Experiences of healing therapy in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

ibs-ibd-323x200The aim of this research was to provide the first global qualitative research evidence around the experiences of healing therapy for people with IBS and IBD. Funded by the Big Lottery Fund UK,  this feeder trial (ISRCTN: ISRCTN13039379, DOI: 10.1186/ISRCTN13039379) was one of  the largest global studies (n=200) to consider the influence of healing therapy as a result of a Big Lottery grant.

The qualitative study was lead by Dr Andrew Soundy from the University of Birmingham. The unique qualities of the study allowed the research and analysis to reveal rich details around the experiences of healing past the outcome measures selected and used within the feeder trial.

For the purposes of this study any individual who participated in the larger trial and had received healing therapy as a trial intervention was eligible for selection. This mean the research was accessed using a single centre with a clinician diagnosis of IBS (confirmed by ROME II criteria) or Crohn’s Disease (CD) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC).

Patients more generally reported being more relaxed and tolerant towards their symptoms

After the grant from the Big Lottery Fund was awarded the research gained national press and other e-attention (only some examples):

This research represents a highly accessed article http://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12906-015-0611-x  approaching 2000 views since its publication at the end of 2014 performing well within complementary therapy articles. It has supported two other articles from the research including the main trial and has been used as part of a book recently published by one of the healers Sandy Edwards: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N7PTINR.

What are the outcomes of this research?

The aims of this this study was to consider the perception and experiences of patients of a course of healing therapy sessions. The feeder trial was intended to identify the efficacy of the intervention.

The qualitative study was pivotal in its ability to shed light on the processes and experiences of patients, including the delivery of the content and exceptional adverse experiences in some cases.

Patients more generally reported being more relaxed and tolerant towards their symptoms; the connection with the therapist was important to this process. 

People involved

The healing therapy project included a large team from different organisations including:  


  • Dr Andrew Soundy (Qualitative study director) (University of Birmingham, United Kingdom)
  • Professor Lesley Roberts (Feeder trial director) (University of Warwick, United Kingdom)
  • Dr Tom Kingstone (Research assistant) (Integrated Medicine Department, Freshwinds Charity Birmingham)


  • Dr Rhonda Lee (Chief Investigator)(Integrated Medicine Department, Freshwinds Charity Birmingham)
  • Dr Pankaj Shah (support investigator) (Integrated Medicine Department, Freshwinds Charity Birmingham)
  • Ms Sandy Edwards (Healer, Member of the Healing Trust)
  • Ms Sarah Ashley (Healer, Member of the Healing Trust)


  • Dr Sukhdev Singh (Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield)