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The Optimum Health Clinic and its Treatment and Research

Discussion in 'General ME/CFS News' started by seanpaul, Oct 29, 2012.

  1. seanpaul

    seanpaul

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    Hi All

    I've been doing some digging around on the Optimum Health Clinic in London run by Alex Howard. Many of you may know him from his book "Why ME". He was a psychology student at Swansea University, he got sick with a viral illness around the age 17 and it was gone by age 23. During this period he did his A-Levels - sick, and then went on to attend University full-time. He left University to set up the Optimum Health Clinic.

    From what I can gather Alex Howard had some relationship with Phil Parker of the Ligtening Process, but moved away to form his own clinic. He was originally big on Neuro-lingusitic Programming but has branched out to more general health.

    It seems he was taken under the wing of his Uncle who set up some independent TV channel to promote alternative treatments for illness and health. Alex has become a master of the TV channel PR, with multiple videos on YouTube and his various websites promoting his own clinic.

    I have concerns that this person didn't really suffer from ME in the first place, or if he did he recovered reasonably quickly and did many things durning the 4-or more years he says he was unwell. He seems to have recruited many of his so called patients to either work for him or help him promote his business. One such person is his badly named Head of Psychology, Anna Duschinsky, a languages student who also claims to have had ME whilst at University, but who too recovered very quickly and played sports and took part in most things at University whilst sick. She claims to have used the power of mnd to recover. She is somehow an expert in Psychology without any academic formal qualifications in this field. Alex has most recently recruited a medical doctor to advise him, Dr. Crowley, she has a background in psychiatry; and according to her video she too claims to have had ME but continued to work as a doctor, before becoming a patient of Alex Howard. She is now proclaimed as the Director of Research in the obligatory online video with Alex.

    What strikes me is the terms used to convey something that isnt exactly reality, such as 'clinical' 'research' 'world expert' 'director of psychology' and so on: really its a psychological ploy to make this look like a medical clinical, when it fact it is not. What might surprise some people is that The Optimum Health Clinic is a dormant Limited Company that does not trade, ie it does nothing, it is just a front for other companies such as Alex Howard and Associates LtD. How can a world clinic doing research not actually be trading, but appear to be? I worry that Alex has taken his undergradute psychology degree, his insights from Phil Parker, and his Uncles guidance to present something to the World, that in every respect isnt what it appears.

    Now, another thing that worries me a lot is the fact that Alex Howard has set up the Optimum Health Clinic Foundation, which is a charitable trust which receives donations, from patients most likely, and this money I imagine, might be spent back in the Optimum Health Clinic, which we know is really Alex Howard and Associates Ltd. I think this is unethical.

    If you look up Alex Howard you will see that he is director or associated with more than 9 companies
    Company Name Company Status
    PEAR ASSOCIATES LTD Active
    NAKED BUDDHA LIMITED Active
    THE OPTIMUM HEALTH CLINIC FOUNDATION Active
    THE OPTIMUM HEALTH CLINIC LIMITED Active
    ALEX HOWARD & ASSOCIATES LIMITED Active
    INTEGRAL HEALTH LIMITED Active (Director Resigned 31/03/2006)
    HOWALIVE PRODUCTIONS LIMITED Dissolved
    HOWALIVE LIMITED Dissolved
    PREMIER PERFORMANCE TECHNOLOGIES LIMITED Dissolved

    It appears to me as if he is focused on having his finger in as many pies as he can, maximising his profile on the internet and social media, using past patients and friends to do many of the tasks his companies require.

    It is impossible to gauge the success of his work with ME patients. From what I can gather he makes a lot of his money from day work shops e.g. 20 people times £300 x or so--called Practitioner Training Courses as much as £3000 per person for a two day course. What exact training he offers is beyond me, and the cost smacks of some life coaching skills at insane prices. Then there is his clinic, the dormant one, and his online tools and stuff you pay for, plus the online or telephone support provided by staff.

    There are clever marketing ploys to reel you in - 1. a free booklet or DVD and 2. a free 15 minute chat. These are straight out of the manual of the 'sales man 101'. Just be aware of the hooks.

    Alex Howard is a master of PR. He has found a niche in the market and he is exploiting it. From what I can gather he wants to move more into corporate areas, and he has said himself he works with insurance companies. I see he now works with PEAR a corporate business model.

