, #4, 2000-JUL-AUG. Online at:
  2. Margaret Wente, "Big business: the trivializing of trauma," The Globe and Mail, Toronto, ON, 2002-SEP-7.
  3. Jason Frenkel, "Witches win converts," Herald Sun, 2002-JUL-1, at:
  4. "KNOW...The Autism - Vaccine Connection," KNOW, at:
  5. Jessica Berman, "Lancet Disavowal of Autism Vaccine Connection May Lead to More Immunizations," Voice of America, 2010-FEB-11, at:
  6. Tod Neale, "Autism risk linked to maternal age," MedPage Today, 2010-FEB-08, at:
  7. John Tyrrell, "Meditation 1124: Prayer and the will of God," 2014-MAY-23, at:

Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics > Hoaxes menu > here

Copyright 1997 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original postedg: 1997-SEP-05
Latest update: 2017-JUL-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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