When a Therapy works, what is it that works?

Patrick Quanten MD

It all started way back in my surgery, the frustration. You know, when you come from medical school and have listened to "the white-coated gods" for so long, you truly believe that therapies work. And that is obviously a good thing, but the problem is that you believe that they always work. Why? Because the book says so. A medical book takes a lot of time and space to describe the ailment to you and to speculate on how it might have come about, and only a few lines to tell you what you have to do about it. And that's it! What more do you want? Nothing. That is until you really start practising.

It doesn't take long for a doctor to find out that that is not the end of the matter. Soon he is left with a pressing question: what to do when the therapy doesn't work? The books remain silent on that one. In medical books everybody gets better. There is a happy ending for each one of you written into the story. The reality of life tells a totally different story. In desperation the doctor turns to his mates, the consultants, who tell him that it is all the fault of the patient. Either they don't want to get better, or they are hypochondriacs and there isn't anything wrong with them, or they are just unfortunate that the operation went wrong or that they pick up infections easily. What can you do? We are trying our hardest to help people and they are too lazy, too stubborn to co-operate!

Having had no answers from within the profession, and being left to care for people one cares about, you might want to venture out on your own and start searching elsewhere. Is there nobody who knows anything? Effectively, no. Your mates from the medical authorities have told you that nobody knows anything. The world outside medical school is a dumb ass.

But precisely that world is very busy doing exactly what you are looking for, trying out other things to help people to get better. Maybe you ought to have a look yourself, but make sure your mates don't know about it, because you don't really want to be made a fool off. It is here that you come in touch with a wide variety of therapies and one of the astounding things you discover is that some of these therapies have been used for thousands of years. That is absolutely amazing! A con-trick that manages to deceive the world for that long and still is going strong in spite of all the scientific proof people have at their fingertips these days. The people you meet in that world surely must be deranged, deluded, off their rocker!

But they are not. Many people are just like you, just as concerned about people's suffering and how to alleviate it. And you thought that only the medical profession cared! And the people who are asking to be helped in this world are also ordinary people, not the nutcrackers you were led to believe they were. Although there seems to be a recurring theme running through this community: the feeling of having been let down by the medics, your friends and colleagues. You try to explain and defend them, but the stories you are confronted with here raise the hairs at the back of your neck. If even half of the stories are true then these people have walked out of hell! And you still live in it and try to sell it to the world at large.

Now you have found a wide variety of therapies - some seem to belong to a totally different world - all designed and developed to help people. It is strange that this world exists and endeavours to achieve exactly what you were, but you were not made aware of the efforts made and the results obtained. And you see results, there is no doubt about it! So, having entered the profession because you want to make a difference to people's suffering, you begin to learn these techniques and you begin to get to grips with the knowledge and the thinking behind the techniques. Not only do you see results, but you also notice that there is more than one way of looking at life and its problems. Something you were not allowed to do at medical school.

Soon the fundamental truth dawns on you: all "therapies" works, but no therapy works for everybody all the time. This is good news for the "Health Business", but it doesn't help you much if all you care about is helping everybody. The people that are active within the business that is healthcare can remain convinced, persuasive and determined, each within their small part of the healing world without having to feel guilty. They know that their therapy works and they want to sell it to the whole world. And so do hundreds of others with their therapy!

But this pulls up the main issue, which is the question "Why do all these therapies work?" It is fascinating to find that across the wide variety of techniques there must be an underlying something that provides each therapy with its "active ingredient".

Comparing Therapies

Let's start with things most of us find easy to understand and try and find that special thing that helps people.

If you have lower backpain and pain in your leg, it might be acceptable if someone tells you that your pelvis is tilted to one side. If that is the case then it should also make sense that the trouble should be over once the pelvis has been "put back". Manipulating the lower spine and pelvis sounds like a reasonable solution. Guess what? It works. Not always, but it works. And that is what we are interested in. So, physically taking the bull by the horns to rectify the physical problem works.

But it doesn't stop there. If you do deep tissue massage you will also be able to release the muscle spasms in the lower back and pelvic floor, which allows the pelvis to switch back, thus rectifying the problem. Works equally well.

So does a light physical touch, as for instance applied in the Bowen technique, whereby the muscles along the spine get "flicked" and then left to "settle". Or we can pressurise acupuncture points, meridian nodes, that allow the energy channels to stabilise energyflow through various body parts, as championed by Eastern Medicine (Shiatzu, Thai massage, acupressure, etc.). However, the problem can also be rectified through the laying of hands, through Reiki (non-touch healing) or distant healing, whereby the "therapist" doesn't even have to be in the same place.

Summarising, we can learn that a physical problem can be alleviated through a physical manipulation, through various ways of touching, through non-touch, even over long distances. That IS weird!

Other therapies will achieve similar results through sticking needles into the skin, sometimes far away from the problem site. Or we can improve the back function by massaging the soles of the feet. Also, homeopathy has remedies, which you take by mouth, that dramatically can change a back problem.

