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The Meanings of Well-being and Intuition in Crystal Therapy: A Qualitative Interview Study

Fleur Dewsnap[1] and Andrew Smart[2], School of Science, Society and Management, Bath Spa University

 

Abstract

This study provides an insight into the meanings associated with crystals in the world of crystal therapy. We analysed semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of seven women with experiences of crystal therapy, two of whom were 'therapists'. Our findings add to previous work on this topic by emphasising that respondents in this study utilised the notion of 'well-being', and that while there was a common belief that crystals were capable of influencing other objects or events, there was, nevertheless, some evidence of ambivalence or scepticism about causality. We also replicate previous work that has revealed the importance of intuition as a form of knowledge associated with crystal therapy, and review this in light of recent discussion about intuition. We clarify that, in this instance, intuition is not a 'short-cut' to expert knowledge.

Keywords: Crystals, crystal therapy, complementary and alternative medicine, intuition, qualitative sociology, symbolic interactionism.

 

Introduction

In this paper we investigate the meanings that people attach to crystals as therapeutic objects. To set the context, we initially review the literature on who uses complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and why, and the literature on crystal therapy. After outlining the study methodology we present our analysis of qualitative data collected in semi-structured interviews with seven women with experiences of crystal therapy. In the discussion we argue that this study reveals some expressions of ambivalence or skepticism about the causes of the 'well-being' that were associated with crystals or crystal therapy, and that the notion of intuition that is evident in some respondents' accounts should not be considered as a 'short-cut' to expert knowledge.

Crystals have been used for colourful ornamentations and as symbols of power for thousands of years. For those that ascribe value to them, crystals are objects that have not only beauty but also meaning. In the UK, curiosity about crystals has blossomed over recent decades. Crystals and rare stones are traded in specialist crystal shops and in other commercial outlets for 'new age' goods and services (Hall, 2003: 10-11). There are websites selling crystals from around the world and offering online courses in crystal therapy or healing. The idea that crystals can be therapeutic objects appears to underpin the growth in their prominence. Crystal therapy is, however, considered by the biomedical establishment as at best a form of CAM with dubious ideas about causality, or at worst a misleading and potentially dangerous fallacy. McClean (2003: 483), who has conducted ethnographic research on crystal therapy, characterises it as one of the 'more esoteric practices' within the field of CAM. There are, nevertheless, those who invest effort, time, emotion, money and faith in the power of crystals. It is easy to dismiss such people out of hand by characterising them as misinformed or naive. To do so, however, would overlook the potential for exploring the deeper meanings that people ascribe to crystals and thereby gain an empathetic understanding of their actions and interactions.

In this paper, we use the term crystal therapy in preference to crystal healing, as the latter alludes to a broader canvas of spiritual healing which is beyond the scope of this work. We recognise, however, that drawing distinctions between these ideas and practices is not a straightforward matter.

 

Background

There are no studies which explore specifically who uses crystal therapy and why, but the wider literature offers some indications. Bishop and Lewith's (2008: 17) systematic review concludes that people who use CAM tend to be female, middle aged, and have more than one ailment. They note, however, the methodological limitations in the existing research, particularly contextual variation. For example, Glik (1988: 1198-99) reports the above-noted demographics, but argues that the economic recession at the time of investigation leaves open the possibility that deprivation may influence which individuals turn to CAM. CAMs are reportedly used to treat a wide range of diseases and ailments including backaches, chronic pain and stress (David et al., 1998: 1569), and 'distress' (Kleinman and Sung, 1979 and Kleinman, 1980, cited in Glik, 1990: 152). Those suffering from chronic illness, higher levels of pain and emotional distress have reported elevated levels of CAM use (Goldstein, 2002; Shmueli and Shuval, 2006). In his ethnographic work, which is focused on crystal therapists rather than those who have the therapy, McClean argues that 'these practices have a propensity to attract individuals who may be experiencing crises' (2003: 239).