    I just wanted to put these details here for others to view so they know what they are getting from the Optimum Health Clinic, which I believe is Optimum Marketing and Profit Maximising with a great deal of spin.
    sianrecovery, leela, helen1 and 8 others like this.
  2. maryb

    maryb iherb code TAK122

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    Thanks for that info. I did contact them several years ago, you know the desperate search for anyone who can help you type thing? on being told there was a workshop starting near me in the city, I would have to attend for 6 days or something like that, I mean a sick ME patient travelling to spend hours in a group, I realised pretty quickly it wasn't my thing, and definitely not my illness being addressed, and then you see the directors with less qualifications than yourself and :eek: :eek:
  3. Shell

    Shell Senior Member

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    I watched a couple of the YOutube vids some time ago. He came across as a second hand car salesman, and didn't offer any information about ME at all, which was odd when the video was sooo long.
    Valentijn likes this.
  4. ukxmrv

    ukxmrv Senior Member

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    I think as lot of London ME patients feel your concern Keith. We all know someone who has been sucked into this "clinic" and if you go to a local group someone has been parted with their money.

    Something they do well is to wrap some science into the psychobabble. They trawl around for whatever is new in the way of treatment and incorporate that in their literature. It gives a veneer of being about the physical treatment for ME but what they are about is psychological.

    A while back I completed a questionnaire for them and it was all about stress, stress, stress and I mean psychological stressors leading to burnout. This may well suit some people who do have a lot of stress and aren't coping but anyone with ME knows that there is going to be a lot more going on.

    Yes, the owner of the clinic did learn a lot about marketing from his uncle.
    anniekim likes this.
  5. Quilp

    Quilp Senior Member

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    Now where have we seen this before.........
  6. SilverbladeTE

    SilverbladeTE Senior Member

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    Somewhere near Glasgow, Scotland
    havign a bad spell so rather than wax profanely prosaic, or delve in the precixse, penetrating points of demonstratably proven science, so I will instead, reffer to one of the fonts of public morals and conscience...

    jesus_action.jpg
  7. Sparrow

    Sparrow Senior Member

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    Oh dear.

    As I understand it, recovery from the initial crash is actually not uncommon, particularly if it happens when you're young and the patient is able to rest a lot. Apparently Dr. Bell, Cheney, etc. have noted this pattern, where there is a crash, recovery, and then often a gradual decline again over the years, sometimes ending in a really bad state. That's exactly what happened to me. I did not use the "power of my mind". I just made a partial recovery on my own, to the point that I was able to do more normal things.

    And now 15 years later, I'm completely bed bound.

    I feel like that probably happened to this guy, except he attributed the recovery to something he was actively doing, then confirmed his theories when it also seemed to work for some other people. But that doesn't mean that his process actually had anything to do with their recovery. It's just a common pattern to the illness. I really hope those folks don't encounter any additional strain on their systems that will throw them into a downward slope.
    justy likes this.
  8. Little Bluestem

    Little Bluestem Senescent on the Illinois prairie, USA

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    I had a similar experience. I got the killer flu on the last day of spring break in college. I went back to the student health center twice and told them that I was not recovering well from that flu, but they just brushed me off. I remember writing to a friend at the beginning of fall semester that I thought I had finally recovered from that nasty flu I got in the spring.

    It wasn't very long before I realized that I still wasn't quite 100% well. Some time after that, I realized that I was slowly becoming less well. I have continued to slowly become less well, but am not bed bound.
  9. Johannes Starke

    Johannes Starke

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    Thanks for putting this information out here, WhyME.

    I have also looked at the structure of the Optimum Health Clinic and came across the following things that seemed not as straight and clear as I would have liked to see it:
    • Anna Duschinsky, director of psychology, is not actually a licensed psychotherapist. That's a little deceiving; in my state, California, this would even be illegal.
    • Some of the research they produce and that's funded by the Optimum Health Clinic Foundation foundation reads a bit like marketing material. Is it OK to use foundation funds for this kind of work?
    In summary, I think their marketing messages are slightly deceiving.

    That said, I also want to mention that when I spoke with Alex Howard and people who've been trained at the Optimum Health Clinic, I thought they seemed like decent people.

    I don't think it can be held against them that they are not licensed psychotherapists, nor that they are good marketers. It's been proven in research that reducing stress level can help a lot with ME/CFS, and that makes me think that their services are helpful and valid.
  10. Little Bluestem

    Little Bluestem Senescent on the Illinois prairie, USA

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    Decent people can do a lot of harm if the try to act beyond their level of competence. How can someone who is not a psychologist do a good job of being a director of psychology? It sounds like too many of these people are "playing doctor".
  11. ukxmrv

    ukxmrv Senior Member

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    I imagine that they learned their marketing off Alex Howard's uncle who has had years of experience in the alternative religious/lifestyles field. A little research will tell you a lot about their operation.

    Don't think that there is anything decent about their operation. It misleads patients who are already vulnerable into parting with their money and time.

