From mindless medicine to the new science of healing

We need a new science of healing to address the growing crisis in healthcare.

Author profile:
Dr Robin Youngson is a senior medical specialist working in the NZ public health service. An internationally renowned leader, author and speaker, Robin has been an advisor to the NZ Government and the World Health Organization. He has campaigned internationally, for more than a decade, to bring greater humanity and compassion to healthcare, and is the cofounder of Hearts in Healthcare. Robin is a member of the Global Compassion Council of the international Charter for Compassion, and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Compassionate Healthcare. In 2016, the NZ Medical Association give Robin their highest honour – the Chair’s Award – for outstanding contribution to the health of New Zealanders.

The neuroscience of healing

My client told a harrowing story. Many years ago he was critically injured in a road accident. Lying all alone, he was trapped under the wreckage with multiple spinal, limb and head injuries. He believed he was going to die. Fourteen years later he is still trapped in the past, with daily flashbacks, paralysing stress and blinding headaches.

The entire therapy session took only thirty-five minutes, including the time taken to meet my client and hear his story. At the end of the session, the traumatic memory of the accident was erased, and he was unable to register any distress when asked to recall that day. All he could remember was the rescue.

While his relief from trauma is remarkable, the revelation for me was learning the neuroscience of the Havening Touch ® therapy that I used. Although some of the details are speculative, it’s established that this form of psycho-sensory therapy works via specialised nerve receptors that transduce soothing touch on the skin of the upper arms, face and hands. These signals stimulate high levels of low-frequency brain waves (Delta waves), which can reverse the process of traumatic encoding in the amygdala. The neural connections that encode the trauma are permanently and swiftly erased [1]. When the client is asked to recall the event, the memory now seems distant and devoid of emotional content.

The power of this process is startling for both client and therapist and it leads to a giddy sense of relief and sometimes laughter. Many clients with life-long phobias have been cured in a single session of therapy. Those with a complex history of trauma require an iterative process of uncovering and treating different traumas and building emotional resilience. In this process, chronic physical health problems are often resolved and healed.

It’s not my intention to promote Havening Touch above any other form of therapy and it’s the general principle I want to explore. Learning about the mechanisms of action produced a seismic shift in my worldview about the nature of medicine and how patients recover from illness, regardless of the medicine or therapy used.

In the thirty-eight years I have studied medicine, I have from time to time been astounded by incidences of inexplicable patient healing. I saw a patient severely disabled with a painful frozen shoulder, who had barely moved his arm for four months. After ten minutes of therapy from a renowned Qigong healer, the patient recovered a full range of completely pain-free arm movement. My astonishment was matched by that of the patient, who was himself a doctor. I have also met a number of patient who have survived for years, or even decades, after doctors had diagnosed terminal cancer, for which there was no treatment and no hope.

In our Hearts in Healthcare work with health professionals in many countries, exploring the meaning of compassionate caring, I have heard hundreds of deeply moving and inspiring stories of healing. These experiences gave me a deep, intuitive understanding of healing and how a brief encounter can completely change the trajectory of an illness.

As a doctor and scientist, I simply didn’t know what to do with these inexplicable happenings, some of which verged on miracles. I couldn’t integrate them into my system of medical knowledge. However, learning the neuroscience of one mechanism of rapid healing gave me a scientific understanding of how many other forms of medical treatment might work. The revelation for me was that humans possess a rapid, powerful and inbuilt mechanism for healing both psychological trauma and the resultant disease (dis-ease), chronic pain or physical illness.

Suddenly, the miracles of healing I had witnessed before were no longer miracles. I realised that healing is ordinary. Every person has this capability. But Western medical science has been blind to this possibility. The problem is our basic science, which has reduced our patients to mindless machines. Machines don’t heal themselves but humans do. This formulation of medical science has led healthcare into a deep crisis.


The burden of lifestyle disease means our health is getting worse, not better

Despite our remarkable advances in medical technology we are not getting healthier, as individuals or as a society. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, less than 1 in 20 people worldwide had no health problems, with a third of the world (2.3 billion people) experiencing more than five ailments [2]. The number of people with several illnesses increased both with age and in absolute terms between 1990 and 2013.

In my hospital clinic, I assess patients who are coming for anaesthesia and surgery. Only a small minority of patients do not already have multiple medical diagnoses and a list of prescription medications.

The focus on disease rather than healing, plus the explosion of expensive new technology, has caused an exponential increase in healthcare costs. Our hospitals are in crisis, trying to respond to ever-increasing numbers of sick patients. Health professionals are overworked, stressed and burning out in alarming numbers.

With this new perspective on the failings of modern medicine and the untapped potential for healing, I now find it extraordinary and perverse that almost all of medical research, medical training and even my own medical practice has been based on a mindless version of science. What exactly do I mean by that?

While most doctors care very much about their patients, their medical practice is actually based on science that specifically excludes the consciousness of their patients, that treats patients as mindless machines. As a consequence, doctors can’t care for the whole conscious person nor do they learn how to help patients heal. They can only respond to a diagnosis with a standardised therapy. For example, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, infections, heartburn, depression, and menstrual problems are usually treated with a drug without exploring how and why these disorders arise in the context of the patient’s life.

