Anomalistic Psychology - Psychic healing

Psychic Healing

Psychic healing refers to treatments used to deal with health problems by purely mental means. Such methods can be face to face, or over the telephone or remotely. Methods include faith healing and laying hands (therapeutic touch).


Energy fields- Therapeutic touch (TT) is explained by supporters in term s of ability to detect a patients aura (energy field) without touching their body. Health is restore3d by re-aligning the patients energy field. It is a popular treatment having been taught to at least 10,000 nurses in the US alone - Solfvin et al 2005

Anxiety reduction - Psychic healing might be explained in terms of beneficial effects of contact with a sympathetic person. Social support is known to reduce stress and anxiety, and enhance the effectiveness of the immune system - Kiecolt - Glaser et al 1984

Placebo effect - Success might also be due to placebo effect, measurable improvement that occurs as a result of believeing that an effective treatment has been received. These beliefss may be based on the fact that some cases of psychic healing are apparently successful.

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Psychic Healing

Research studies:

Wirth 1990 support

  • Conducted a study of patients with wounds who were either treated with TT or no treatment. The patients were not aware of the treatment they received, thus eliminating placebo effects. Wirth found that patients treated with TT healed faster.

Rosa et al 1998 Against 

  • Tested 21 TT paractitioners. Each sat on one side of a screen and placed their hands through holes in the screen. On the other side an experimenter placed one of her hands about four inches abvoe the practitioner's right or left hand. TT practitioners should be able to detect the energy field of the hand but they were correct only44% of the time less thn chance.
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Psychic Healing

Cha et al 2001 - miracle study support - the effects of prayer 

This study also involved Wirth, twice as many infertile women prayed for by christian strangers became pregnant as those who had no one praying for them.

But this study has been widely criticised, Wirth was convicted with fraud and imprisoned for five years, Cha has been charged with pplagiarism.

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Psychic Healing

Attevelt 1988 - evidence of psychic healing of asthma - Against

Independent groups design of 96 patients into one of three groups:

  • Optimal - typical psychic asthma 
  • Distance - treatment from behind screen 
  • Control- no treatment but screen present

Distance and control groups were unaware of which group they were in, physical and subjective measures of asthma symptoms were taken.

Psyical symptoms imrpoved in all pateints. On subjective rporting, the optimal group improved significantly more than the other groups. They felt an improvement.

Results demonstarted by the physical symptoms show that improvement was not due to paranormal effects, but rather due to psychological factors.

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