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Christian Counseling - Placebo and Nocebo

The Latin meanings for placebo and nocebo are "I will please" and "I will harm," respectively. Numerous studies have shown the significant impact of a placebo (such as a simple sugar pill) which positively effects about 25% of subjects in reducing pain, anxiety, depression, etc.; that is, whatever the person believes will happen.

Similarly, nocebo negatively impacts about 23% of subjects who experience side effects from again, something as benign as a sugar pill. How does the body respond in these ways to a little sugar? Well, I am not sure about the degree to which the body does respond. Measuring physical responses is for future research. What is clear is the mind responds, which is connected to the body. What the mind believes can be the body's reality. Sometimes the body instructs the mind about what it is experiencing and sometimes the mind instructs the body. For example, a person has a night dream of falling, he wakes up fearful and trembling with a heart racing, but on thinking it is only a dream, the negative symptoms come to an end.

The mind is very powerful. Placebo and nocebo could be understood as faith factors. It means that a person has faith in a pill to help or harm, as with any medical procedure, prayer, counselor, book, etc. Faith and outcome are related. It is, therefore, imperative to cultivate a positive outlook and be cautious about engaging in something where doubt and other negative feelings or thoughts exist. In the latter situation, it is important to address one's questions, concerns, fears and uncertainties with others before moving forward in a relationship or with a procedure. For example, in counseling it may seem easier to avoid dealing with a conflict or problem that crops up between a client and therapist. But if faith in treatment and/or the therapist is disturbed, to whatever degree, it is best to work it out with the therapist before a nocebo effect takes place, which can lead to resistance, an impasse or a premature termination. Sometimes, people begin counseling with questions or doubts about whether the process will help or hurt or both. These thoughts should be discussed at the outset of treatment because they can affect its outcome.

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