This limited version of medical science is ill-suited to the management of chronic disease. We now know for a fact that patients’ beliefs about illness [3], the meaning they attach to treatment [4], and how much they trust their doctor [5], profoundly affect treatment outcomes. We also know that a major cause of unhealthy lifestyles, addictions, depression, chronic illness and even cancer, is early life experience and emotional trauma [6]. However, a mindless science ignores these factors and leads doctors to treat symptoms rather than causes, and to miss the opportunity for healing.

Patients’ beliefs radically affect their likelihood of getting sick and how well they recover from illness and injury. This effect is so powerful that it seriously complicates medical research. Researchers don’t know if patients get better because of the medicine being tested, or because the patient believes in the treatment and the doctor.

How do medical researchers solve this problem? They came up with an ingenious solution: double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trials. In this form of medical research, dummy pills are compared with identical pills containing the medicine being tested. It’s called double-blind because neither the doctor nor the patient knows what treatment is being given. This research method removes any influence of the patient’s mind and measures only the physicochemical effect of the therapy.

This mindless science has become the only acceptable way for a medical treatment to be ‘scientifically proven’. Based on this evidence, experts formulate clinical guidelines that tell doctors how they should treat different conditions.

This mindless version of science is the basis of almost all medical training, it determines what does and what doesn’t get published in the medical journals, and informs the treatment guidelines developed by expert panels. Doctors are so indoctrinated in this form of science, they sincerely believe that alternative treatments ‘have no evidence’ and ‘they don’t work’. I held similar views for most of my career. But what if complementary and alternative forms of treatment work precisely because they influence the mind of the patient and elicit a natural healing response?

I’m not being critical of my fellow doctors. Like me, they were trained in hospitals where mindless medicine works extremely well. In an emergency, when the patient is seriously ill or injured, during anaesthesia and surgery, in intensive care, doctors can largely ignore the effects of belief and rush to give life-saving treatment. Modern medicine saves countless lives. Because all doctors train in hospitals – even those destined to become family doctors – this experience creates the foundation of doctors’ lifelong beliefs.

But even in acute hospital settings, research shows that the conscious experience of the patient greatly influences outcomes. As an anesthesiologist, if I am empathetic, kind and supportive to the patient before she goes to the operating room, she will have much less pain and anxiety, will need only half the dose of painkillers, the surgical wound will heal faster, and the patient’s stay in hospital will be shorter [7] [8].


Acute medicine doesn’t work in primary care

The mistake made by doctors is to assume that this mindless medicine is also effective in the treatment and prevention of mental illness, lifestyle disorders, chronic disease, and cancer. However, these conditions are the ones most powerfully affected by the consciousness and beliefs of the patient.

We know for a fact that thoughts and feelings affect gene expression [9] [10] [11] [12]. The patient’s habitual thinking style, attitudes and beliefs powerfully influence the course of disease – for better or worse.

These effects are potentially as powerful as many of the drugs that doctors prescribe. It’s extensively documented that some patients have cured themselves of terminal cancer. Coronary artery disease can be reversed without drugs or surgery [13]. A positive mental attitude is just as effective at preventing influenza in healthy adults as the ‘flu vaccination [14] [15]. Research also shows that a doctor’s kindness, caring and compassion have a major impact on patient outcomes [5].

In the management of chronic disease, treating patients as if they are mindless machines is a catastrophe. We are treating symptoms rather than fundamental causes. Almost every patient ends up on multiple medications, sometimes causing more problems than they help. This love affair with prescription medications is costly. Almost 1.3 million people attended U.S. emergency rooms due to adverse drug effects in 2014 and an estimated $200 billion a year is spent on unnecessary or harmful drug treatment. In elderly patients, more than 20% of emergency hospital admissions are caused by adverse drug effects [16].


The century-old history of medical training

Why are doctors so completely immersed in this mindless version of science? The fact is, major corporations took control of medical research and medical training more than a century ago and pharmaceutical corporations continue that domination of medical science. After all, it’s not in the pharmaceutical industy’s interest for people to know that 80% of chronic disease and 40% of cancer can be prevented or cured without resorting to expensive drug treatment (according to the WHO).

The 1910 Flexner report into medical education in the USA and Canada was sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation [17]. Objective biomedicine became the gold-standard for medical education. The many medical schools that taught natural medicine and homeopathy were closed down. Carnegie and Rockefeller, the two richest industrialists of their age, gave huge research grants to support medical schools that supported the new curriculum. Patented medicines became the mainstay of medical treatment. Pharmaceutical companies have a powerful and corrupting interest in medical training, medical journals, medical text books, key opinion leaders, and ultimately government health policy [18] [19] [20] [ 21] [ 22] [23].

In mindless medicine, it makes sense to focus on efficiency, productivity and throughput. Our clinics and hospitals have been industrialised – designed to maximise procedures, prescriptions and profits. When the typical family doctor works in a system that only offers ten-minute appointments, mindless medicine is reinforced. The end result is not a healthcare system, it’s a highly expensive, medicated-sickness system.

The general public knows that many complementary and alternative therapies do in fact work. The reason they work is that practitioners treat the whole person. The therapies are infused with meaning and they elicit the patient’s natural healing response. But tested by the standards of mindless medicine, they are dismissed as useless treatments with no scientific validity.

