The Placebo Effect

Many people have heard of The Placebo Effect. It is a remarkable medical phenomenon in which a placebo, an inactive substance, can sometimes improve a patient’s condition simply because the person has the expectation that it will be helpful.

Skeptics in many fields cite “The Placebo Effect” to demolish evidence of good and benefit in fields where they have no knowledge or expertise. For example they would say that healing stones have no active properties, so can not possibly work. But empirical evidence is against them; so how do people feel better, or even recover? Well of course “That is the Placebo Effect!” comes back the smug reply.

Why do we need to know about The Placebo Effect?

In coaching, we often use whatever comes to hand to enable our clients to achieve their objectives; Milton Erickson would have called that utilization. By understanding what is happening with the placebo response we can better help the people we work with. What better reason can there be than that?

What the medical experts say

It has been shown in medically supervised tests that placebos have measurable physiological effects. For example, when participants are told they have taken a stimulant, the placebo tends to speed up pulse rate, increase blood pressure, and improve reaction speeds. Placebos have the opposite physiological effects when participants are told they have taken a sleep-producing drug.

Humans have the potential to respond to the suggestion of a healer or coach, or even a caring parent. A patient’s distress may be relieved by something simple like being told “You can feel it getting better”. A familiar example is Band-Aid put on a child. It can make the child feel better by its soothing effect, though there is no medical reason it should do anything.

Many experts question the use of cough medicines because clinical trials have not found that cough medicines are any better than a placebo or dummy treatment. However, there is a massive industry that manufactures, markets and sells cough treatments. Who is right and who is wrong? It depends on your point of view.

How do we use The Placebo Effect

After some careful and protracted analysis, I realized that as coaches, therapists and parents, we use the placebo effect frequently. Sometimes we use it consciously, like the Band-Aid on a child; we do not believe for a moment that there is any magic ingredient in a plaster. At other times without conscious thought, when we give good luck charms as presents.

We use metaphors to elicit desired states in people, and get them to imagine the outcome they want. Sometimes we make those metaphors link to actions or things in the real world, so they have some tangible artifact as their focus. Like my magic stones.

What Magic Stones?

Around my home and office I have a number of magic stones, which I sometimes refer to as healing stones. They are usually river rounded and smooth, and have been collected on my travels round the world, or from the local DIY store. Suitably washed and sterilized, they lie waiting for their moment in someones life.

If someone comes with a particularly intractable problem and needs a shift in focus, I ask them to select one stone out of a choice of three. I then tell them the story of that stone, and weave it into a metaphor, relating to their particular problem. By focusing on the stone, they allow the metaphor to get to work on their unconscious. Finally we layer in some positive emotional states, and anchor them in the feel of their chosen stone.

It works because we have something external to focus on while the metaphor is building in the mind of the subject. Instead of an internal dialogue about how this could not possibly have any positive effect, there is just concentration on the nice smooth stone. We have bypassed the critical faculty which gets in the way of progress.

When they leave, they take the stone with them as a quick and easy way to re-trigger the metaphor and their positive states.

These healing stones have worked for people quitting smoking, overcoming anger and lowering blood pressure. There are another group of magic stones which work for people with performance anxiety, interview nerves and fear of public speaking. Finally there is a special group of stones which help athletes, artist and musicians achieve their full potential.

Of course, we now know that it is the placebo effect at work. There can be no other explanation possible. Or is there?

What If The Placebo Effect is really something else

What if human beings were actually capable of doing and being more than current medical science and physics accept is possible.

Imagine that your vision could be improved by conscious will alone. Imagine that your hearing could be made more sensitive or discerning by your own actions. Imagine that if you took charge of your life that you could control pain, or the way you feel, or physiological factors like blood pressure, heart rate, or weight.

Maybe all that is needed is for someone to give us a sugar pill, or talisman, or magic stone and tell us that we are now healing. Maybe that is all we require to disregard the medical and scientific dogma and rhetoric; that we can only get better by the products of multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Maybe the placebo effect is just a name given to the visible part of the unfathomable depths of human potential.


The placebo effect is a medically demonstrable response by a subject to a suggestion that something is beneficial. The dialogue is between the expert, professional or parent and the subject’s unconscious. The placebo or magic stone is just a way to bypass the troublesome critical faculty. It exists, it works, and it is beneficial. We can ridicule it, ignore it or use it to benefit our clients. It is a matter of personal choice.

Just remember, there are more than a few people in the world who are still carrying a smoothly polished stone in their pocket!

Links about The Placebo Effect

Medical Definition of Placebo effect
Boots WebMD Medical Reference (Cough medicine)

Content updated December 2016, and May 2017.

New York Scientists Confirm Memories Can Be Rewritten

I note with interest that Ian Sample, science correspondent for the, has reported that Scientists at New York University have found peoples’ memories could be rewritten after being recalled. While this may be a surprise to the researchers, led by Elizabeth Phelps, it comes as no surprise to NLP master practitioners!

