Visualization Therapies - What is Alternative Medicine?

In Love, Medicine & Miracles, Siegel reported a clinical trial in which a young boy who suffered from an inoperable brain tumor was taken by his parents to the Biofeedback and Psychophysiology Center at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. The staff then taught him self-regulation techniques to help him to “control his body with his mind.” He learned, for example, to imagine rockets ships, as in a video game, flying around in his head and shooting at the tumor. Several months later, he told his father, “I can't find my tumor anymore.” A subsequent CAT scan showed that the tumor had entirely disappeared.

The boy, in effect, was using visualization to eradicate his tumor. Visualization is a generic term which describes a variety of visual techniques used to treat disease. It is based on inducing relaxation in patients, having them visualize their medical problems, and literally willing them away.

Visualization has been used to treat cancer patients. In one clinical trial documented in Siegel's book, a man with advanced throat cancer was given radiation treatment and told to visualize his white blood cells regenerating. His cancer dramatically disappeared within four months, and the patient subsequently cured his arthritis and a 21-year-old case of impotence using visualization techniques. In experiments conducted at the Stanford University Medical School, cancer patients who used guided imagery and other counseling techniques survived twice as long as patients who did not, according to an article by Spiegel and others in the 1989 issue of The Lancet .

Therapists have used visualization or guided imagery to help heal patients suffering loss due to disease, altered body image, or the threat of death. Positive results have been documented even when a total cure may be out of the question. Writing in the December 1992 issue of Perceptual and Motion Skills, S. Hu states that many patients with phobias, for example, have also been treated with visualization and positive thinking.

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