How Does It Work?


What is actually happening when you attend a patient/client?

By John Whitney DC, 613-833-1889,

August 13, 1997

If it were simply a matter of "technique", a very reductionistic and probably dated notion, I'm sure some bio-engineer could build a machine, perhaps resembling an MRI, that could analyze a patient, and afterwards deliver the highly specific "technique", and pop the person out the other a sausage.Few of us would see much merit in this approach, or consider it "healing". Perhaps the following hypothesis can fill the gap that many healers feel when attempting to explain to themselves, what they are actually doing when attending patients. For this hypothesis it is an assumption, that the mechanical aspect of what we do, the corrective spinal adjustment, is our unique factor, as chiropractors.

Many chiropractors rely on more than spinal adjustments alone in attempting to improve their patients health. Using more than spinal adjustments to assist a person to higher levels of health takes us into the area of intentionality. To recommend or administer anything to a patient, other than a spinal adjustment, is a departure from the basic chiropractic method, (our singularly unique factor), only if the chiropractors intent is that the recommendation/administration is therapeutic in nature. If the recommendation/administration is intended to be supportive of the spinal adjustment, as opposed to therapeutic, one could argue that the integrity of the chiropractic method, our uniqueness, is intact. I am not judging what is right or wrong, good, bad, or indifferent; simply laying down the guidelines for this present construct. For our present purpose, the corrective spinal adjustment and any ancillary recommendations/administrations will fall under the heading of "technique", irrespective of intent.

Over and above technique, most chiropractors realize that there are, "other factors", involved in healing. The Placebo Effect comes to mind. One would be hard pressed to find a chiropractor that did not believe that a patients expectations play a role in healing. Yet, we have all had patients who a well meaning friend had to drag through our door...........and still got well. It is difficult for any literate chiropractor to miss the profusion of articles, research and anecdotes that discuss the role of the mind-set of the healer (intention) when dealing with a healee. Does this seemingly ephemeral area have anything to offer us? Or does that seem too flaky?

And lastly, is there anything to the notion put forward by many, from the profane to the profound, that "collective thought", could in any way influence the outcome of what we do when we attend a patient? Sounds pretty wild by conventional thinking.


The technique or method utilized by the doctor to bring about healing is frequently sufficient in and of itself to trigger the body to begin to heal itself, e.g. exact required spinal adjustment, specific home-care, correct natural remedy, modification of a destructive life style, or nutritional advice. It is possible that both doctor and patient have little faith or expectation for a healing, and yet the technique could be so "right on" - correct for the circumstances - the healing takes place. This single facet of healing, your technique, is frequently thought to be the highest priority, and the greatest factor, in your encounter with a patient. The efficacy of technique in the healing process is frequently demonstrated by the act of simply changing techniques while attending a patient, and observing dramatically different results.

It is essential for the doctor to utilize an approach or technique in which they have developed a powerful conviction, faith confidence and belief. You should find a technique(s) that rings your bell. I have long noticed that those chiropractors who have a powerful conviction to embrace one technique exclusively and absolutely, seem to get better results, and the whole office routine is simplified. (I am not advocating anti intellectualism or abandoning critical analysis, just observing) The technique could be any "absolute" method such as specific upper cervical, Logan Basic, Activator, Thompson, Gonstead, or whatever happens to be currant. Sir William Osler used to advise: "use the new techniques quickly; before they lose their effectiveness".


This key point is often forgotten, but may be critical. Without the absolutism, zeal, enthusiasm and powerful conviction of the doctor, the doctor may "try" this and then "try" that, while all the while "wondering" if there may be something or other that may help the patient but is presently unknown to the practitioner. Such patient handling does not bespeak much in the way of the doctors confidence and conviction in the regimen of care.

This equivocation could not only further weaken the doctors confidence in what is presently being done, but could lead to the familiar Jonah Complex, where the doctor feels like a fraud and loses confidence in what he/she is doing.

The less-than-obvious way to convey "intentions" to a patient is by the doctors sub-conscious mind creating so much energy (the doctors focus & conviction) that it can transfer an image (of a healthy and speedy recovery?) to the patients sub-conscious mind. The energy created by the doctors conviction, in what she is doing, is a significant healing factor in and of itself.

Without conviction on the doctors part, in the outcome, only the Placebo and mechanistic forces of the technique/adjustment are at work. "Innate to Innate communication", (subconscious to subconscious), adds an additional and powerful component to the healing process.

Although less is known about this process than we would like, there is a lot of supporting evidence to indicate one person can influence another by this method, (J.B. Rhine, Randy Bird, Justa Smith, Delores Krieger, Eugene Gendlin, Rupert Sheldrake, Karl Pribram, Sir John Eccles, Braud and Schlitz, Grinberg-Zylerbaum, David R. Hawkins, Bernard Grad, Candace Pert) especially if the sender is very focused, and especially if the receiver is very receptive ("wilt thou be healed?")


From a practical application it becomes clear that, to support the doctors "intention" the doctor should look the part, and act in a very confident manner. The trappings and procedures of the doctors office would have to be carefully thought out to match the patients expectations of a healing environment.

The surroundings, the decor, the music, the communication, routing, the staff, would all be chosen and trained to be believable and persuasive. In this hypothesis, the Placebo Effect has to do with a patients faith, confidence and belief (pre-conditioned set) in what is being done for/to them, Please be informed that the Placebo Effect is a powerful and legitimate tool in healing.

