The Simonton Method of counselling is based on a combination of mind-body modalities: cognitive-behavioural (based on belief work: approach of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy), relaxation exercises, Guided Imagery and mindfulness-based meditation practice. The Simonton Method is built on the idea that beliefs, inner attitudes, emotions and lifestyle have an impact on recovery from physical illness. As an adjunctive technique, the Simonton Method is founded on the holistic belief that the body, mind and emotions are inseparable and function as a system. A change in one part of the system could result in change throughout the system1. Elements of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy are promoted to help the patient to change beliefs and thus may lead to regaining health. In Guided Imagery exercises according to the Simonton method, cancer patients imagine their bodies fighting cancer cells and winning the battle.
Claims of efficacy / Mechanisms of action / Alleged indications
The founder of the Simonton Method concluded from the performed pilot study and from his experience with cancer patients that this method can significantly prolong survival time. Self-healing capacities are seen as a very important factor in the recovery process. The method intends to empower patients by improving these self-healing capacities. Enhancement of quality of life is one of the primary goals of this method.
The mechanisms of action are to be seen in the rather non-specific effects of mind-body modalities. Changing inner belief systems may lead to a change in emotional reactions to stressful life events. This process helps the patient to reduce chronic Stress factors. Quality of life and the general state of health could thus be improved. Relaxation, Guided Imagery and mindfulness-based meditation techniques may also induce Stress reduction and improvement of quality of life.
Prevalence of use
Group workshops, also called patient week/program, based on the Simonton Method are offered in many countries including North America, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Japan and South Africa. They are attended by approximately between 100 and 200 patients per year worldwide. Individual counselling is offered by 30 therapists throughout Europe. There are many cancer patients who learn about the modality by reading Simonton’s books or by listening to tapes with lectures and Guided Imagery sessions. It cannot be estimated how many patients use elements of the program as part of self-help management without following a structured patient week or individual counselling. Visualization (sometimes according to the principles of Simonton therapy) is used in many psychosocial support programs, without adhering to the original concept.
Does it work?
Dr. Simonton conducted one uncontrolled trial in order to assess the modality he inaugurated. This is the only clinical trial concerning the Simonton Method. Preliminary results were published in two papers. The study itself and the two publications are of low methodological quality. Overall, no conclusions can be drawn on effectiveness and efficacy of the Simonton Method because of the lack of rigorous clinical trials. Further research on the assessment of the Simonton Method in the now implemented version is needed.
Is it safe?
No data on adverse effects, contraindications and safety of the Simonton Method as a combination of mind-body modalities can be found. Concerning the different elements of the Simonton Method (cognitive-behavioural therapy, relaxation, guided imagery, mindfulness-based meditation), it can be said that each of them used separately has a good safety record as part of supportive cancer care.