Representatives of six Australian professional organizations of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) developed a survey for e-mail distribution to members. The anonymous online Qualtrics survey was based on previous surveys to identify workforce trends over time. Survey data were analyzed descriptively using Qualtrics and STATA statistical software.

Responses were recorded from 1921 participants. Respondents were predominantly female (79.7%); 71.8% were aged over 45 years. Remedial massage therapists represented 32.1% and naturopaths represented 23.7% of respondents. Highest qualifications were diplomas (37.7%), bachelor’s degrees (28.9%), and advanced diplomas (21.8%). Metropolitan locations accounted for 68.1% of practices. Solo private practice was the main practice setting (59.8%); 13.8% practiced in group private practice with SCAM practitioners; and 10.6% practiced with allied health practitioners. Approximately three quarters of respondents (73.9%) saw 0–5 new clients per week; 42.2% had 0–5 follow-up consultations per week. Collaboration rates with SCAM practitioners, other non-SCAM practitioners, and general medical practitioners (GPs) were 68.7%, 24.4%, and 9.2%, respectively. A total of 93% did not suspect an adverse event from their treatment in the past year. Businesses of 75.9% of respondents were reportedly affected by the pandemic.

The authors concluded that comparisons with previous surveys show ongoing predominance of female practitioners, an aging workforce, a high proportion of remedial massage and naturopathy practitioners, and an increasingly qualified SCAM workforce. There was little change in the very low number of adverse events suspected by practitioners, number of consultations per week, and low levels of income of most SCAM practitioners compared with the average income in Australia. Respondents collaborated at similar rates as in the past; however, more with SCAM practitioners than with GPs.

Yet another fairly useless SCAM survey to add to the endless list of similarly wasteful investigations!

If I had to extract anything potentially relevant from it, it would be just three points:

  • The authors speak of an ‘increasingly qualified workforce’. The basis for this claim is that the highest qualifications were diplomas (37.7%), bachelor’s degrees (28.9%), and advanced diplomas (21.8%). Oh dear, oh dear! Anyone can issue ‘diplomas’ which are not recognised qualifications. In other words, the SCAM workforce is woefully underqualified to take charge of patients.
  • Only 9% of SCAM practitioners ‘collaborated’ with GPs. By collaboration, the authors mean the very minimum of informing the GPs what type of SCAM they might be getting. Such information can be essential for avoiding harm (e.g. interactions with prescribed drugs). In other words, even the minimum of ethical and safe practice is not met in 91% of the cases.
  • The fact that a total of 93% SCAM practitioners did not suspect a single adverse event from their treatment in the past year is extraordinary. It does, I fear, not demonstrate thaat SCAM id safe but that SCAM practitioners are totally oblivious to the possibility of adverse effects. In other words, they don’t inquire about adverse effects and thus don’t notice any.

Yes, these are data from Australia, and one could argue that elsewhere the situation is different. But different does not necessarily mean better. Until I see convincing evidence, I am not optimistic about the clinical practice of SCAM. Altogether, these findings do not convince me that SCAM practitioners should be let anywhere near a person who needs medical attention.

16 Responses to A Profile of SCAM Practitioners and Their Practices

  • I suspect that SCAM practitioners do notice many adverse effects and events but erroneously interpret these as signs that their treatment is working and that “the healing crisis” is being demonstrated. Something along the lines of “it’s just toxins leaving the body dear, nothing to worry about”.

    • good point!
      condition is worse: HEALING CRISIS
      condition improved: I TOLD YOU, MY THERAPY WOULD CURE YOU

    • @Christine Sutherland
      Nail, head.
      Homeopaths have even integrated this as a core principle in their quackery, calling it ‘homeopathic aggravation’.
      It was also how a friend of my family was killed by a homeopath: when his complaints of fatigue and lack of energy got worse while being treated by a homeopath, this lady told him that this was completely normal, and that he should first reach the lowest point before ‘climbing back to health’.

