Unique book on psychology behind complementary medicine

Cover of book 'Complementary Medicine and Health Psychology'

A unique book looking at the relationship between psychology and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has recently been authored by a Staffordshire University lecturer.

Dr Mark Forshaw, principal lecturer in psychology, has been exploring the psychology behind CAM and how this may affect treatments, why it sometimes appears to work and why it sometimes does not, and why some people are drawn to it whilst others remain sceptical.

As the first book of its kind, Complementary Medicine and Health Psychology draws on the wealth of expertise among its three authors – Dr Forshaw, Anna van Wersch, professor of psychology at the University of Teesside, and Tina Cartwright, senior lecturer at the University of Westminster – to answer these questions.

Dr Forshaw, who has been with Staffordshire University for over three years, said: “CAM is an enormous field and there is so little high-quality research on what’s there and if it helps, so the idea of bringing it together was something that I’ve always wanted to do.”

He added: “As Health Psychologists we were working on the subject separately and decided to pool our expertise into this one book.

“What we are saying is that instead of having complementary medicine separated from orthodox medicine we should bring everything together. So, if someone is making a claim that their therapeutic methods are working, for example, let us subject them to the same rigorous testing and procedures that orthodox medicine is put under, so we have similar scientific evidence of their effects.”

While CAM has often been dismissed out of hand by scientists, the authors maintain that it deserves attention as a psychological phenomenon alone.

Key topics covered include: models of the person, health beliefs and experimental psychology, placebo, research methods in CAM, stress, coping and stress management, pain and chronic illness, communications and interactions between client and therapist.

Angela Carryer, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Health, said: “Having a faculty member that is at the forefront of research in CAM and psychology is a wonderful opportunity for students as this is a key area that is studied on the BSc (Hons) Complementary Therapies award here at Staffordshire University.”

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