Last Sunday evening, the Syrian, Mohammad D., tried to enter an open air festival in Ansbach, Germany. As he had no ticket, he was barred from entering. Later he exploded his bomb in front of one of the entrances of the festival. It killed him and injured 15 others, 4 seriously.
According to a report published in German, the 27-year old suicide-bomber had been treated since about half a year in an institution in Lindau called ‘Exilio’ by alternative therapists (Heilpraktiker) who offer ‘holistic help’ for immigrants under the leadership of Gisela und Axel von Maltitz.
The German ‘Heilpraktiker’ is an oddity left over from the Third Reich. Today, a Heilpraktiker hardly needs any education or training at all. What is more, he/she can claim to practice psychotherapy without proper training in psychotherapy. The Heilpraktiker in charge of Exilio, Axel von Maltitz, for instance, calls himself ‘Primärtherapeut, Heilpraktiker, Traumatherapie and Psychotherapie.’ The debate in Germany about the usefulness or otherwise of the Heilpraktiker has recently been stimulated by the publication of a critical book on the subject and can be expected to get more intense after the events in Ansbach.
‘Exilio’ apparently has a dubious reputation in Lindau, and the local officials had stopped co-operating with this clinic already over a year ago. The therapeutic team of Exilio does not seem to include a single qualified doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
The treatments employed in ‘Exilio’ include such dubious methods as Rebirthing, a technique involving “specific breathing exercises which allow individuals to re-experience memories from the past and to release feelings and sentiments that are suppressed / contained within the emotional physical self.” I am not aware of good evidence to show that Rebirthing is effective for any condition.
It seems clear that the Syrian suicide-bomber was seriously disturbed; apparently he already had previously tried to commit suicide. Nobody will ever know whether the atrocity of last Sunday could have been prevented, if he had received proper psychiatric attention. With hindsight, however, it seems clear that the alternative therapies he did receive were not effective.