      The lowest point turned out to be 6 feet under, as a result of untreated (but initially perfectly treatable) heart problems.

      • Sorry, friends, but ignorance is not bliss.

        In homeopathy, a “healing crisis” generally takes place within the first 72 hours…and is followed by obvious or significant improvement in a person’s overall health. Without this improvement, the initial increase in a small number of symptoms is NOT a “healing crisis.”

        Further, usually, a “healing crisis” is a return of old symptoms, typically from many years or decades ago, OR it is an externalization of symptoms, commonly on the skin or an increase in a discharge.

        It is so much fun watching people who pretend to be smart but instead show their profound ignorance.

        • For information about Ullman, see: which states that he is “a tireless and hard-working advocate of homeopathy… He has no actual qualifications in… medicine, and will happily point out the he was arrested for practicing medicine without a license… He is required to sign a contract with all his patients explaining to them that his is not a medical doctor.”

          So it’s impossible to take seriously any claims he makes about health care.

          • Thanks Gerhard, I had serious concerns about his state of mind when I read his plainly wrong claims about homeopathy and your notes now make perfect sense. Appreciate your effort.

        • Dana

          It is always enjoyable to witness the spectacular levels of self-delusion you have to embrace in order to convince yourself that your worthless nostrums are having an effect. Yet another reason why you are regarded as a figure worthy only of mockery.

        • Dana – the device which provides you with “so much fun watching people who pretend to be smart but instead show their profound ignorance” is called a mirror.

        • @Dana Ullman
          Yes, ignorance is certainly not bliss. For starters, you are by definition ignorant about what this homeopath told this friend of ours. You are also ignorant of the fact that there is no such thing as ‘homeopathic aggravation’ or ‘healing crisis’ – simply because homeopathy has no clinical effects whatsoever (again something you seem ignorant about). And of course you are ignorant about the fact that quite a few homeopaths mention ‘several weeks’ when fooling their victims marks customers in case things get worse.

          Anyway, how do you think a homeopath should deal with someone whose condition doesn’t resolve while receiving placebo sugar crumbs, or even gets worse?
          I have seen several such cases, and every single time, the homeopath would reassure their customer that there was nothing to worry about, that this was completely normal with homeopathy, and that they eventually should get better. They used all the usual excuses: ‘homeopathy is very mild, so it can take a while to start working’, and ‘yes, this is to be expected with this high potency’, and also ‘maybe we should take another look at your symptoms’, or simply ‘don’t give up!’.
          NEVER EVER did they admit that their sugar crumbs didn’t actually do anything, and that the customer would be better off consulting someone actually competent in medical issues (i.e. a real doctor). Because most of all, homeopaths are utterly ignorant about health and sickness, and should therefore stay away from people with health problems.

      • Very sad and shocking to know this.

    • It is quite simple:

      1. they must never admit the they mess up

      2. so they must have an explanation

      3. when the patient’s condition gets worse

      a) the patient did not do enough
      b) the worsening is a sign that the “therapy” works at the right place

      So, neither the therapy cause for the worsening nor is the therapist in any way responsible for anything bad.

      This pattern is ubiquitous.

  • Please provide evidence Edzard that practitioners are actually making statements to patients such as ‘WITHOUT MY TREATMENT YOU WOULD BE DEAD BY NOW’ and ‘I TOLD YOU, MY THERAPY WOULD CURE YOU.’
    I suppose you just like to excite us and entertain us with some hyperbole.


    noun: hyperbole; plural noun: hyperboles
    exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

  • Nice one Edzard , ha ha ha.

    However, Caracature= exaggeration and that is what you claim homeopaths do.
    So I suppose you using caricature in a similar way against homeopaths is a kind of homeopathic response.
    Great to see the Law of Smiles in action on this blog

    • Caracature?????

      How do you spell “illiterate?”

      The word is CARICATURE!

      If you don’t no how to spell, at leest pay attenshun to your spell check.

  • Thank you for your original response.

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