BBC allows quack Janet Thompson to promote herself on air


The BBC has a bit of a patchy track record when it comes to promoting pseudoscience. On the one hand, they've featured investigations into homeopaths and Brain Gym, on the other, various charlatans still manage to slip the editorial net and promote their particular flavour of quackery on air. This is one of the latter occasions.

Last Wednesday, life coach Janet Thompson managed to bag herself a good chunk of air time on the Chris Evans Drive Time show on BBC Radio 2 to promote herself and make bizarre false claims about how the human body works. You can listen to the show here, the relevant parts being around the 11 minute and 1 hour 13 minute marks.

If you're a rational soul, be warned, you might get a bit angry. I know I did. I had to listen to it in two sessions, separated by a long and fierce walk.

Janet Thompson contacted the show claiming she could cure any craving or phobia in minutes, even over the phone. All it took was a little tapping and some positive thinking. Be it biscuits, alcohol, cigarettes or murdering homeopaths, Thompson was confident she could cure the craving. She calls this Thought Field Therapy, a mish-mash of psychology, acupuncture, neuro-linguistic programming and hypnotherapy. And what's more, she said it was "proven to work". This was going to be interesting.

After an early introduction, Janet makes her entrance at around 22 minutes in, and true-to-form of any self-promoter, gets in the address of her website instantly (somewhat humorously, is already owned by a spiritual healer). She talks some general fluff about what a craving is - overblown thoughts and ingrained patterns of reward behaviour, uncontroversial GCSE pschology stuff. Then she suddenly veers into quasi-Asian mysticism:

JT: We have these thought processes that are transported through the body in meridians, a bit like motorways, in the same way that our blood carries our nutrients and oxygen, our meridians carry the energy of our thoughts.
CE: And this isn't hokum-pokum-
JT: No, no,
CE: This has been proved?
JT: Of course, yeah, you know yourself sometimes you've got a thought and you might get a nice feeling somewhere... ...we know that when you have a thought, the energy of that thought is reflected throughout the body in the meridians.


What?! What was the producer smoking when they agreed to let this woman on air? I'm not going to blame the host Chris Evans, because he does challenge Janet several times, so I imagine he was trying to keep calm and carry on in the face of absurdity whilst wondering whether he still had the number for Virgin Radio. While we wait for the second half of Janet's infomercial, let's take a quick litmus test on Thought Field Therapy. The American Psychological Association says that TFT "lacks a scientific basis" and removed support for it in 1999, stating that TFT "does not meet [our] definition of appropriate continuing-education curriculum for psychologists". Wikipedia notes that

"a controlled study on Thought Field Therapy Voice Technology published in the peer reviewed journal The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice which showed no difference between the TFT VT and randomly selected tapping sequences".

So much for a 'proven' technique.

Back on the radio, Janet joins us again at 1.12.30, but it's worth tuning in a few minutes before that to listen to the Coral's delightful "Dreaming of You". It might help to bring your blood pressure down. It won't last though. Janet discusses her qualifications (Masters in Nutrition & Exercise Science, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Neuro Linguistic Programming Master Practitioner), before Chris gets all Paxman on her:

CE: It's Thought Field Therapy... has its roots in Chinese Ancient Medicine
JT: Well it has in that it uses the meridians, and the meridians are an established pathway and network around the body, a bit like a motorway system for our thoughts, and contains all the information regarding our thoughts.
CE: And once again this is proven?
JT: Yes, yes
CE: Absolutely scientifically proven?
JT: Yes, [founder] Dr Roger Callahan is highly credited and extremely talented and professional man.


The show goes on, but credit where it is due - Chris is as sceptical as afternoon radio levity permits, and Janet is either lying through her teeth or seriously confused about biology. You'd think that someone with a Masters in Nutrition & Exercise Science would know that meridians don't exist.

Janet's grasp of physics is even worse than her biology. At one point in the show she claims:

If you put a voltmeter on your body and you're feeling negative, you get a negative reading. If you tap the side of your hand and then put a voltmeter on you get a positive reading, so it's a measurable improvement.

Now, I don't think it's even possible to get a negative reading on a voltmeter. I really have no idea what bit of science she's bastardising here.

Originally I was going to say that I didn't think Janet Thompson was a complete quack. Whilst NLP and TFT are scientifically untenable, cravings aren't exactly a clinical condition. Changing your behaviour, whether it's for weight loss or smoking cessation, requires some support and a lot of will-power, and any therapy that attends to these can help. However, all this talk of meridians is total guff, and shame on the BBC for allowing someone to parrot such falsehoods on the air.

