Written by Lieve Vanschoubroek, Michaela Sieh and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated February 8, 2017

Simonton Method

Does it work?

Dr. Simonton conducted one uncontrolled trial (see below) in order to assess the modality he inaugurated. This is the only clinical trial concerning the Simonton method. Preliminary results were published in two papers. The study itself and the two publications are of low methodological quality2,3. Overall, no conclusions can be drawn on effectiveness and efficacy of the Simonton method because of the lack of rigorous clinical trials. Further research on the assessment of the Simonton method in the now implemented version is needed.

Clinical trial

From 1974 until 1978, 245 patients were enrolled in the uncontrolled trial and received 5 to 10 days of group and individual counselling. The intervention techniques mentioned were: relaxation, guided imagery, imagery drawings, evaluating and changing inner beliefs (belief work), a program of physical exercise, education regarding diet. The first publication evaluated 75 patients (belonging to 3 patient groups: breast, lung and colon cancer)2. The second paper evaluated outcome measures of 123 patients3. The reason for this difference in numbers of included patients is not given. Both papers only mention the outcome “median survival time”, whereas it is stated that quality of life and quality of death had also been outcome parameters. Survival time of the intervention group (grouped according to cancer site) is compared to a parameter called “median national survival time”, based on several publications. For breast cancer, the intervention group showed a median survival of 35 months, compared to 16 months. For bowel cancer, the median survival of the intervention group patients was 21 months, in the control 11 months. For lung cancer, results were presented from 14 months for intervention group and 6 months for the comparison group. The correctness of the comparison data has been questioned. The author concluded that survival was prolonged and quality of life was improved.

There are several elements that may have affected the outcomes of the trial. The patient population was highly selected, motivated, well-educated, self-referred. There was no control group. A planned matched-pair trial was announced, but has not been published. Disease stages and grades are not mentioned as variables concerning the assessment of overall survival. One paper mentions the different conventional treatments that breast cancer patients received during the trial period: differing from high-dose multiple-drug chemotherapy to radiotherapy and hormonal therapy. Differences in conventional treatment need to be taken into account as confounders. Regular individual psychotherapy sessions before and after the intensive patient week were obligatory for all patients enrolled in the trial. Therefore, it is not possible to distinguish what the specific effects of the Simonton method were and what effects the individual psychotherapy sessions may have had.

Dr. Simonton concluded that the results presented could not be generalized.

No further scientific studies or publications in peer-reviewed journals concerning the Simonton method have been performed. .

Other publications

Two books were published, written for patients and their support persons: “Getting Well Again” and “The Healing Journey” by Dr. Simonton4,5. Dr. Simonton is also the creator of the film “Affirmations for getting well”.


Lieve Vanschoubroek, Michaela Sieh , CAM-Cancer Consortium. Simonton Method [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Mind-body-interventions/Simonton-Method. February 8, 2017.

Document history

Assessed as up to date in February 2017 by Barbara Wider.
Assessed as up to date in January 2015 by Barbara Wider.
Summary first published in September 2012, authored by Lieve Vanschoubroek and Michaela Sieh.


  1. Mary Lou Klisch, R.N., M.S.N., The Simonton Method of visualisation: nursing implications and a patient's perspective. Cancer Nursing 3:295-300, 1980.
  2. Simonton OC, Matthews-Simonton S, Sparks TF. Psychological intervention in the treatment of cancer. Psychosomatics 21:226-233, 1980.
  3. Simonton OC, Matthews-Simonton S. Cancer and stress: counselling the cancer patient. Med J Aust 1: 679, 682-683, 1980.
  4. Simonton OC, Matthews-Simonton S, Creighton JL. Getting Well Again - A Step-by-Step, Self-Help-Guide to Overcoming Cancer for Patients and Their Families. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing; 1992.
  5. Simonton OC, Hampton B, Henson R. The Healing Journey. Authors Choice Press; 1992.