The medical system is not supportive of alternative viewpoints and there are powerful interests vested in maintaining the biomedical model. As a doctor treating physical illness, if I talk about ‘healing’ my patients or if I practice any form of therapy based on conscious science – as opposed to mindless science – I risk being called a quack and being persecuted for ‘unprofessional’ practice. Medical journals routinely reject papers that do not conform to mindless biomedicine.


Technology is not the only solution to the healthcare crisis

Rapid advances in the technology for sequencing the human genome have excited the imagination of biomedical scientists. The much-hyped ‘Personalised Medicine’ revolution is defined by the National Cancer Institute as, ‘A form of medicine that uses information about a person’s genes, proteins, and environment to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease.” But to me it seems ironic that Personalised Medicine treats everything except the actual person, reducing the characterisation of patients to a series of numbers on lab tests.

Instead of rushing to sequence every patients’ genome – a throwback to genetic determinism – we should be studying how life experiences and beliefs change gene expression. For instance, the most famous of cancer genes – BRCA1 and BRCA2 – which today carry an 80% lifetime chance of breast or ovarian cancer, are highly variable in expression. In the 1920’s the exact same genetic mutation carried only a 20% lifetime risk of cancer [24]. Why? We don’t know the answer because there’s no profit in studying how people stay well but there’s a potential fortune in selling genetic screening tests to everyone.

Another excitement in medical science is the discovery that stimulation of the vagus nerve can have a major influence on inflammatory processes and gut-brain chemistry, helping conditions as diverse as rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy and depression [25]. Technology companies have rushed to invest in the development of implantable vagus nerve stimulators but the cost of the implant and surgery is up to $30,000 [26]. However, the vagus nerve is one of the major pathways in natural healing responses and similar results can be achieved by teaching the patient yoga or mindfulness meditation [27].

Thus, we have a choice: investing in expensive new technology or funding research in the science of healing. I believe the next great revolution in healthcare will not be amazing new technology but a revolution in medical science. It will be a science of caring for people, not just treating disease. It will be the science of health, wellbeing, resilience and healing.

This science will ask why some people can smoke cigarettes all their life and not get ill. It will study why some patients can cure themselves of cancer or chronic disease. It will research why many people don’t get arthritis, or depression or hypertension. And it will deeply inform the development of a healing relationship between a doctor and a patient. It will acknowledge that the natural human capacity is to remain disease-free and vigorous into advanced age with minimal medical treatment, if only we lead healthy lives.

The American Heart Association just reported a study showing that the average life span of men and women can be increased twelve and fourteen years, respectively, with the adoption of five simple habits: not smoking, eating a healthier diet, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy bodyweight, and moderate alcohol consumption [28].

Who maintains healthy lifestyle habits? People who are happy and contented. Who does not? The unhappy, the depressed, the anxious and the stressed. Healthy bodies begin with healthy minds. But social isolation, loneliness, and mental health issues dramatically increase mortality rates and shorten the lifespan [29].

In short, we need a new science of healing to complement our science of sickness and disease. A science of healing that is rigorous, carefully researched, evidence-based, peer-reviewed and which starts with the assumption that each person is a conscious being, not a mindless machine.

The pioneers in healing science are offering us a tantalising glimpse of future possibilities: That a brief family intervention for children at age eleven can reduce inflammatory markers and halve the average alcohol consumption at age nineteen [30]. That emotional trauma, hard-wired into the nervous system, can rapidly and permanently be erased by eliciting innate healing mechanisms [31]. That programs in mind-body medicine can improve clinical outcomes and change the expression of more than a thousand genes concerned with cell reproduction, immune function and stress response [10]. That subjects enrolling in volunteer programs have a 40% less chance of developing hypertension [32] and can reverse age-related declines in cognitive and memory function [33].


We need new institutions

To succeed in this venture of developing a whole new science of healing we need independent new institutions, which are funded to develop this science for the benefit of humanity, not in the pursuit of profit. These institutions need to embody health and wellbeing in every aspect of their physical design and organisational culture.

These institutions will not patent their discoveries, they will freely share all advances in science and technology. They will collaborate, not compete. And these institutions will develop schools of healing science to train new generations of health professionals.

It’s a mistake to conceive of health as an individual phenomenon. This individualistic science is a characteristic of Western thinking, which is not conceived in many other cultures. For instance, among the Maori people of New Zealand, emotional wellbeing and health is a concept that arises within the family grouping (‘whanau’), not individuals. This viewpoint is supported by the science of social network analysis, which shows that health conditions such as obesity and depression are highly contagious, they occur in clusters governed by social relationships [34] [35] [36].

The largest, longitudinal study of health determinants and outcomes – the famous Harvard Study – has been running for nearly eighty years. The Harvard researchers report that the single most powerful determinant of a long and happy life is not the genes we inherit, nor the level of our cholesterol, but the quality of our social relationships. It is impossible to separate individual health and wellbeing from the health of our communities.

However, we live in a time when the greatest worldwide health burden is depression, arising in a society where individualism, materialism, greed, inequality and violence are poisoning our communities. It’s an urgent matter to research how we heal unhappy and divided communities and develop a science of collective flourishing.

