Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Committee Chair

Salmon, Paul Gregory, 1948-

Author's Keywords

Unconventional therapies; Individual differences; Alternative therapy


Alternative medicine--Psychological aspects


There has been an increasing use of Unconventional Therapies in the past decade. These refer to healthcare interventions representing either a compliment or alternative to traditional medicine to which many people have turned in hope of attaining a fuller, more healthy life. Previous research has focused on overall use, or use of general types, of these therapies. Research has also started delving into mechanisms of change and physical and psychological effects of some specific therapies. The present study examined individual factors of personality, locus of control, health values, desirable responding, age, medical conditions, and transformational events to determine associations with use and perceived efficacy of 10 specific therapies. Three other areas were explored: participants' functional groupings of these therapies were compared to major domains used by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; individual factors were examined for patterns associated with having tried each; and patterns were sought for associations with perceived efficacy of each. Participants were 160 adults, ages 18 to 73 years. Of these, 102 were introductory psychology students from the University of Louisville and 58 were residents of the same metropolitan area. Therapies surveyed were Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Ginkgo biloba, Hypnosis, Magnet, Massage, Meditation, Ornish (reversal) diet, Therapeutic touch, and Yoga. Being older and higher in the personality factor Openness to new experience were associated with having tried more therapies, explaining 14.6% of the variance in number tried. Being younger and using less impression management were associated with greater perceived efficacy of therapies tried, but accounted for only 8.3% of the variance in perceived efficacy. Identification of primary therapeutic functions showed agreement rates from 30.2% (Therapeutic touch) to 83.4% (Meditation) with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine major domains for the therapies. Individual factor patterns for use and perceived efficacy were developed for the surveyed therapies, using discriminant function and regression analyses. The individual factor patterns developed in this study provide a starting point for future research into the use and perceived effectiveness of specific unconventional therapies. Future research into perceived efficacy should recruit individuals who have tried the therapies of interest.