Then, however, I found this page on her website, after circumventing the broken link on the main page.

Traditionally "Pain Management" techniques have, by definition, taught you how to "cope" or live with pain. Now new techniques such as TFT (Thought field Therapy) NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and Modern Hypnosis, can eliminate the emotional cause of the pain, often bringing IMMENSE PHYSICAL & EMOTIONAL RELIEF and freedom.

Someone get onto the blower to Trading Standards, because I'm fairly sure that only doctors and other employers of reality-based healing can claim pain-relief. This is followed by even more bizarre claims, such as this:

Chinese medicine teaches us that all our emotions have a basis in the mouth, where the tongue represents the Heart. Dr Roger Callahan, the creator of Thought Field Therapy, has taken this one step further and developed a technique where voice analysis (over the telephone) can indicate which meridian points on the body need to be tapped or stimulated to collapse or eliminate a specific negative feeling or emotion.

Janet claims to have a 97% success rate for this therapy, and I'm willing to bet pound to a penny that 'success' in this context means positive self-reporting. Similarly, her quit smoking section claims to be able to stop your habit "quickly and easily in just one session". I'll bet that anyone who smokes after the 'treatment' won't get their money back, because they'll have made the choice to start smoking again - a semantic sham I learned from electro-quacks Monadith.

Really it's a sad indictment of state of scientific understanding in the UK that no-one on Chris Evans' show stopped to say "this is total bollocks". This isn't an internet forum, it's a major terrestrial radio channel of perhaps the most highly respected broadcaster in the world. That such nonsense can make it onto air is fucking embarrassing.

Thanks to Sarah M for the tip!


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It could have been worse: she could have been on Johnnie Walker's Sunday afternoon show on Radio 2. He's much more New Age and totally un-skeptical.

Looks like the 'highly credited' Dr Callahan got rapped over the knuckles to the tune of £50,000 back in 1998 for a similar scheme. If he were behind this latest con, I think it would break the terms of that order (which lasts until 2018), but it may be that other people have picked up the idea.

I meant $50,000, not £50,000âsorry to double-post.

Not everything has to be PROVEN via Science!

Re: Paula - Yes it does.

Nothing -- even in Science -- can be PROVEN [paula's shout]. We can only say how likely or not a treatment's effect (in this case) is due to chance. If a threshold of probability is passed, we just say, by convention, that it's PROVEN.

This blog clearly shows the sad limits, that the so called institutionalised, blinkered flat earther's will go to in a poor, ignorant attempt, to discredit a fantastic healing modality, that has been proven to work by thousands of practitioner's and their clients.

And to say that there is no such thing as meridians is the ultimate joke, surly no body is taking that writer seriously.

Your a stupid dick. If meridians don't exist then how does acupuncture work? Retard

If meridians don't exist then how does acupuncture work? Retard

I'm going to channel Comrade PhysioProf for a moment....


Though, Emilie, you have accidentally knocked the ball out of the park. Meridians don't exist, AND accupuncture doesn't work.

No one can prove anything. Why not ask the clients before and after. Simple test. If most are improved then it works.

ditto Alan. I would consider myself somebody who has an open mind to things. I'm not so cynical and close minded as to snuff at something just because science can't prove it. I actually quite like things that challenge our ideas and ask us to consciously and clearly engage in our whole experience of reality not just the on-going repetitive monologue of our 'thoughts' (which the writer seems so arrognatly invested in). Anyway, instead of lazily refering to the writer's own dogmatic pre-conceived, pseudo-scientific beliefs (any real, truly intelligent and authentic scientist knows that really they know nothing and can only begin to fathom the unique possibility of this universe through the limited perception of the human brain which is even further limited by it's own ability to reference it's experience through the extremely narrow confines of human language.....*breath*) he, and we, should bring some real intelligence in the form of innocence and find out what people's experience of working with this therapy (and meridians in general) is.

'The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos.'

If most are improved then it works.

Google "placebos". Discuss.

TFT must be quackery.... thats why the U N use it to treat
trauma, and why more and more clinicians are using it to great effect. It isn't people like Ms Thompson that get me very angry, it's the narrow minded, frightened "experts"

By nina martin (not verified) on 31 Jan 2011 #permalink