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

Simonton Method

What is it?

The Simonton method of counselling is based on a combination of mind-body modalities: cognitive-behavioural (based on belief work: approach of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy), relaxation exercises, guided imagery and mindfulness-based meditation practice. The Simonton method is built on the idea that beliefs, inner attitudes, emotions and lifestyle have an impact on recovery from physical illness. As an adjunctive technique, the Simonton method is founded on the holistic belief that the body, mind and emotions are inseparable and function as a system. A change in one part of the system could result in change throughout the system1. Elements of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy are promoted to help the patient to change beliefs and thus may lead to regaining health. In guided imagery exercises according to the Simonton method, cancer patients imagine their bodies fighting cancer cells and winning the battle.

Application and dosage

Counselling is offered during 5 day intensive group workshops, for cancer patients and their support person. The general concept of the Simonton method can also be implemented in individual sessions.

History / providers

This form of counselling for cancer patients was inaugurated by the American radiation oncologist Oscar Carl Simonton (1942-2009) and his wife Stephanie Matthews-Simonton in 1973. They belonged to the pioneers of the psychosocial oncology movement that started to develop in the 1970’s. Dr. Simonton created the first cancer counselling program to recognize the role and importance of family and personal support and to include them in the treatment plan. It evolved from the concept that beliefs, feelings, attitudes and lifestyle are important factors affecting health. From 1974 until 1978, a pilot study on his counselling method was performed by Dr. Simonton himself2,3.

The Simonton method is used worldwide with centres in the United States (the Simonton Cancer Center in California), the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Poland, Japan and South Africa.

Claims of efficacy / Mechanisms of action / Alleged indications

The founder of the Simonton method concluded from the performed pilot study and from his experience with cancer patients that this method can significantly prolong survival time2,3. Self-healing capacities are seen as a very important factor in the recovery process. The method intends to empower patients by improving these self-healing capacities. Enhancement of quality of life is one of the primary goals of this method.

The mechanisms of action are to be seen in the rather non-specific effects of mind-body modalities. Changing inner belief systems may lead to a change in emotional reactions to stressful life events. This process helps the patient to reduce chronic stress factors. Quality of life and the general state of health could thus be improved. Relaxation, guided imagery and mindfulness-based meditation techniques may also induce stress reduction and improvement of quality of life.

Prevalence of use

Group workshops, also called “patient week/program”, based on the Simonton method are offered in many countries including North America, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Japan and South Africa. They are attended by approximately between 100 and 200 patients per year worldwide. Individual counselling is offered by 30 therapists throughout Europe. There are many cancer patients who learn about the modality by reading Simonton’s books or by listening to tapes with lectures and guided imagery sessions4,5. It cannot be estimated how many patients use elements of the program as part of self-help management without following a structured patient week or individual counselling. Visualization (sometimes “according to the principles of Simonton therapy”) is used in many psychosocial support programs, without adhering to the original concept.

Legal issues

The Simonton Cancer Center (SCC) issues three levels of certificates for professional counsellors: Counseling Therapist SCC, Supervising Therapist SCC, Teaching Therapist SCC. The Simonton Cancer Center is the only institution that has been authorized by the late founder of the Simonton method to issue training certificates. Therapists who are certified by SCC need to be members of professional associations in their home country and also need to agree to ethical guidelines.

Costs

Fees for a 5-day patient program range from € 700 to € 1970 (depending on the country where the program takes place), accommodation and meals are not included. The support person is included in the fee. Individual counselling costs approximately € 60/ hour. Group sessions cost about €12 per person/ hour.

Citation

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.

References

  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.