Trust and the Healing Encounter: An Examination of an Unorthodox Healing Performance

Author: Bolton, J.

Source: Theoretical Medicine, Volume 21, Number 4, August 2000 , pp. 305-319(15)

Publisher: Springer

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Just why a patient should trust a particular healer is a question that has not been adequately explored in the literature on healing. This ethnographic case-report examines the healing performance of a chiropractor and proposes that it contains four intrinsic claims to trustworthiness: he claims to be a qualified and sincere healer who is in possession of knowledge and techniques that derive their power from their truth content and which empower him to make beneficial changes in the patient. Taking each claim in turn I described the nature of the claim, how it might be adequately validated, ways in which his healing performance might validate it and how he might be assisted by the patient, and how their actual validation may be distorted by the healer and patient. It is suggested that while unusual in many regards, this unorthodox healing performance may be a foil by which to examine other more orthodox healing performances.

Keywords: alternative medicine; chiropractic; ethnography; faith; healing; performance

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, The Cambridge Hospital, 163 Gore Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02141, USA E-mail:

Publication date: August 1, 2000

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