The final Western delusion is that man is separate from nature, that we can endlessly exploit and damage our natural environment, in the pursuit of economic growth, without profoundly compromising our human health. Study of ecology has much to teach us about human health and wellbeing, as evidenced by the explosion of knowledge about the human microbiome. Just as humans have mechanisms for healing, so do natural ecosystems. An integrated science may lead us to many new important insights.

Furthermore, we cannot hope to address issues such as climate change without this shift in consciousness. The same mindset that creates a reductionist, mindless form of medicine also allows us to believe that we are separate from nature.

An integrated science recognises that human healing depends on the healing of our ecosystems and our communities. The wisdom-holders in this deep science of the interconnections between human health, ecological health, and the health of communities are the indigenous peoples of the world. Indeed, one native healthcare system in Alaska – Southcentral Foundation Nuka System of Care – is deemed to be the leading example of healthcare redesign in the USA, and perhaps the world.

Who gave this opinion? Dr Don Berwick, Former Administrator for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and President Emeritus of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). At Southcentral, the holistic approach to community healthcare reduced ER visits by 40% and hospital admissions by 37% between the years 2000 and 2017, achieving at the same time exemplary results in patient outcomes, patient satisfaction, and employee satisfaction.

Our new Institutes of Healing Science will flourish when they build deep collaboration between the pioneers in human healing, ecological healing and community healing, and the holders of traditional wisdom. To this we must add an economics that supports health, rather than endless consumption and environmental destruction. A wonderful, holistic framework is captured in the idea of Doughnut Economics put forward by Oxford economist, Kate Raworth.


A revolution

It’s time for the revolution. Everybody knows that the current system of healthcare is unsustainable, and in great peril. We need to act urgently to save our hospitals for the important care of the acutely ill and injured. They are already in crisis, overwhelmed with the burden of treating the chronically sick.

The only answer is to urgently invest in a new science of healing, to complement the advances in biomedicine. We need to expand the model of medical training, and to turn our healthcare system into a health system rather than a sickness system.

How do we start? I can think of no better way than an international gathering of the leading scientists and traditional wisdom holders in an interdisciplinary exploration of the science of healing. Out of this gathering will arise the shared commitment to create the new Institutes of Healing Science, embodying a new set of values and ways of working together.

Now I need your help. I’m reaching out across my international networks to identify all the most important pioneers in healing science – in human healing, ecological healing and restoration, and community healing. Please share with me your knowledge and ideas. Name the pioneers. You can post comments below or you can reach me at robin@heartsinhealthcare.com.

Let’s make this happen.


[1] Ruden, R., A., Harnessing Synaptic Plasticity to Treat the Consequences of Emotional Traumatization by Amygdala Depotentiation Techniques: An Electrochemical Model. 2016. https://havening.org//media/articles/04c490_462ebbeae12a42d697af1401e1362f161.pdf

[2] Global Burden of Disease Study, C., Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries, 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet, 2015. 386(9995): p. 743-800.

[3] Seligman, M.E.P., Positive Health. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 2008. 57: p. 3-18.

[4] Moerman, D.E. and W.B. Jonas, Deconstructing the Placebo Effect and Finding the Meaning Response. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2002. 136(6): p. 471-476.

[5] Kelley, J.M., et al., The influence of the patient-clinician relationship on healthcare outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. PLoS One, 2014. 9(4): p. e94207.

[6] Gilbert, L.K., et al., Childhood adversity and adult chronic disease: an update from ten states and the District of Columbia, 2010. Am J Prev Med, 2015. 48(3): p. 345-9.

[7] Egbert, L.D., et al., Reduction of Postoperative Pain by Encouragement and Instruction of Patients. A Study of Doctor-Patient Rapport. The New England Journal of Medicine, 1964. 270: p. 825-7.

[8] Pereira, L., M. Figueiredo-Braga, and I.P. Carvalho, Preoperative anxiety in ambulatory surgery: The impact of an empathic patient-centered approach on psychological and clinical outcomes. Patient Educ Couns, 2016. 99(5): p. 733-8.

[9] Bhasin, M.K., et al., Specific Transcriptome Changes Associated with Blood Pressure Reduction in Hypertensive Patients After Relaxation Response Training. J Altern Complement Med, 2018.

[10] Kuo, B., et al., Genomic and clinical effects associated with a relaxation response mind-body intervention in patients with irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. PLoS One, 2015. 10(4): p. e0123861.

[11] Fredrickson, B.L., et al., A functional genomic perspective on human well-being. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2013. 110(33): p. 13684-9.

[12] Perroud, N., et al., Response to psychotherapy in borderline personality disorder and methylation status of the BDNF gene. Transl Psychiatry, 2013. 3: p. e207.

[13] Gould, K.L., et al., Improved stenosis geometry by quantitative coronary arteriography after vigorous risk factor modification. The American journal of cardiology, 1992. 69(9): p. 845-53.

[14] Cohen, S., et al., Positive emotional style predicts resistance to illness after experimental exposure to rhinovirus or influenza a virus. Psychosomatic medicine, 2006. 68(6): p. 809-15.