Increased utilisation of CAM can be attributed to a variety of factors. Hand (1985: 240) suggests that there has been a breakdown of rapport between patients and doctors; patients who no longer wish to adopt a passive role in an asymmetrical relationship, find greater choice and more control in alternative medicine. Astin (1998) found that the philosophical orientations of CAM users are more congruent with the values of CAM than they are with biomedicine. McClean (2006) agrees that dissatisfaction with biomedicine underlies the growth of CAM and argues that this is perhaps greatest in the marginalised forms of CAM like crystal therapy. Goldstein (2002: 44) argues, however, that despite numerous studies concluding that an increased use of CAM is a result of the shortcomings of biomedicine, its growth may be a result of key actors (such as pharmaceutical firms and healthcare providers) advertising and/or administering alternative therapies. Sharma (1992), for example, draws attention to consumer demand in contexts of increasing patient knowledge and media exposure about CAMs. It appears that, in addition to dissatisfaction with biomedicine, a shifting socio-political and economic landscape has also legitimised CAM and increased its usage (Goldstein, 2002: 44).

The notion that crystal can be used in therapeutic practices is grounded in both its physical properties and a set of ideas about human bodies (that are not upheld in biomedicine). Crystal therapy is:

[…] based on the idea that crystals can absorb and transmit energy and that the body has a continuing fluctuating energy which the crystal helps to tune. Crystals are often placed in patterns around the patient's body to produce an energy network to adjust the patient's energy field or 'aura' (House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, 2000: section 2.1, Box 1).

The NHS (2006) classifies crystal therapy as a type of holistic healing, where the purported aim is to restore 'wholeness', balance and health to the mind, emotions and spirit. This inclusion in the NHS Directory of Complementary and Alternative Practitioners demonstrates an acknowledgement in mainstream biomedicine of this therapeutic practice as a form of alternative health care.

As noted above, however, crystal therapy has a relatively marginal status as a form of CAM (McClean, 2003: 483). Many unorthodox therapies struggle to gain a verifiable evidence base (Saks, 2003), and indeed few of the associations that represent alternative therapies oblige their members to adopt evidence-based practice (EBP) (Hunt and Ernst, 2009: 220). When the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology (HLSCST) (2000: section 2.1) categorised CAMs, crystal therapy was placed in the lowest category. It was considered (alongside practices such as dowsing, iridology, kinesiology and radionics) as lacking in any credible evidence and as indifferent to conventional scientific principles. The HLSCST (2000: section 2.7) advised that such therapies could not be supported in mainstream medical care until there was convincing evidence to show that any alleged therapeutic results were superior to a placebo effect.

Nevertheless, there are sociologically interesting aspects of CAM that remain outside the narrow confines of judgements about EBP. Glik suggests attending to processes of social construction, including how individuals create the meaning of being 'healed' (1990: 151). Alder similarly proposes interpreting 'CAM phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them' (1999: 219). Such enquiries can be rooted in theories of symbolic interactionism, which emphasise how people create meanings about their world subjectively through social interaction, and act toward things in light of their interpretations of these meanings (Blumer, 1986; Rank and LeCroy, 1983). Becker (1953), for example, describes how people learn to 'become' marijuana users by developing sets of expectations and understandings about desired effects through social interactions, which intersect with personal experiences. Winch (1990, cited in Cuff et al., 2006: 113) argues that to understand people's actions it is necessary to investigate what makes their behaviour meaningful to them. 'Motives' for action can then be investigated as part of a configuration of circumstances, within which actors are able to describe the reasons for their actions (Winch, 1958: 46).

There are, however, few studies of the meanings that people associate with crystal therapy, with McClean's (2003, 2005, 2006) ethnographic work providing a rare exception. McClean (2003: 496) found that the rituals performed in crystal therapy mimic biomedicine (e.g. 'cleansing' the crystals is similar to cleaning surgical instruments) and he argues that this is an attempt to legitimise practice and terminology. While he found that therapists (he uses the term 'healers') were critical of biomedicine, he claims that this mimicry further legitimises the biomedical model and contributes to its dominance. There is also, McClean (2006) argues, a tension between mimicking the biomedical model and the personalization and individuated practices that he found, as the latter are rooted in resistances to biomedicine. For example, he highlights both the role of practitioners in personalizing treatment, and the capacity for therapeutic encounters to become a 'creative, innovative and empowering process' for recipients (Daykin et al., 2007: 352).