This is a technique we use to re-pattern the neurology of a client in a number of different interventions, to achieve spectacular results; for example:

  • Phobia Elimination
  • Memory revisiting to remove a limiting decision
  • Removing performance anxiety caused by past failures
  • Changing a like to a dislike – say to avoid overeating a particular food
  • Revisiting past events to take new meanings

As reported today in the article entitled Memories can be ‘rewritten’ to make them less traumatic Ian records:

In a breakthrough that has major implications for treating phobias and anxiety disorders, psychologists have helped people conquer their fears by “rewriting” their memories to make them less traumatic.

The therapy takes advantage of the discovery that human memories can be modified and made less frightening if they are manipulated soon after they are retrieved. They have concluded that invasive techniques and pharmacological interventions may not be necessary.

According to the university researchers who carried out the conditioning experiment, the best results occur when the memory is rewritten between three minutes and six hours after recalling. This is why a reprogramming session can make such a difference in a very short time. Once the memory has been revisited, it is ripe for changing so that it is no longer a block to performance.

If you are interested in experiencing the beneficial effects of memory changing using hypnosis and light or deep trance, why not click on the link below, fill in your details and get in touch.

Click here to contact us
Click here to read the Guardian article.

Try the Benefits of Hypnosis

How would you like to be able to get your conscious thoughts so aligned with your unconscious, that you could be, do, have or achieve anything that was humanly possible? Who would like to be able to reprogram their own unproductive responses and install new and empowering strategies, or adopt the behaviors of successful entrepreneurs? Who would like to model the success strategies of great leaders and take on their level of self-belief, enabling empowering change at the deepest levels?

You can achieve these things, and more by using hypnosis and trance states and installing new behaviors and strategies while you are deeply relaxed. In such a state, suggestions pass to your unconscious mind without being filtered by your critical factor. You can adopt the imprintability of a child and absorb new learning from old experiences. With the help of a trusted coach, you can even reprogram your mind body connection and reduce and suppress pain.

I note with interest that Professor David Spiegel, of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University in the US, will be telling the Royal Society of Medicine to promote the use of hypnosis as an alternative to general anesthetics for some operations. He suggests that Doctors should be taught to hypnotise patients not to feel pain rather than resort to traditional anesthetics, and that it is time for hypnosis to work its way into the mainstream of British medicine.

The theory behind medical hypnosis is that the body’s brain and nervous system can’t always distinguish an imagined situation from a real occurrence. This means the brain can act on any image or verbal suggestion as if it were reality. Hypnosis puts patients into a state of deep relaxation that is very susceptible to imagery. The more vivid this imagery, the greater the effect on the body.

Dr Martin Wall, president of the Section Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine at the Royal Society of Medicine, said hypnosis fundamentally alters a subject’s state of mind. Hypnosis is not, he said, simply a matter of suggestibility and relaxation.

Interestingly, hypnosis was actually used in medicine before the discovery of ether when, as far back in1843, James Braid discovered that patients could undergo surgery without being rendered unconscious by a blow to the head, the previous technique. However, the practice of hypnotherapy is thought to go back even further, as long ago as 6,000 years, to the ancient Sumerian people, who used hypnosis as a therapeutic tool administered by priest-physicians.

Modern hypnosis is credited to Milton H. Erickson, an American therapist who in the 1950s and 60s began to develop the modern form of hypnosis to help him make health-improving suggestions to patients in a deep state of trance. It is in widespread use today by hypnotherapists and life coaches to improve the health and wellbeing of patients and clients.

Dr David Oakley, a Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Hypnosis Unit at University College London, believes hypnosis is a very valuable tool for assisting psychological therapists. He points out that if there is a good psychological treatment for a condition, then using that treatment while a patient is under hypnosis can be helpful in most cases. The basic idea is that the trance state helps the patient improve imagery, focus their attention and enter a more deeply relaxed state.

Why would you want to be in such a relaxed state? Because it is in that state that your Reticular Activation System no longer acts to filter your reality, and so impose your old beliefs and memories on you. You can remove unwanted beliefs such as those that limit your potential. You can install empowering new beliefs such the belief that you can have do or achieve anything that is humanly possible. You can even overturn years of self-doubt that may have been installed, deliberately or unconsciously, by your peers, siblings, parents or competitors.

The Buddha (562-483 B.C.) is quoted as saying “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.“
Where in your life do you think you could use that power and knowledge? What change would you like to make in order to improve your life and move forward in powerful new directions? What would you like to become?

We show you new techniques to deal with problems, see them as opportunities and clear the way to solutions. We teach you how to listen to your body and your inner voices so that you can live harmoniously with yourself. We leave you feeling confident and powerful, with the tools in your hands to do the job and so reach your full potential.

If you are interested in experiencing the beneficial effects of hypnosis and light or deep trance, why not click on the link below, fill in your details and get in touch.

Click here to contact us