[15] Jackson, L.A., et al., Safety, efficacy, and immunogenicity of an inactivated influenza vaccine in healthy adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial over two influenza seasons. BMC Infect Dis, 2010. 10: p. 71.

[16] Laatikainen, O., et al., Hospitalizations Due to Adverse Drug Events in the Elderly-A Retrospective Register Study. Front Pharmacol, 2016. 7: p. 358.

[17] Stahnisch, F.W. and M. Verhoef, The flexner report of 1910 and its impact on complementary and alternative medicine and psychiatry in north america in the 20th century. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2012. 2012: p. 647896.

[18] Glauser, W., Pharma influence widespread at medical schools: study. CMAJ, 2013. 185(13): p. 1121-2.

[19] Piper, B.J., et al., Undisclosed conflicts of interest among biomedical textbook authors. AJOB Empir Bioeth, 2018: p. 1-10.

[20] Liu, J.J., et al., Payments by US pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to US medical journal editors: retrospective observational study. BMJ, 2017. 359: p. j4619.

[21] Smith, R., P.C. Gotzsche, and T. Groves, Should journals stop publishing research funded by the drug industry? BMJ, 2014. 348: p. g171.

[22] deShazo, R., et al., Backstories on the U.S. Opioid Epidemic Good Intentions Gone Bad, an Industry Gone Rogue and Watch Dogs Gone to Sleep. Am J Med, 2018.

[23] Sismondo, S., Key opinion leaders and the corruption of medical knowledge: what the Sunshine Act will and won’t cast light on. J Law Med Ethics, 2013. 41(3): p. 635-43.

[24] Tryggvadottir, L., et al., Population-based study of changing breast cancer risk in Icelandic BRCA2 mutation carriers, 1920-2000. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2006. 98(2): p. 116-22.

[25] Bonaz, B., V. Sinniger, and S. Pellissier, Vagus nerve stimulation: a new promising therapeutic tool in inflammatory bowel disease. J Intern Med, 2017. 282(1): p. 46-63.

[26] Ben-Menachem, E., et al., Surgically implanted and non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation: a review of efficacy, safety and tolerability. Eur J Neurol, 2015. 22(9): p. 1260-8.

[27] Breit, S., et al., Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders. Front Psychiatry, 2018. 9: p. 44.

[28] Li, Y., et al., Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population. Circulation, 2018.

[29] Erlangsen, A., et al., Cause-specific life-years lost in people with mental disorders: a nationwide, register-based cohort study. Lancet Psychiatry, 2017. 4(12): p. 937-945.

[30] Miller, G.E., et al., A family-oriented psychosocial intervention reduces inflammation in low-SES African American youth. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2014. 111(31): p. 11287-92.

[31] Sebastian, B. and J. Nelms, The Effectiveness of Emotional Freedom Techniques in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Meta-Analysis. Explore (NY), 2017. 13(1): p. 16-25.

[32] Sneed, R.S. and S. Cohen, A prospective study of volunteerism and hypertension risk in older adults. Psychol Aging, 2013. 28(2): p. 578-86.

[33] Carlson, M.C., et al., Impact of the Baltimore Experience Corps Trial on cortical and hippocampal volumes. Alzheimers Dement, 2015. 11(11): p. 1340-8.

[34] Rosenquist, J.N., J.H. Fowler, and N.A. Christakis, Social network determinants of depression. Mol Psychiatry, 2011. 16(3): p. 273-81.

[35] Christakis, N.A. and J.H. Fowler, The collective dynamics of smoking in a large social network. N Engl J Med, 2008. 358(21): p. 2249-58.

[36] Christakis, N.A. and J.H. Fowler, The spread of obesity in a large social network over 32 years. N Engl J Med, 2007. 357(4): p. 370-9.

38 Responses to “From mindless medicine to the new science of healing”

  1. Anna says:

    I cannot consider myself a pioneer of any sort. I recently finished my undergrad studies in Biological Science. This article is exactly what I needed to hear after completing these studies and looking in to the overwhelming number of post-grad opportunities, from temp jobs, research, medicine, environment, it seems never ending.
    I have loved medicine from the beginning, but I have also loved community development and environmental healing. Healing is so hard to do if you don’t know where to start.
    It would be fantastic if you could shoot me an email on what you recommend for a post-grad study. The options seem never ending, but hard to combine the things that I love, which this article seems to try and do at some point.
    I would love to learn from you, and the ideas on how you suggest bringing everyone together in order to achieve a common goal.

    • Robin says:

      Honestly, I have no idea what to recommend. We have to be pioneers together, forging a new path. I’m getting a lot of support for the idea of hosting a major international gathering on ‘The Science of Healing’ in New Zealand in 2020. Some senior leaders are coming on board and there are promises of funding. I propose to crowd-fund the event to create a ‘People’s Summit’ – free from the deeply embedded vested interest that maintain the materialistic model of medical science and practice.

  2. Haley says:

    Wow, such a pleasure to read. Really nice article!

