Evaluating Alternative Therapies

“How Do I Evaluate Treatment Claims?”
Psuedoscientific Therapies: Some Warning Signs (adapted from the American Arthritis Foundation) *originally printed in Science in Autism Treatment, Spring 1999.

1. High “success” rates are claimed.
2. Rapid effects are promised.
3. The therapy is said to be effective for many symptoms or disorders.
4. The “theory” behind the therapy contradicts objective knowledge (and sometimes, common sense).
5. The therapy is said to be easy to administer, requiring little training or expertise.
6. Other, proven treatments are said to be unnecessary, inferior, or harmful.
7. Promoters of the therapy are working outside their area of expertise.
8. Promoters benefit financially or otherwise from adoption of the therapy.
9. Testimonials, anecdotes, or personal accounts are offered in support of claims about the therapy’s effectiveness, but little or no objective evidence is provided.
10. Catchy, emotionally appealing slogans are used in marketing the therapy.
11. Belief and faith are said to be necessary for the therapy to “work.”
12. Skepticism and critical evaluation are said to make the therapy’s effects evaporate.
13. Promoters resist objective evaluation and scrutiny of the therapy by others.
14. Negative findings from scientific studies are ignored or dismissed.
15. Critics and scientific investigators are often met with hostility, and are accused of persecuting the promoters, being “close-minded,” or having some ulterior motive for “debunking” the therapy.