Reverse Therapy

Dr John Eaton

John Eaton has been working with therapy since 1989. Since 1996 he has been steadily developing the ideas, techniques, principles and methods that, collectively, he named Reverse Therapy in 2002.

He has brought together a unique blend of insights drawn from neurological science, symptom-focused therapy, emotional intelligence and mindfulness approaches that form a powerful application to many different types of symptomatic states, including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.

He is a specialist in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, unexplained pain and auto-immune disease.

John graduated with a doctorate from Lancaster University Department of Psychology in 1998 and is a member of the British Psychological Society. Since 1991 he has delivered over 21,000 therapy hours to clients.

Visit for further and full information.

In 2006 the Second edition of his bestselling book -‘ME, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia – The Reverse Therapy Approach‘ was published. His latest book – ‘Reverse Therapy for Health‘ (2006) has also been published as an ebook. He has also published numerous other books and articles on therapy, coachingemotional intelligence and health.

John is the lead Trainer on all Reverse Therapy training courses and is well known for the clarity and precision of his training methods. He has in fact been training other professionals for over 20 years.

Dr John Eaton launched his reverse therapy approach in 2002. He had previously been collaborating with Dr David Mickel, who now promotes Mickel therapy.

On his website (see useful contacts), Dr Eaton says that reverse therapy brings together “a unique blend of insights drawn from neurological science, symptom- focused therapy, emotional intelligence and mindfulness approaches.”


What does it involve?

In his 2006 e-book Reverse therapy for health, Dr Eaton explains that “every human being possesses two core intelligences.” Headmind is “actual intelligence” whereas “bodymind is the intelligence of the body, working through the brain, the nervous system, the glands, the cells and the immune system. Its primary function is to ensure the safety of the individual and to maximise health and happiness.”

He goes onto explain how reverse therapy works: “Reverse therapy reverses attitudes […] Instead of seeing symptoms as necessarily ‘bad’ we see them as useful signals that something is fundamentally wrong with the client’s way of being […] Instead we try to understand bodymind’s need to produce symptoms in the first place.”

He also says that it is “an educational process and not a ‘therapy’ in the traditional sense […] Reverse therapy is not a ‘cure’ but a method through which self-healing can be achieved. Although the reverse therapy method is simple to apply it can be hard work.”

Costs vary depending on where you live; expect to pay £60-£80 for a one-hour session. Licensed reverse therapy practitioners undergo a 12-day training course, and are listed on Dr Eaton’s website.

The Reverse Therapy View:

The condition is caused by what we call ‘Hypothalamitis’ – over-activation of the Hypothalamus area in the Central Nervous System.

 The Hypothalamus is situated in the mid-brain, from which place it controls practically every organ in the body, mainly through the Endocrine system. In particular, it influences the Sympathetic Nervous System (ANS) and the Immune System, where most of the symptoms of ‘Hypothalamitis’ arise. In all, the Hypothalamus controls energy levels, the sleep cycle, muscular function, circulation, temperature, the gut and defense against infection.

The key function of the Hypothalamus is to coordinate the actions of the Nervous system, the Muscles, the Gut and the Immune system, along with the body’s energy reserves, so that a balance can be maintained. In this way we can go to a state of vigilance in challenging situations, returning to repose when the crisis is over. Or we can fight infections and then return to a recuperation phase. Similarly, energy levels can rise in order to cope with required activities, falling again as we prepare for rest and sleep.

The basic problem in ‘Hypothalamitis’ is that this delicate balancing act is lost due to Bodymind’s realization that the person is at sustained risk of harm.

If external pressures go on too long then Bodymind, working through the Emotional brain, or Limbic system, creates a ‘chemical memory’ about the threat. Each time situations come up that are associated with the problem the chemical memory is activated and the Hypothalamus places the body on ‘action stations’ and send symptoms to warn the person that s/he is under threat. If pressures continue, the Hypothalamus goes into runaway, chronically overworking the body to remain on red alert, and sending escalating symptoms to warn of the problem.

When the Hypothalamus wishes to activate an ‘alert’ reaction it secretes Corticotrophin Release Hormone (CRH) to the Pituitary. The Pituitary, in turn, releases Adrenocorticotrophic Hormone (ACTH) to the Adrenal Glands which then produce a series of hormones which initially stimulate the Sympathetic Nervous system, the Immune system and increase energy levels. However, under constant over-stimulation from the Hypothalamus hormone production starts to falter and the result is (a reversible) ‘Adrenal burnout.’

Sufferers can experience muscle pain/weakness, fatigue, headaches, swollen glands, poor concentration and memory because the Hypothalamus triggers the release of chemicals that tense the muscles, shut down attention, exhaust the energy supply, increase lymphatic fluid and alter blood flow to different areas of the brain. A dysfunctional Hypothalamus ceases to respond appropriately to feedback from the body regarding its exhausted state. Instead it continues to flood the body with hormones that stoke up the symptoms until problems are resolved.

Failure by the Adrenal glands to produce adequate Cortisol (which suppresses the Immune system) is then picked up by the Hypothalamus, which assumes that the organism is in still more danger, causing it to overwork still more, until Immune system and Sympathetic Nervous system up-regulation becomes chronic.

While this over-activation continues Bodymind is constantly signaling, through the symptoms, that action is still required in order to restore a balanced exchange between the internal and external environment. ‘Hypothalamitis’. To this extent it still awaits action on ‘the message of the symptom.’ To resolve this issue is the central task of Reverse Therapy. See

What Is The Hypothalamus?
The Hypothalamus is the control center of all autonomic regulatory activities of the body. It has been said that the hypothalamus is the brain of the brain. It is the hub for automatic and endocrine homeostatic systems such as cardiovascular, temperature, and abdominal visceral regulation. It manages all endocrine hormonal levels, sensory processing, and organizing body metabolism, as well as ingestive behaviors. It appears that almost everything the Hypothalamus does is related in some way to the management of brain and body connection, linking the psyche (mind) to the body .