  3. Anne Helm says:

    Dr Youngson
    I am a fellow kiwi and have written you a more personal response. The email did not go through
    Can you send me your email address please
    This article is brilliant and I have sent this onto many colleagues particularly those of us who have been working for a paradigm change in the area of mental distress.
    So happy to have found this article and your work
    much gratitude
    Annie Helm

  4. My back ground is in nursing and my dissolution with the NHS led me to train in multiple modalities, NLP, clinical hypnotherapy healing and massage. My personal experience of living with anxiety and ill health led me to embrace lifestyle changes and as a part of that a meditation practice.

    Thank you for your work it’s so great to read.

  5. Thank you for your thoughts and for your interest in connecting and connecting with those of us who are working in community and connection conscious ways. That’s how I work with the challenge of tobacco cessation. Would love to connect with you.

  6. Superb article. I worked as a mental health nurse in our NHS and could see that the medical model was causing more problems than it was solving. I then discovered Human Givens which has been gaining traction, helping people with many mind and body problems. If you haven’t already discovered this model would take a look.

  7. Dean B. Lohman says:

    I would like to add: Psy-Tap (Kevin Laye) to the list of pioneers in Healing. Associated healers which have been influential in my healing practices for myself, family and clients are: Donna Eden and her husband David Feinstein (Energy Medicine), Dr. Bruce Lipton, Mike Mandel Hypnosis of Toronto , Canada, Moshe Zwang of Palmtherapy, added to the many others already mentioned in other submissions. Thank you for the effort and information of your work, Dr. Robin Youngson !!!!!!

  8. Tremane Barr says:

    Dear Robin Thanks for stating the bleeding obvious (in an academic way) it always helps to speak that language when talking truth to power. As someone who has survived a terminal pancreatic cancer (neuroendocrine) diagnosis I know from personal experience what you are talking about and that it works. Not sure if you have heard of the Radical Remission project, but it will only help with confirming your work: https://radicalremission.com
    More details on my personal story of survival are in the latest issue of the Organic NZ magazine.

  9. Hi Robin,
    Thank you for your wisdom and insight. I too have been impressed with the wealth of knowledge in this area. I work in the traditional healthcare system as an Occupational Therapist. However I have introduced some mind-body tools that have had some profound (miraculous some say) outcomes for myself and my clients. The primary tool I use is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) which sounds like it may be related to the Havening Touch you spoke about. My inspiration and learning have been through pioneers in the area like Dr. Dawson Church and Nick and Jessica Ortner who created The Tapping World Summit and The Tapping Solution to bring together the experts in this area. Donna Eden and her husband Dr David Feinstein also work tirelessly to bring mind-body medicine to the world in practical ways. I have also been impressed with the work of Dr. Dale Bredesen with his approach to reversing Alzheimers, Dr. Jason Fung and his work on incorporating fasting to reverse obesity and diabetes and Dr. Tom O’Bryan and his Betrayal Series to bring together the experts in functional medicine around Auto Immune disorders. Also John and Ocean Robbins for their work on creating The Food Revolution Summit.
    So many great people all working towards this vision that you outline so well. I am excited for the future of medicine. Especially with people like yourself leading the charge.

    • Robin says:

      Thanks for your comments an suggestions, Dean. Yes, you are right EFT and Havening Touch are related because the latter arose out of extensive research into the neuroscience of how tapping worked and then finding more powerful ways to elicit the same healing effect. Many practitioners who formerly used EFT have now abandoned it in favour of Havening Touch, which they say is dramatically faster. It’s early days so the clinical trials of Havening Touch are just starting to be published.

  10. Melinda Tant says:

    Robin, I commend you on your article as I too share your vision for a healthcare system where integrative and complementary medicine work to improve and influence changes in conventional medicine. Change takes time and I feel the urgency of this shift. As the recent past Secretary of the Chris Millar Foundation for Integrative Medicine and Practice Manager of Menssana Mindbody Medicine, I strongly advocate for the implentation of mind-body medicine into our healthcare system.
    I would welcome any involvement in driving this change, particularly in rural and low socio-economic areas where chronic disease and poor mental health is prevalent.

  11. Deb Hughes says:

    Absolutely agree, we know so little but we think that we know a lot because we can do clever technical things. I had homeopathy and it changed my life, and yet so little is known about it. But it clearly works so that means we should work out how and why, not just believe in blind faith that it doesn’t when lots of people know it does from their own experience.

  12. Jennie Evans says:

    Dear Robin

    I am a stage IV cancer patient living in the UK, and your paper is music to my ears! I was very lucky that immediately on diagnosis one of my family told me to go to Penny Brohn UK, (www.pennybrohn.org.uk) formerly the Bristol Cancer Centre, who focus on the Whole Person Approach. They have changed my life in many ways, and while I credit the NHS with saving my life through conventional medicine, I credit Penny Brohn with the fact that nearly 3 years in I am living it fully, indeed more fully than I ever have before. They are recognised here as pioneers in the field of integrative approaches to cancer treatment and I suggest they would make an excellent contact for you. Dr Catherine Zolmann is their Medical Director, I will be seeing her later today at an event on Dying Well (surely an important component of living well!) will mention your paper to her, and say I have suggested making contact if you so wish. Good luck with all your endeavours -there are many of us out there who firmly believe that what you advocate should be the model adopted for all by all.