As Daykin et al. (2007: 351) note, the fact that CAM often 'manifests in an 'individualistic model' of health' has given rise to a number of criticisms and debates. One example is the way that crystal therapists blur the boundaries between lay and expert knowledge when they justify or rationalise their practices (McClean and Shaw, 2005). When choosing a crystal, therapists stake a claim to expert knowledge (that is, received knowledge documented in books about which crystal is considered to be appropriate to a particular part of the body or a particular condition). This is, however, accompanied by individual choices about what is 'right for the patient' and what crystal 'feels right'. The result, as McClean and Shaw argue, is 'individuated forms of practice' (2005: 740) and ambiguity in the basis of knowledge claims. One of the forms of knowledge-claim that McClean and Shaw (2005: 739-41) draw attention to is 'intuition', and this is something that we shall discuss further towards the end of this paper (in addition to commenting on how our findings contribute to the existing knowledge in the field discussed above).

 

Research Design

The research reported on in this paper was undertaken by the first author (hereinafter FD) and presented in her undergraduate dissertation (completed in May 2010), which was supervised by the second author (hereinafter AS). We adopted a qualitative approach in order to gain in-depth accounts which would enable insight into respondents' experiences and associated meanings. As an investigation of a form of CAM we broadly followed the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) developed in health psychology (Smith et al., 1995 cited in Fade, 2004: 647). IPA is phenomenological in the sense that it seeks perspectives of 'lived' experience, and prioritises the idea that research participants are best placed to make sense of these (Smith and Osborn, 2007: 53). Nevertheless, IPA also embraces the idea that the researchers' interpretations of these experiences are a necessary element of the analytical process.

Seven respondents were selected purposively (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 2003: 280), on the primary criterion of their involvement in crystal therapy. A 'snowball' sample was generated from contacts gained from a 'gatekeeper' whom we shall call 'Kim' (this and all other names of participants in the study are pseudonyms), a crystal therapist known personally by FD as a family friend. Kim has been working with crystals for over six years, conducting therapy sessions and teaching workshops on living and working with crystals to enhance health and 'well-being'. Kim facilitated contact between FD and six other friends, colleagues and workshop participants. All seven participants were women; two were therapists (i.e. they ran workshops or therapy sessions) while the remainder had taken part in workshops or sessions.

Semi-structured interviews were used to allow respondents room todiscuss issues that had the greatest significance to them. These were conducted by FD using an interview guide that included the following broad topics for discussion: experiences and interactions associated with crystals (including physical experiences); justifications for using crystals; beliefs in the effects of crystals and how these are interpreted; sources of knowledge and learning. With each subsequent interview, prominent issues (such as the role of 'intuition') were explored in order to deepen the analysis (Fade, 2004: 648).

Data analysis was performed by FD. Audio recordings of the interviews were transcribed in full and each transcript was read in detail. Transcripts were annotated to develop codes that sub-divided and categorized data into prominent and common themes. A list of emerging themes was developed and discussed with AS as part of the dissertation supervision process. Following this discussion overarching 'super-ordinate' themes were then developed by FD to connect aspects of the data and create higher levels of analytic abstraction. From the dissertation as a whole we have selected two themes as a focus for this paper: beliefs about the effects of crystals, and sources of knowledge. These were chosen because of their prominence in the interviews coupled with their resonance with, and potential to contribute to, issues identified in the literature review. Our analysis draws attention to the overarching finding within each theme, while noting differences between participants in the study.

Reflexivity is an important tool for appraising the 'trustworthiness' of qualitative analysis (Rolfe, 2004), including in IPA (Fade, 2004). With respect to our theoretical predilections, neither author has strong commitments to particular sociological theories; a focus on symbolic interactionism arose from its potential explanatory power in accounts of meaning. With respect to reflexivity regarding personal experience, politics or beliefs, prior to the research FD had informal knowledge about crystal therapy from conversations with family and friends, but had no formal commitment or belief in it as a form of CAM. Managing the 'gatekeeper' relationship – with a family friend who was 'invested' in crystal therapy – presented a challenge because the gatekeeper is able to influence the study (Broadhead and Rist, 1976: 325). FD created an autonomous position by approaching the gatekeeper in a professional manner, and interviewing her in the same way as other participants. Prior to the research AS had little knowledge of crystal therapy and was sceptical about its efficacy as a form of CAM.

