therapy mental health

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LONDON — Experts warn that alternative therapies like “brainspotting” and “cuddle curing” may cause more psychological harm than good. Researchers in London say the United Kingdom is reportedly a haven for so-called charlatans and tricksters, offering wacky treatments that endanger those with serious mental health issues. These practitioners often charge up to $300 an hour for unregulated, untested treatments with no established psychological benefit.

Treatments like “cuddle curing,” involving long hugs for depression and PTSD, and “brainspotting,” which purports to address trauma through identifying “brainspots” in the eye, are examples of these methods. Another treatment, “rebirthing therapy,” claims to heal attachment disorders by simulating the womb experience with blankets and pillows.

Many practitioners, including “Cuddle Coaches,” “Brainspotting Consultants,” and “Rebirthers,” offer virtual services at reduced rates. A team from the London Centre for Applied Psychology (LCAP) notes that many alternative therapy providers lack professional training, often relying on brief online courses. The surge in such businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic capitalized on public anxiety.

Despite the lack of expertise, few of these practitioners are registered with respected industry bodies like the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Graham Johnston and Matt Wotton of the LCAP are concerned that these unproven therapies may exacerbate mental health issues, offering only temporary placebo effects. They advocate for regulated, trained practitioners and NHS-recommended therapies.

hugging pillow
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Johnston, a former government advisor, and Wotton, with experience in mental health in the criminal justice system, have authored “A Straight Talking Introduction to Therapy: What It Is, Why It Works, How To Get It” to guide people seeking private therapy. They emphasize the importance of quality therapy, noting the lack of regulation and proliferation of untested methods in the field.

The UK’s Mental Health Foundation reports that a quarter of Brits experience mental health issues annually. With a significant number on National Health Service (NHS) therapy waiting lists, many turn to private therapy. However, the lack of regulation allows for unqualified individuals to offer services.

While not all unconventional treatments are administered by unregulated practitioners, many, including “sand therapy” and “Thought Field Therapy,” lack the extensive research backing of NHS-recommended treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The voluntary nature of professional body membership means anyone can pose as a therapist without proper training or qualifications.

“Some forms of therapy are, on paper at least, nothing more than snake oil,” says Matt Wotton, according to a statement from SWNS.

“At best, they may offer some form of short-term benefit thanks to a placebo-like effect, but at worst they will make patients’ mental health worse by failing to tackle the issue at hand and even causing more harm in the process. There are some charlatans, confidence tricksters and outright cowboys out there, so we want the public to be aware of the dangers, and only ever hire regulated therapists offering evidence-based, NHS-recommended treatments.”

South West News Service writer Paul Andrews contributed to this report.

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2 Comments

  1. A trauma Therapist says:

    This is clickbait. Head to head follow up surveys of trauma survivors post-Sandy Hook massacre showed Brainspotting to be more efficacious than EMDR, and further ahead of CBT. There is no study linked to above. Rebirthing is as outdated as is CBT for trauma. This article reads as clickbait junk to any therapist worth their salt. Brainspotting therapists leave EMDR because they see better results. Therapists don’t generally have anything to do with cuddle therapy as our licenses prohibit touch in the first place- but common sense says if a client is traumatized, we would of course want them to have safe touch.

    This is trash

  2. A Trauma Therapist says:

    Go to brainspotting Canada’s website for a list of published research and studies; whoever did the research for this piece of junk article did not do their research. It’s a false claim (and just sounds insane) in print to say Brainspotting is placebo. It’s like someone reviewing 10 brands of cars and saying “7 of the males didn’t move forward in drive, only the Ford drives. The experts at Ford said so”.

    There are tens of thousands of Brainspotting therapists all over the world – they know this is clickbait junk, and publishers of straight up falsehoods will not be left off the hook.
    Everyone in the field knows S.E., Brainspotting, IFS, psychedlic therapies are how to work with clients to release trauma, not outthink it. CBT is dying out as a trauma therapy given its research is 50+ years old, and somatic and bottom up approaches take over because they treat the areas of the brain where trauma is stored. Any therapist worth their salt, and hopefully those trained in the last decade knows this.