    • Robin says:

      Thanks Jennie, I trained in Bristol many years ago so I’m familiar with the clinic you refer to – amazing pioneers 🙂

  13. Robin says:

    Here’s a major report from Stanford, ‘The Power of Minds’ – “How does what we think, feel, believe, or cognitively practice influence human health, well-being, and achievement?”
    Link here: http://worldview.stanford.edu/page/power-minds-report

  14. Mitch says:

    Hi Robin,
    Brilliant article.
    Marc Cohen from RMIT Melbourne is an active contributor and researcher in holistic health and integrative medicine.

  15. Mark Minard says:

    Hi Robin, Just managed to sit down and read your article after connecting on Linked In recently.
    Totally support all said in such a clear referenced way. Best article I have seen yet. My current work with my filming partner Bryony Rogers includes Nature as Medicine a Cinematic Documentary. As a New Zealander working in UK for the last 13 years now we have been filming Maori elders and Healers as you have wtitten including visiting Rose Peri. To integrate this with Science research is essential to effect change. I also create and install nature art connecting films with great researched results into NHS hospitals and Prisons, schools and community settings. We have been scanning and viewing existing films in your area and can discuss this. We have also been working on ecological aspects and those influencing education practically as well and in touch with many linked in this area as well.
    We are also working on the much wider holistic view of Mental Health with many personal understanding coming through with experience. As a logical and holistic professional engineer, teacher, artist, film maker I have been following and personally exploring a better understanding for nearly 40 years.I am interested to explore how I can join the team to effect this change. I feel my current work needs to shift wider and be used in the need for change. We have cinematic equipment etc and I am considering moving between UK and NZ and wider. I think the power of cinematic and social media and the importance as you say of bringing key players together to create events is important to effect change.Influencers and connectors in the shift to a ‘tipping’ point if you know the book of that name.
    Please be in touch.
    Thanks Mark Minard

  16. ALison James says:

    Hi Robin,

    I so enjoyed this article and it speaks directly to me as a GP. I am humbled by the influence that I can have that comes from how I interact with the person in front of me as well as my traditional ‘medical’ knowledge. How about all the work around the Blue Zones? This seems to shine a light on all those communities around the world who really embrace this mind- body link to health.

  17. Hi Robin,
    totally agree with what you’re writing about – as I’m sure you already know! Check out the work of Dr Bruce Lipton, Dr Lissa Rankin author of Mind Over medicine, Dr Joe Dispenza author of Becoming Supernatural (and others) Anthony William author of Medical Medium, the work of Lynne McTaggart and of course mBIT via mbraining.com.

  18. Sharon Burch says:

    I suggest you contact Linda L. Fitch. She’s a true healer and is also in contact with others. (https://www.lindalfitch.com)

  19. Peta Joyce says:

    Thanks Robin, a broad reaching and useful article, good references too. Is it going to be published in a journal?

    I would like to add Professor Brian Broom to your database of wise pioneers (ex AUT, set up the MindBody Postgraduate programme there, of which I was a student) now working at Auckland hospital.

  20. Charmaine Weeks says:

    Dear Robin

    For decades I lived with complex trauma and tried all manner of conventional therapies to get on top of it and to at least, appear functional.

    In the last 12 months, I have improved in leaps and bounds since turning to neuroscience. That includes tapping (EFT), brain spotting, havening and also relishing the deep meditative states that come with participating in gong baths.

    This is all in line with a previous comment that you can not separate mind and body. With emergent healing modalities, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to demonstrated their efficacy. For example, there are recently published randomised controlled trials that support a mediating effect of Kundalini Yoga on trauma and in slowing memory loss. This wide spread acknowledgement of benefits should help more main stream care providers to look beyond biomedicine for answers.

  21. Kerry OConnell says:

    Absolutely agree with your thoughts. It took a decade but you appear to have proven that my state of human relation called Tripathy does in fact exist. Remember when you once told me my huge library of Medical Books was completely obsolete little did we know how truly irrelevant that building was. Keep on searching for the truth the world is depending on you.

  22. Sylvia Smith says:

    Robin, Your article is so interesting and highlights exactly what is missing in medicine. I have recently completed a 7 week course on dementia and what was hightlighted to me was how they perceived the person. They focused on a person centred approach, where the person was involved, with support, towards making their own decisions and a plan for their health and wellbeing towards the end of their life. They discussed non-Pharmalogical strategies, Reminiscence therapy, “Snoozelen”, Human to Human approach and Validation Therapy. This was through the University of Tasmania. Keep up the good work. I look forward to seeing more of your articles.