FD completed an ethics approval process as part of her dissertation. Prior to interview, respondents were sent a study information sheet (including details about what would happen to them, protections of confidentiality and their right to withdraw), and were asked to consent to participation. While the possibility of respondents being identifiable from the information reported in this paper is very small, pseudonyms have been used as a means of anonymisation. We recognise that social research into health issues can generate ethical concerns about harm, confidentiality and informed consent (Lee, 2005) and thus the interview guide and information sheet avoided specific reference to health behaviours and focussed on the meanings surrounding crystals. As a consequence, none of the interviewees discussed specific health problems during the interviews, although the broader topic of 'well-being' was common.

 

Findings

Beliefs about the meanings and effects of crystals

Three interviewees, all of whom expressed strong beliefs in the power of crystals, described physical sensations that they associated with crystals. Kim talked about a 'humming, buzzing sensation', Abby reported feeling vibrations and Mel felt heat from the crystal she kept with her. Two of these interviewees – Kim and Abby – were therapists. Kim explained that not all people were able to perceive such vibrations, and that such physical sensations were more likely to occur for those who were 'sensitive' to the feeling. The most sceptical respondent, Stephanie, admitted that despite 'knowing' that crystals 'give off' a level of vibration, she was unable to feel these. It was also evident that emotional or spiritual meanings were bestowed on particular crystals. Some participants had sentimental attachments to crystals possessed since childhood or received as gifts by someone important. Others had chosen crystals that were significant to them as sacred objects; for example Jane had a crystal carved into an angel and Abby wore a ruby in the shape of the Hindu God Ganesha and kept a clear quartz on an 'altar'. It should be noted that not all clear quartz is sacred to her (or any of the other respondents).

From the descriptions offered by these respondents, crystals were not only used in therapy sessions (single events, or routine appointments), but could just as well form part of daily routines. There was a consensus among our respondents, including the two therapists, that these were not a replacement for conventional biomedicine but rather an adjunct – a complementary, rather than an alternative form of intervention. Kim (who had trained as a nurse) was critical of conventional medicine that 'seem(s) to treat the symptoms, they don't seem to go to the cause of an illness', but nevertheless only claimed crystal therapy was 'useful because of the emotional calming effect'. While Abby argued that 'crystal massage' could be effective as a therapeutic technique for muscle conditions, she did not claim that serious illness could be healed by crystal therapy alone.

Instead, respondents in the study reported that crystals or crystal therapy were used because of the potential to help them to achieve or maintain 'well-being'. The notion of 'well-being' appears to encompass ideas about protection, relaxation, confidence and support. Kim wore or carried crystals as 'they've been used for thousands of years for that: healing and protection', while Alice wore them at work (particularly in times of conflict or stress) as they gave her 'a layer of protection'. All of the interviewees mentioned relaxation, and according to Jane this is one of the most important outcomes of using crystals. Kim described crystal therapy as 'incredibly relaxing', and Stephanie also noted the importance of the relaxed atmosphere throughout the process, including the use of soothing music and dimmed lighting. In addition Alice believed that crystals can help 'if you're a bit shy, lacking confidence, that sort of thing', while Stephanie associated carrying crystals with 'having that extra support […] makes me feel more positive when I'm working.'

It is, nevertheless, important to note that there was evidence of ambivalence and even scepticism about 'cause and effect'. Alice, Kim and Stephanie all accepted that the outcomes that they associated with the use of crystals, such as feelings of 'well-being', could be attributable to psychological rather than physiological causes. Two of these interviewees (Kim, a therapist, and Stephanie, a particularly sceptical respondent) accepted that it might be possible to attribute some outcomes of crystal therapy to a placebo effect, but nevertheless felt that the most important thing was that the outcome of the process was positive for the recipient. Stephanie argued for example that: 'the whole process of having a crystal therapy session, lying down, soothing music, it's all very relaxing but I can't see how the crystals themselves can actually do anything.' Finally, Abby was of the view that healing depends on 'the client' and healer both having the ability to 'channel the energy', which suggest that she was of the opinion that the client must believe in certain precepts if the healing process is to be effective.