This long and varied list is by no means exclusive, but if you aren't impressed by the range of therapies that seem so unsuited to the very physical problem and yet effective, you are missing the point. It certainly looks as if it doesn't matter what you do; anything can work as a remedy. The technique can be anything at all, it seems. If it isn't the specific technique, designed to fit the problem, that cures the problem, what the hell is it then? What else is there, that is involved in the therapy?

There are two more ingredients: the therapist and the sufferer. What do I mean? Well, another thing I have noticed over the years is that some therapists just get better results than others. And the more his/her reputation rises, the better the results he/she achieves.

And there is more! If the sufferer is convinced something will not be at all helpful, or doesn't think the therapist is any good, then the results will be extremely poor. This means that the sufferer has an important role to play in the healing process.

The conclusion so far is that the technique that is used for healing is of little significance, but that the person who is the therapist and the person who is receiving the healing are both of extreme importance.

This is verified by the observations within my own GP practice that the word of the consultant, and his consequent prescription, was on the whole a lot more powerful than my own prescription for the same drug. His status of "knowing more" makes his therapy more effective even though he uses the same treatment. The power, obviously, lies in the man not the product! Or at least, the power of the man as perceived by the receiver. For the same reason was the traditional village GP enormously effective in treating his flock. He was respected, knew what was going on in the village and people's lives, and was fully trusted by the people. This meant that people relied totally on him to keep them well. No questions asked! A very effective system.

Today, with the "informed patient", therapies, such as drugs and operations, work less and less then in times gone by. The more questions asked, the more doubt we harbour, the less effective treatments have become.

The Active Ingredient

In conclusion we can already establish that the technique, the treatment module, is not the essential part of the therapy, as all therapies work in spite of the fact that they have a wide range of differing approaches. Equally, it is quite obvious that within each treatment modality we can find people that are "good" at it and others that are not so good, measured in terms of "getting better results". Again this indicates that the technique you use does not guarantee you the result; or put differently, the diploma or certificate someone has, does not make him/her necessarily good at their job, nor does the kind of "school" they have attended.

No, the single most powerful active ingredient of any therapy is the person who delivers it. And, if what he/she does is not that important, what exactly is it then about the therapist, healer or carer that delivers the quality that is required for healing to take place? If it is not the quality of his/her technique, what can it then be?

It is how it is done.

There are two essential requirements to function as a successful healer, and both have to be pure. First, the person must have the absolute intention to help another. The question about the "kind" of help we feel the receiver needs, must be left untouched. The fewer restrictions that a person can put on the help that he/she is willing to give, the higher the quality of the intention and the wider its range, the purer the contact will be. An approach with a pure and open intention of offering help and healing is the first absolute requirement.

The second is an uninterrupted, not distracted, attention. The person willing to help must be able to fully concentrate on the person receiving help. Any distraction, certainly ones that involve the Self from the giver, will diminish the power of the intention. The giver should be fully concentrating on what he/she is engaged in; give it his/her full and undivided attention.

So, now you are giving with your whole heart, your whole being, and yet there are people we give to who don't get any better. Could there be more?

Indeed. The receiver must be willing to receive! Well, that's easy, because nobody wants to be in pain or wants to be ill. Or do they? Society does not allow anyone to be "comfortable" with their illness. Society hates what it regards as abnormal, whether that means a different body, a different functioning body, a different mind, different needs. We all need to be the same, have the same wishes and the same desires. We all know what is "right" or "wrong". We all know what is normal. Anything else is not acceptable. Being ill is not something that you are allowed to "enjoy" or have a need of.

It is for this reason that deep in a person's heart there may be hiding a different truth from the one that shows on the outside. The person may have different wishes than he/she is portraying. A hidden deathwish may well exist in terminal illnesses as it provides the person with the only "acceptable" way out of an impossible situation. Sometimes it isn't even allowed to voice the impossibility of the situation itself! Not accepted! Whatever the reason may be, if the person receiving healing is not willing to accept - I mean, on a deep core-level - then no healing will take place. The person will not "get better". If you want to: the therapy does not work!

Or, as we now know: the therapist doesn't work.

Healing is always an internal and individual process. Healing does not come from the outside. Other people may assist, may help to create possibilities, but they don't heal. Nobody is a healer, and everybody is a healer. Nobody is a healer who can override the core wishes of another individual; and everybody is a healer in their own life.

The tool one uses to focus intention and attention on is secondary to the mental process itself and in that respect matters little. What counts is the connection between the giver and receiver, not the method of connection. The more powerful this connection is, the greater its healing powers.

No therapy works - Don't cry.

All therapies work - Don't rejoice.

Learn about the Power, not about the tool that makes you powerful.

July 2006


Patrick Quanten has been a general practitioner since 1983. The combination of medical insight and extensive studies of Complementary Therapies have opened new perspectives on health care, all of which came to fruition when it blended with Yogic and Ayurvedic principles. Patrick gave up his medical licence in November 2001.
Patrick also holds qualifications in Ayurvedic Medicine, Homeopathy, Reiki, Ozon Therapy and Thai Massage. He is an expert on Ear Candling and he is also well-read in the field of other hard sciences. His life's work involves finding similarities between the Ancient Knowledge and modern Western science.

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