  23. Britta Conlon-Noske says:

    Dear Robin,
    What a wonderful summary of what so many of us have felt and talked about for some time.
    There are some wonderful integrative healers already here in NZ and Australia, whom it would be useful to connect with. AIMA (the Australasian Integrative Medical Association) has many skilled practitioners as members (not just doctors) and runs regular meetings and conferences here and in Australia (contact Tim Ewer in Nelson for our NZ Representative). They are already networking and building alternative healthcare systems at primary level, although the cost to patients is often a hurdle.
    If you want to tap into some extraordinary people in the cancer world, there is Ian Gawler in Yarra Valley, Melbourne, and Petrea King outside of Sydney who have spent more than 3 decades teaching and helping people with life challenging illnesses (often cancer, MS or HIV) on what helps the body, mind and spirit to heal. Here in Rotorua, the Aratika Cancer Trust, taps into their work to guide lifestyle programmes based on meditation, stress reduction, nutrition, and emotional healing.
    There are some skilled Maori healers in NZ as well, although many work underground. Rose Peres is a name I have heard mention several times though.
    Overseas, people like Rachel Naomi Remen, Bruce Lipton (he is in NZ for 6 months every year), and a whole range of practitioners in the US have been exploring this pathway for some time. I think the momentum is growing.
    I would love to be involved in whatever springs forth from this.
    Blessings to you, Britta

  24. GLENN ROBERTS says:

    Many thanks for this … i agree with much that you have said and have long been involved with advocating for more person-centered approaches in psychiatric practice and services in the UK.

    some of my early and potent influences were from the NZ Recovery Movement led by experience based experts in your Mental Health Commission and their example and materials had a major effect on the development of the international recovery movement … with a very similar philosophy and guiding values about agency, person-centredness, self management, peer support and community participation as i read here … are you connected to the recovery movement in NZ?

    • Robin says:

      Hi Glen, that’s a good suggestion – the Recovery Model. We have close ties with the mental health sector and we have already run a nationwide series of ‘Compassionate Leadership’ workshops for leaders in mental health.

  25. Dawn Pepin says:

    I am a diagnostic radiographer in the uk. Whilst researching recovery from emotional trauma it lead me to the work of Dr. joe dispenza . Also the work of Dr Bruce Lipton – and the work of Dr. Gabor Matè. Their work is extensive with the profound message that you simply cannot separate the mind from the body. Dr Gabor Mate is speaking at the Trauma Summit in Ireland in June. If you are not aware of these names / they may well be of interest to you in this field.

  26. Claire Stevens says:

    Your first book had a profound effect on me. As does this latest article.
    I have always considered myself to be a ‘holistic’ practitioner, but truth be told, it doesn’t often happen in quick appointment times and overrunning clinics.
    There are so many things that can be improved. I see it everyday. Changing mindset is hard, but yet it is happening. Even in orthopaedics, where there is a clear ‘physicality’ to clinical presentation and treatment, we intuitively know the patients who will thrive based on personality, social support etc.
    I’m sure you’ve remarked on previous occasions how difficult, it not impossible, it is to effect cultural change. I believe you are right, but there is something happening out there. I’m thinking about Frome in the UK where one GP basically set up a town wide social support network to combat loneliness and the reduction in healthcare apps/A & E attendance were impressive.
    It is a big job to try and effect the changes which would have real impact. It encompasses everything from having honest conversations with people about the futility of certain treatments despite technological and pharmaceutical advances right through to encouraging employers to give individuals who have limited work capacity a chance, so that we can radically change the benefits system. Actually, it is a massive massive job. And although I often feel overwhelmed, I also feel enthused. This is because of people like you, who were and are brave enough to put themselves out there. Because of that and communities like this, I can honestly say that I want to keep striving for that shift and I can’t and won’t stay silent!
    All good wishes

  27. Bravo! Yes! We need an integrated approach, empowering and educating the public to take personal responsibility and seek medical partners to assist them with care for their physical and emotional well being.

    I believe we need build communities and loved the quote “It is impossible to separate individual health and wellbeing from the health of our communities.”

    This article summarizes why I’m so passionate to educate families about the possibilities of utilizing natural solutions as doTERRA essential oils after having relieved my own anxious feelings in just minutes and maintained not needing aggressive procedures. If we feed the cells good support and nutrition they create homeostasis and build better body systems.

    Also in my education offerings, I’ve companioned a Swiss handmade, German technology patented in-home circulation medical device to offer enhancement to the majority (74%) of the entire circulation system through opening microcirculation and vasomotion through the smallest of capillaries. I’ve personally seen improvement in stress and relaxation due to the increased oxygen and better blood flow. Of course we can monitor numbers to see the body returning to a more normal range of all blood system monitored data points. This device is easy to use and provides hours of positive residual benefit.

    I would love to support any upcoming meetings with education on both cellular support and circulation. In addition I have a book being released that is titled “LIFE: Let It Flow Effortlessly” because we need to learn to better mentor ourselves to arrange our lifestyle to serve us, not stress us out everyday!

    ~ Norma Strange

    Delivering HOPE – helping other people everyday, everywhere and in every way

  28. Ken Jaques says:


    I have so many ideas running through my head and would also be happy to offer my assistance to pushing your ideas forward and bringing them into existence. First set of names that come to mind:

    Lifestyle Medicine Doctors – Dr. David Katz with True Health Initiative and American College of Lifestyle Medicine
    Integrative Medicine Doctors – people like Andrew Weil
    Functional Medicine Doctors – people like Jeffrey Bland and Mark Hyman

    I will follow up as I come up with additional names.

    Cheers, Ken

    • Robin says:

      Thanks Ken, these names come up repeatedly. What we want to do is widen the dialogue beyond healthcare to include inspiring pioneers in the science of ecological restoration/healing and community healing.

“When all members of an organization are motivated to understand and value the most favourable features of its culture, it can make rapid improvements.”