What Does The Hypothalamus Really Do?
The hypothalamus is located immediately below the thalamus at the center of the brain, and controls many automatic functions of the body. This means it has the power to govern the autonomic (automatic or subconscious) nervous system. The hypothalamus also controls pituitary output by secreting specific chemicals to the pituitary’s front lobe.

Very simply, the Hypothalamus organizes and controls many complex emotions, feelings and moods, as well as all motivational states including hunger, appetite and food intake, and everything to do with the concept of pleasure including satisfaction, comfort and creative activities. The neurons in the Hypothalamus produce a number of Hypothalamic neurotransmitters which relay information and instruction to all parts of the brain and body, directly influencing the Pituitary Gland, where Growth Hormone, Thyroid Hormone Releasing Factor and other neuropeptides are released via Hypothalamic input.

The Hypothalamus (with the Cerebral Hemispheres) is intimately involved in the integration of all physiological stimulation, all 5 senses, including taste, smell, sight, sound, and touch, which it then translates, distills and assembles into one discernible “package,” relating all the attributes of an experience, all the associated stimulation into one clear harmonious concept, one memory, one experience. Thus, yielding a succinct emotionally satisfying understanding and judgment of the experience itself.

What Happens When The Hypothalamus Doesn’t Work Properly?
When the Hypothalamus is not working correctly, when it’s not functioning up to par, the wrong neuro-signals are generated and the wrong neuro-messages are received, resulting in an inaccurate integration of all our sensory input, leading to faulty perceptions which are very subtle but nonetheless powerful, making us feel empty, deprived and emotionally “unsatisfied.” Dysfunction of the hypothalamus often leads to depression, hyperactivity, abnormal responses to stress, or disturbances in brain and limbic functioning.

Some of the physical aspects of Hypothalamic dysfunction are: Disordered sleep, Multiple hormonal dysfunctions, Immune dysfunction, Autonomic dysfunction, Altered body temperatures.

What causes dysfunction in the hypothalamus?
The function of these vital systems can be altered by various causes ranging from food mishandling, dependency & substance withdrawal, stress or psychological responses to simple functional deficits, hyperactivity, hypoactivity or learning disabilities. Unfortunately, Hypothalamic function becomes impaired with age, so as we grow older the Hypothalamus needs support to maintain optimum performance.

Other Benefits of Hypothalamic Functioning

The hypothalamus and weight management
It appears that almost everything the Hypothalamus does is related in some way to weight management and controlled weight loss. Most simply, when the Hypothalamus is “broken,” food becomes increasingly more important, but increasingly more unfulfilling. We end up never feeling satisfied with the foods which we have eaten, gradually eating more and more to try to compensate for whatever is lacking! From a metabolism stand point, the Hypothalamus not only governs the motivation to eat, stimulating hunger and appetite, but most importantly how eating is to be experienced and reflected upon, whether it is satisfying or not, and how deep the satisfaction occurs. This gives us an idea as to just how important healthy Hypothalamic function really is!




I attended a series of monthly sessions, ending on 29 November 2012. I found that there was a line of ‘truth’ (for want of a better word) running through this therapy, the theory on how / why ME starts is that CFS/ME is a physical illness based on neurological and hormonal changes, it is not a psychological disorder. An area of the brain called the hypothalamus becomes overactive and puts the body into a state of “red alert,” driving the body’s systems to exhaustion and leading to the many distressing symptoms.

The overworking of the hypothalamus is caused by alarm signals generated by the limbic system (emotional brain). This happens when we ignore emotions and symptoms sent by our body to warn us of a difficult situation we need to act on. It is as if the “fear, flight, fight” mechanism is stuck in the “on” position.

The basic premise is that we have a head mind and a body mind. We all hear that voice in our head telling us what to do, how to feel, getting us worried and tense over things. So much so that you can actually feel the worry or stress in your chest. This ache is your body mind telling you that you need to listen to your body because something’s wrong and needs attention.

I’ve been guilty in the past of ignoring that ache and carrying on what I was doing, what was maybe doing my body harm.

Reverse Therapy insists that you listen to your body more and act on its needs. This is generally done by sitting down with your eyes closed and taking your mind off things, and especially to take you away from what’s causing you distress. By focusing on other things, it gets you away from that pain. There is a routine, feeling the soles of your feet inside your shoes, the feel of your socks and on it goes through to your breathing.

I found that initially I did this exercise, but soon learned that it was more the getting away from your present activity that was the help needed. Doing this exercise just formalises the therapy in my eyes. After a couple of sessions, there was nothing new to be learned and I felt there was some padding out to extend things. By November I felt that I might as well stop and I felt that came as a slight relief to my therapist. A lovely lady, but I felt she lost some credibility in the last session when, because I’d mentioned my recent back strain as why I hadn’t gone back to try a bit of badminton, she suggested doing the exercise to see how I felt about it and what I could maybe have done different to stop getting the sprain. As I’d already explained that this was a weakness I’d had since my 20’s I said that I couldn’t see the point in this. We went through it, but with some embarrassing silences when she was asking me what I felt like on the day, and what I could have done differently etc.

What I have learned from this exercise is to take on board those elements that you find useful and are happy to replicate at home, and then stop. It seems no one really knows the cause of ME yet and are getting on the band wagon of therapies as a way of making a nice little income.

This is only my personal view however and I would strongly suggest you gather more than one opinion before taking up or deciding against, any treatment or therapy.


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