All of this organization, office procedure, and focus on the part of the doctor and staff is essential to achieve maximum receptivity, and therefore compliance, on the patients part. It is hard work for the entire office until it becomes routine. There is no coasting however. During patient encounters (PTC) present time consciousness, ("be hear, now") it is essential for the doctor and staff to form the correct mental images (gestures, speech, writing, pictures ) to be conveyed to a patient.

A patient usually wants to get well, and has shown enough faith in the doctor to show for an appointment. The fact that the doctor is present and brings to bear a certain energy of her stature, position in society, accepted thinking that doctors help patients, the white coat effect, all play a part. All of this involves the Placebo Effect and is enough in many cases to activate the body's own forces to begin to heal itself. Faith on the part of the patient (Placebo) is always desirable but is not always essential.

Even if the patient has little or no faith in the doctor or method, healing frequently takes place by the shear energy of the other components.


The Collective Consciousness seems to have an energy of it's own. When enough people hold an idea to be true, to have high value, the energy created by this collective belief could make an impression on the Collective Consciousness (part of Universal Consciousness) and create a self fulfilling prophecy. ("the Universe is plastic and takes our impress": Emerson).

The energy created by beliefs and desires (intent), held by large numbers of people, is often able to manifest that belief or intent. Sometimes it would appear that the Collective Consciousness simply reaches quantum mass as several people in the world get the same breakthrough idea at exactly the same time, as attested to by several scientific quarrels as to who was first.

Naturally there are several possible variations, and combinations, when there are 4 components involved. It appears that any one of these 4 components is capable of healing by itself, or in combination. One of the first thoughts that comes to mind when considering this four component hypothesis of the healing process is, allocation of values. What value should we assign to each of these components?

Reflection will indicate that there is no possible way anyone can assign a fixed value to any one of these components. The allocation of values will vary widely, and can never be constant. Reason tells us that if all the components are favorable then the likelihood of an intended outcome is greatly improved. Your job is to try to employ all four component to a maximum.

The question has been asked, "if all other components are equal but the doctors concept is strongly in favor a healing and the patients concept is strongly negative (for whatever reason) against healing, what will the likely outcome be?". Here we have the Clash of Titans, the classic battle. Whoever has the greater amount of energy (the strongest intention/belief) bearing on the situation will tend to prevail, all other components being equal.

As you can see, you, the doctor, have a large amount of control over each patient encounter, irrespective of the other components. This control comes from your conviction, zeal, faith, expectation of the outcome, or your characterized behavior of such. These are your thoughts, ("thoughts are things") and with your use of free will to compose these thoughts (healing images) you can strongly encourage a desired outcome. Psycho cybernetics taught us, if you simply do everything within your power to "characterize" strong belief in what you are doing, (look, act, talk, move), the neurological effects on you are the same as belief. (Maxwell Maltz, Paul Eckman)

Since you are human and immersed in a society that may not be too supportive of this hypothesis/notion/concept, you can tend to "loose the faith" due to your environment/surroundings/prevailing opinions. This can render you a less effective doctor/healer.

The antidote for this eventuality may be to continuously surround yourself with a multi-media of positive reinforcers, to that which you hold dear. (Friends, acquaintances, entertainment, books, TV. (or not), radio, newspapers (or not)). And obviously, to carefully avoid over exposing yourself to anything that is contrary to your highest ideals and intentions. If you lie down with dogs, don't be surprised if you get up with fleas.

The single most powerful influencer in your life is that with which you surround yourself. Make no mistake about that. Do not count on your intellect or personal vigilance to protect your highest ideals if you choose to immerse yourself in a media that is hostile/contrary or non supportive to your highest ideals and intentions.

The drawback in the preceding hypothesis of healing is that it does not match pre-conceived notions and expectations of many Chiropractors. All progress involves heresy, by definition. This is only a working hypothesis, don't get too excited; just use it if it helps you make some sense out of a lot of conflicting ideas that you may have been exposed to.


Due to our training and present societal accepted norms many would like to hear an explanation of healing that matches something more 'scientific'. In truth this explanation which is based, largely, on intentionality, is very 'scientific'.

The myriad work done on (PNI) pyschoneuroimmunology and intentionality has a lot of support if one looks for it. The 'scientific' explanation sought by many who may reject this hypothesis of healing/communication is frequently based on a concept of science of the past, or scientism. Once Einstein explained his General (Unified) Field Theory and Relativity, a new science was born (1932).

Today's science, based on the work of Einstein, Planck, Pribrum, Heisenberg, Bohme, Pert, Prigogine, and many, many others, is the present benchmark for 'science'. The reductionism of double-blind studies and controlled clinical trials still has its place but there are more modern considerations when demanding 'scientific proof'. For now, this explanation is offered as a working hypothesis, to be used until something better comes along.

If you are one who is seeking, 'scientific proof' of how chiropractic heals, and that 'science' you seek is the science of the past (pre 1932 based on reductionism as opposed to vitalism) you will not likely find an answer anywhere. The obvious clinical efficacy of Chiropractic may be due to the subtle, and multi-facet interactions of the doctor, the patient, Collective Consciousness, and the actual technical interventions applicability to the specific case.

John Whitney DC, 613-833-1889,