    I have had dealings with them. They are trying to sell cures for psych, lifestyle and burnout as cfs and me cures.
    anniekim and Valentijn like this.
  12. sianrecovery

    sianrecovery Senior Member

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    I did their four day course four years back, when still a newbie. While I found some of the skills they taught relelvant to managing any long term illness and the anxiety that goes with it, it had absolutely no impact overall on my physical health. I doubt if they understand the harm they do. I think they really believe that they are serving the greater good, and that those of us who fail to experience a 'cure' are pyschologicaly resistent. Sound familiar? Yes, you can probably get someone to patronise you and misunderstand your condition for free in the NHS.
  13. Johannes Starke

    Johannes Starke

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    I concur with your view that their marketing trivializes ME. I wish they'd change it and make a better distinction between the conditions (Burn Out, ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia) they're treating.

    I'm committed to doing a better job in that myself when I develop courses for people with ME/CFS. I believe that one can teach people with ME/CFS stress management and recovery strategies in an ethical way.

    To clarify: when i say recovery strategies, I don't mean quick fixes that will cure everyone. There is no quick fix for ME/CFS. But I believe that there are many small things that, depending of the severity of our ME/CFS, we can do to dramatically improve our condition.

    What do you think?
  14. Valentijn

    Valentijn Activity Level: 3

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    I think "dramatically" might be an overstatement - certainly we can do things and take supplements/meds which cause noticeable improvement in symptoms, or avoid aggravating symptoms. But a dramatic improvement of ME in general (including PEM) sounds like a pipe dream.
    justy, anniekim and Little Bluestem like this.
  15. seanpaul

    seanpaul

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    Just a few points:

    Alex Howard says he had ME and recovered. If you look at this own videos it started when he was 16 (possibly glandular fever I'd guess) - he then went to University 18-19 and started to feel well at the end of Year 1 (rememeber one has to attend classes to be at University and he lived in Halls of Residences, not at home). By the end of University year 3 he moved to London, was well, was running, and hooked up with a health guru and his uncle to rent rooms out in Harley Street (the most expensive health care private practice street in the UK -- hence is commitment to himself was clearly evident, despite his claims to wanted to help ME sufferers).

    So to sum up, over 2-3 years he was unwell and he was back to full health by the age of 22 (when he then started to write his book Why ME). I am delighted he got better and I envy is quick return to health. (it is well known that about 70-90% of teenagers who develop viral illnesses will recover sponteneously within 2 years during their teens to early 20s, its only a small fraction that develop long term ME/CFS - hence could it be Alex Howard never had ME in the first place?).

    At year 1 in University he dreamed up the idea of the OHC (he says this in his book and videos) - Alex was helped by conversations he had with his uncle who is a health guru person who also helped set up some health tv channel, which Alex Howard worked on. Now, once in London in his Harley Street room booked by the hour, he came across a whole range of patients, ie clients paying for his psychological help - I am not sure of the ethics of ropping in your patients become your web developer, psychology director, and medical director, but Im sure it must cross some line *but who holds a non-professional to account?

    In recent years he has brought in a girl who did her PhD on CFS to do research for him, I think she claims to have had ME also, but too recovered quickly. His clinic is a marvel for quick ME recovery stories among staff.

    Alex now lives in a nice house in Hempstead I believe, and he recently had a baby (congrats to him).

    I think Alex is a well-meaning person, but his understanding of ME/CFS is limited, he is a business man, and his focus is on money. Some of the claims on his site of being an internationally recognised clinic are a joke and pure marketing 1-o-1. In one way I admire him and in another I get angered by his portrayal of ME/CFS and how he mixes up his own experience (which many have been glandular fever) with the painful reality of the condition for many thousands of patients who suffer CFS/ME.

    In every good lie there is some truth - mind and good food will help in any illness, just look out for the lie.
    justy, anniekim and maryb like this.
  16. Purple

    Purple Bundle of purpliness

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    Thank you WhyME. To me, this once again shows the importance of distinguishing between the short(ish) term self-limiting post-viral/post-infectious state from which people recover completely and never relapse and the long-term chronic currently incurable nightmare disease ME. Calling them both the same is not good and not desirable.

    Did anyone ever try to compare the two in terms of e.g. symptoms? Would it be possible to tell the difference *before* one person recovers and the next doesn't?
    justy, anniekim and Little Bluestem like this.
  17. ukxmrv

    ukxmrv Senior Member

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    Johannes, if there were small things that PWME could do to dramatically improve things for our health we wouldn't be here talking about. This forum would simply not exist because it would not be needed.
    Svenja, justy, anniekim and 3 others like this.
  18. anniekim

    anniekim Senior Member

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  19. anniekim

    anniekim Senior Member

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    Johannes, may I ask how long you were ill before you made significant improvements? Many thanks

    I think Alex is a savvy marketing bloke who has made a lot of money on the backs of people with m.e. So much psychobabble and half truths in his approach. Am not a fan
  20. Johannes Starke

    Johannes Starke

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    Hi Annie,
    I was ill for two years before I started to improve.

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