Tellington TTouch is a subject I have long avoided, as I tried to avoid talking about pet psychics, because it is such vapid nonsense that there is really very little to discuss. As Thomas Jefferson once said, in another context,
Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them…
The description provided by the inventor of this magic ritual may help to illustrate the problem with trying to take TTouch seriously as a medical practice:
[TTouch] is a bodywork and training method based on circular movements of the fingers and hands all over the body. The intent of the TTouch is to activate the function of the cells and awaken cellular intelligence — “turning on the electric lights of the body.” The TTouch is done on the entire body, each circular TTouch complete within itself. It is not necessary to understand anatomy to be successful in speeding up the healing of injuries or ailments, or changing undesirable habits or behavior.
This collection of impressive-sounding but meaningless words is worthy of a Deepak Chopra quote generator. “Cellular intelligence” gives the game away by its similarity to the “innate intelligence” of Palmer’s chiropractic, or the “vital force” of Hahnemann’s homeopathy, as well as “Q’i,” “Prana,” and all the other mystical energy forces that cannot be identified or evaluated by science but which magic healers claim to be able to manipulate to affect health.
TTouch, like Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, and all the other varieties of faith-healing and “energy medicine” out there, is simply a spiritual practice masquerading as a medical treatment. None of the “energies” that are claimed to be behind these therapies and to have such tremendous power have ever been shown to actually exist, and none of the therapies themselves can provide convincing evidence of any effect beyond the placebo.
Ms. Tellington further illustrates the fundamentally faith-based nature of this personal religious healing practice in her use of language. She notes that, “My philosophy that all beings–humans and animals alike–are reflections of the Divine Whole formed the early basis of Tellington TTouch and anchors it today.” She frequently refers to “the magic of TTouch. And, of course, she employs the vague and deceptive references to “quantum” phenomena that are so common in efforts to make faith-healing methods sound scientifically legitimate:
This book is an introduction to quantum science, explaining how we can be effective with our intention working from a distance. This is not new but many people are just now awakening to the “infinite possibilities” offered by quantum science…you will discover fascinating studies that have been done around the world with many universities and research institutions about the effect of intention and the understanding that all information is contained in the quantum field and is available to us when we learn to listen.
The claims made for the effects of TTouch are broad, covering almost every aspect of the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions of life:
a simple and effective means to relieve a vast range of common and uncommon health issues — from a simple headache to a life threatening emergency.
can improve performance and health
solutions to common behavioral and physical problems
helps establish a deeper rapport between humans and animals through increased understanding and more effective communication.
a newfound sense of well-being and renewal
relief from everyday physical and emotional issues such as headaches, backache, neck pain, depression, and sensitivity to touch.
can be effective in relieving asthma
teachers are using these techniques in the classroom to address behavioral issues and to facilitate problem-solving and positive growth and development in their students.
enhance relationships beyond the constraints of language. Parents are finding new channels to connect with their children. Spouses are deepening their relationships and discovering new ways to nurture one another in a non-sexual context. Friends come to new levels of understanding and appreciation. TTouch is a powerful tool to enrich all your interpersonal relationships.
TTouch-for-You is used successfully for:
Fostering a sense of well-being
Pain relief in neck, back and legs
Releasing unfounded fear and anxiety
Managing panic attacks
Management of arthritis pain
Enhancing focus and learning in the classroom
Helping youth at risk
Improved quality of life for seniors
Deepening interpersonal relationships
And much more
That’s a pretty impressive list of accomplishments for a system of touching rituals made up by one person based entirely on her own intuition. Unsurprisingly, however, there is absolutely no reliable evidence to support any of these claims. The TTouch web site claims, “We have also gathered a rich legacy of anecdotal evidence to support the effectiveness of TTouch to enhance personal wellness and quality of life” without any apparent recognition that this is meaningless in terms of validating the claims made for the treatment (see discussion of anecdotal evidence below).
However, as is so often the case, there is an understanding on the part of those selling quackery that science has marketing value and people want to believe that such a powerful, life-changing treatment has been scientifically validated, even if they rely primarily on anecdotes to judge the practice themselves. So there is a page devoted to “Research and Studies.”
Nothing could illustrate more clearly the contempt and lack of understanding of science than the collection of links grouped under this heading. They consist almost entirely of anecdotes dressed up as science. Uncontrolled case reports or case series with no placebo control, subjective measures of effective, and little to no effort to account for chance and bias are the meat and potatoes of faux science used to promote rather than investigate alternative therapies.
The few links that lead to actual scientific research concern only the effects of touch in general. While there is evidence that some domesticated animal species seek human touch and that they both appear to enjoy it and exhibit physiologic responses that support this interpretation, that says nothing about the validity of the grand claims made for TTouch. Gentle touching almost certainly does have calming effects and generates real physiologic responses in domestic animals. But this gives us no reason to think the specific methods of Tellington TTouch are superior to, or any different at all, from ordinary petting or that there is any mystical energy involved. And it certainly does not justify claims to improve the healing of serious, even “life-threatening” disease!
Ultimately, TTouch is just one in a seemingly endless collection of magic rituals invented and successfully marketed by one individual based entirely on wishful thinking and anecdotes. There is no reason to think it has any more value than any gentle, kind touch, or that it can prevent or treat disease. TTouch is, however, a marvelous illustration of an impressive number of Warning Signs of Quackery. Here are a few of the items on Dr. Walt’s list that appear just on the first few pages of the TTouoch web site:
Is the product or practice promoted as a “Major Breakthrough,” “Revolutionary,” “Magic,” or “Miraculous”?
Do the promotions try to simply elicit an emotional reaction rather than present clear information to help you make an informed decision about the product?
Is only anecdotal or testimonial evidence used to support claims of effectiveness?
Are claims made about scientific support without giving specific details?
Is the information about the therapy or product being provided by a professional lacking in the proper credentials?
Are technical words used without a clear definition?
Would a treatment require you to abandon any well-established scientific laws or principles?
Is the treatment said to be effective for a wide variety of unrelated physiological problems?
Is the product a quick and easy fix for a complicated and frustrating condition?
Do proponents use statements that are basically true but unrelated to the therapy?
Does the proponent disguise the truth with vague and misleading statements?
A Word about Anecdotes and Testimonials
As has happened for every other product or practice I have criticized on this blog, I have no doubt I will receive a steady trickle of comments about TTouch saying, in essence, “I tried it and it worked” or “How can all those people who have used it be wrong?” I will try to pre-empt some of this by referring readers to this collection of articles explaining why anecdotes and testimonials prove absolutely nothing.
- They are unreliable because uncontrolled observation is very prone to error and misinterpretation.
- There is a bias in the posting of testimonials. People with positive experiences are more likely to share them than people with negative experiences, so they misrepresent what people are actually experiencing.
- Similar testimonials can be found to support every single treatment ever invented, including those proven to be useless or even harmful. If we accept testimonials as evidence, than everything works. It’s a test no treatment ever fails.
- Tens of thousands of year of trial-and-error and anecdote led to virtually no improvement in human health and longevity. A mere couple of centuries of relying on science instead has double our life expectancy, dramatically reduced death, disease, and suffering, and proven that science work better than stories.
I encourage you to read these articles that discuss in much more detail why anecdote simply don’t help us evaluate medical treatments.