Irving Kirsch, in his book Emperor’s New Drugs, exposes the myth that antidepressants are the ‘first and best choice’ when dealing with depression and other mental health problems. In fact, he goes further by unveiling the manipulation and misrepresentation of clinical trials in order to give these chemical compounds a status they simply haven’t merited!


We can also see from his work how society is often misled by research and statistical data, which presents something as ‘fact’ when often there is very little evidence to substantiate this. His research reminds us that there are infinitely better choices for dealing with depression and mental ill health issues, such as: counselling and psychotherapy, support groups, personal development programmes, some forms of hypnosis, CBT, exercise, mindfulness and meditation, to name a few.


Irving Kirsch is Associate Director of the Program in Placebo Studies and a lecturer in medicine at the Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre. He is also a professor of psychology at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom, and professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Hull, United Kingdom, and the University of Connecticut in the United States. Kirsch is noted for his research on placebo effects, antidepressants, hypnosis and expectancy. His research and his analyses of clinical trials of antidepressants have influenced official treatment guidelines in the United Kingdom.


Kirsch is the originator of the ‘response expectancy theory’. The basis of his hypnosis theory is that placebo effects and hypnosis share a common mechanism: response expectancy. Kirsch’s idea on this topic is that the effects of both hypnosis and placebos are based upon the ‘beliefs’ of the participant. He has characterized clinical hypnosis as a “nondeceptive placebo.”


Below is a brief introduction to his work. Have a look and see what you think…




Also see: Emperor’s New Drugs and The Science of Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake