It's good to know: How treatment knowledge and belief affect the outcome of distant healing intentionality for arthritis sufferers

Alison Easter, Caroline Watt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This small-scale study explores the role of expectancy in response to distant healing by testing two hypotheses: 1) Participants aware of placement in the healing condition will report greater relief than those aware they are not receiving distant healing; 2) Participants who express belief in distant healing will report greater relief than those expressing disbelief.

Sixty patients were recruited from a rheumatology outpatient clinic, and through online support networks and blogs. Participants were randomly allocated to one of four conditions, those in the healing condition received distant healing from self-reported healers, while participants in the control condition received no intervention. Half of the participants knew their treatment allocation and half were blinded. The primary outcome measures were the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) and the Short-form McGill Pain Questionnaire. The Paranormal Belief Scale and a measure designed to assess belief in distant healing were given to determine if belief was correlated with healing outcomes.

Awareness of being a recipient of distant healing appeared to be associated with improved outcomes for those in the healing group. Medium to large improvements in GHQ scores (d=.76) and McGill Pain scores (d=.45) were calculated for the groups aware of their condition. Participants unaware that they were receiving healing showed no evidence of improved outcomes. Belief in healing did not have an effect on self-reported outcomes.

Improvements in reported pain and well-being appear to have been caused by knowledge of allocation in the distant healing condition rather than distant healing alone.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-89
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • arthritis
  • belief
  • complementary therapies
  • distant healing
  • expectancy
  • psychic healing


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