Curing the Ills of Alternative Medicine and
Questionable Mental Health Practices
A CSMMH/UB Medical School Conference held May 21, 2005

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Welcome

The Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health (CSMMH) is devoted to the scientific examination of unproven alternative medicine and mental health therapies, which have become increasingly popular in the United States and the world.

The application of modern science to mental and physical health has allowed human beings to overcome age-old maladies and increase longevity. Despite the clear progress in human mental and physical well being, many patients and practitioners have embraced unfounded, and sometimes dangerous, practices, both ancient and new. In recent years, a wide range of unconventional therapies has appeared on the public scene. The fields of medicine and mental health have witnessed a widening gap between research and practice.

Aberrant remedies and techniques are often offered uncritically as alternative or complementary to mainstream medicine. They include everything from untested herbal medicines, homeopathy, and aromatherapy to the use of acupuncture, therapeutic touch, prayer at a distance, faith healing, chelation therapy, and purportedly miraculous cancer cures. A wide variety of unsubstantiated or untested treatments and therapies (such as facilitated communication and hypnotic age regression) and assessment methods (such as human figure drawing tests) have flourished in popularity in recent years in the field of mental health. Still other techniques (such as anatomically correct dolls and the Rorschach Inkblot Test) are widely used even though they are questionable on scientific grounds. Although some of these techniques may ultimately prove to be effective, it is disturbing that their use greatly outstrips their evidentiary base.

The Commission believes that the need for objective, scientific evaluations of alternative or non-conventional medicine, psychiatry, and psychotherapy has never been greater.

The Commission proposes that the best tools of science should be applied to evaluate the validity of hypotheses and the effectiveness of treatments. It will dismiss no claim a priori, but consider it on its merits or because it fits, or fails to fit, some paradigm. It will, using scientific methods and reasonable criteria, seek justified answers to the question "Does this treatment work?" It will call for double-blind and randomized trials of alternative therapies.

Much dubious research has been widely promoted in the Internet, newspapers, television and radio that has later been found to be flawed. Unfortunately, news coverage demonstrates that many in the media are often misinformed about the quality of the research and the need to qualify the importance or to suspend judgment until a full review by the scientific community has a chance to expose shortcomings. The Commission will actively communicate the need for balanced media coverage of provocative research in alternative medicine and mental health practice.

Citizens rely on the expertise of health practitioners and the commitment to objective journalism to make informed decisions about their medical and mental health. The Commission therefore calls upon physicians, psychologists, researchers, health practitioners, journalists and citizens everywhere to join us in supporting this important venture to advance scientific medicine and informed choice.

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The Scientific Review
of Alternative Medicine
The Scientific Review
of Mental Health Practice
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www.srmhp.org

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