The Placebo Effect VS The Nocebo Effect

October 8, 2019

The placebo effect: Often called the expectancy effect, it’s the ability of our minds to powerfully influence healing in the body. Most are familiar with this concept, with many caring physicians integrating it into their practice to enhance the benefits of whatever treatments they prescribe. 

The dark side of the placebo effect is the nocebo effect. It’s the mind’s equally powerful ability to prevent healing due to negative expectations or limiting beliefs. Sometimes seriously ill patients overhear their physician talking about their case with other staff. The words used, depending on the subconscious programming triggered in the patient may mean the difference between health and illness. Healthcare professionals need to realize words matter; they have power to harm or heal. As patients, the words we use about ourselves matter too.

Being an Integrative Therapist working with conditions such anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, PTSD and self-sabotage, I see the effects of this all too often. A “treatment resistant” client will be responding very well but suddenly seem to hit a wall.  When we explore the reason or reasons for the impasse, I often hear that their psychiatrist or other “expert” has told them “that’s just the way they are”. They have a chronic condition. Basically, “get used to it”. 

I vividly remember one PTSD client who was doing quite well as we used Emotional Freedom techniques (EFT, Tapping) and Picture Tapping Techniques (PTT). During one session we suddenly lost traction. As we began to explore what might be standing in the way of further progress, she reflectively commented “my psychiatrist and clinical psychologist both told me, you know, you’re never going to be the same woman again.”

To her subconscious mind, they’re the experts. What they say must be true.

I then pointed out “there’s an element of truth in that, but it’s not the whole truth. You’re also not the same woman after you read a book, meet with a friend, have a good meal or take a walk in the park. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be a woman who feels confident, safe and secure again.” This opened the door to further progress and she also processed the anger that came up. She felt these comments had stolen her hope. 

Sometimes just being aware of these possible blockages to recovery can help. Other times we need a compassionate helping hand.  Is the nocebo effect, the words you tell yourself or limiting beliefs standing in your way?

If so drop by our clinic for a Health Pass. This covers the $80.00 initial consult fee to meet with David Gilbert our gifted Integrative Therapist. He can also be reached directly @ 613-747-5458.


Author: David E P Gilbert. David is a highly experienced Integrative Therapist particularly focused on anxiety/depression, stress, burnout, grief, trauma or PTSD, Post Concussion Syndrome and self-sabotage.  Being trained in a number of modalities including Emotional Freedom Techniques and PTT (Picture Tapping Techniques), he works with clients both in-office and via phone or video cam across the world. Work so powerful it’s guaranteed. 

Posted in Uncategorized by Pat Moore