Sources of knowledge: learning and intuition

It was widely considered possible to train oneself to feel and interpret the effects of crystals. Respondents in this study learned to use crystals by combining personal experience with 'formal' learning processes for acquiring knowledge and training (courses, reading, etc.). As Alice expressed it: 'it's a mixture of learning and intuition […] it's experience and knowledge'. The knowledge that was most open to learning processes related to the physical properties and 'objective' descriptions of crystals, including claims about the levels or frequency of vibration. One respondent who expressed a great interest in learning this knowledge was Stephanie, who was also the most sceptical person in our sample. She 'enjoyed reading the books', although admitted that her inquisitiveness had resulted in confusion: 'I was so confused as to what [crystals] to take with me, I started taking so many with me […] it became impractical.' The other respondents, however, placed less emphasis on formal learning and more on personal experiences. Jane, for example, noted that she 'found quite a bit of learning about them [crystals] came from books […] but it's really down to you'. Abby, a therapist with a background in teaching geology, admitted that she 'didn't have a little certificate saying that I've done the training' but justified her knowledge on the basis of acquired experiences.

In this study, the most prominent idea in relation to using crystals was intuition. We will explore further its meaning to respondents, and how they learned to use it, or in the case of the therapists, how they taught others to do so. Jane defined intuition as 'positive energy or a message […] from the universe, it might be like a thought about something or someone', while for Abby it was 'an innate sense of what is correct or what is true […] a gut instinct or gut reaction.' These definitions share a sense that intuition involves affirmation ('positive', or 'correct' and 'true'), although they appear at odds in locating its source (the former externalises it to 'the universe', while in the latter it is internalised to innate 'gut instinct'). Both Kim and Abby (the therapists) used the notion of 'being drawn' to something, a phrase which conjures ideas about forces of attraction or even compulsion. There was also, however, a sense that intuition was variable and malleable. For example, Alice explained how she enhanced her intuitive abilities with a particular crystal (Moonstone), while Jane claimed to have stronger intuition on particular days (and on such days she could predict the number of emails she would receive).

Abby taught her clients how to develop and use their intuition by using particular techniques or exercises. She would, for example, ask a client to pick up a crystal without looking at it, and then ask them to describe their feelings. She reported that people's reactions would vary from expressing feelings through laughing to crying, or by describing something that they had pictured in their mind. Many of the respondents believed that any physical sensations, such as vibrations, were stronger if one's intuition had 'drawn' them to a stone. Intuition was thus readily invoked as a rationale for decision-making; for example Mel noted that her intuition told her to use particular crystals. Some respondents reinforced the veracity of their accounts by reporting instances in which their intuition have been 'proven' correct by subsequent events. Alice, for example, explained that after a conflict with a work colleague her intuition 'told her' to wear a particular crystal for protection; after wearing it she discovered that the colleague had left the company. Mel told of how she had found a crystal she had lost after her intuition 'telling her' to search in a place where she would not have normally looked.

 

Discussion and Conclusion

We now reflect on our findings in light of the literature discussed at the start of the paper. Initially we consider the findings relating to 'well-being' and expressions of ambivalence and scepticism. Then we turn to the issue of intuition as a form of knowledge.

Although it is not appropriate to make statistical generalisations from our sample, it is useful to comment on the congruence between our findings and other studies which consider who uses CAM, and why. Our exclusively female sample may in part have stemmed from a snowball recruitment strategy, but this nevertheless aligns with previous findings on CAM and gender (Bishop and Lewith, 2008). As we did not ask respondents to discuss health issues in particular, it is not possible to comment on specific illness or ailments as 'reasons' for their involvement with crystal therapy. Nevertheless, the word 'well-being' was commonly used. In our analysis 'well-being' was an outcome of carrying crystals or having crystal therapy; respondents believed these promoted relaxation, or offered them support, protection or confidence in their everyday lives. Protection is discussed by McClean (2006: 213), and the other kinds of experiences reported by our respondents resonate with the NHS description of crystal therapy as being employed to achieve balance or health for the mind, emotions and spirit (NHS, 2006). Nevertheless, the notion of 'well-being', and discussion about its potential component parts, are not a prominent feature in the existing literature on the crystal therapy.

Similar to other studies of CAM (e.g. Astin, 1998) and crystal therapy in particular (McClean, 2006) some respondents aired dissatisfaction about biomedicine. McClean (2006) suggests that the marginalised nature of crystal therapy could mean that the disharmony might be greater than in other forms of CAM. However, expressions of dissatisfaction by our sample of respondents did not appear to be extreme. Crystal therapy was commonly viewed as a complementary, rather than an alternative, form of intervention. In our sample of respondents, biomedicine was not regarded uncritically, but neither was it wholly rejected.

We have also reported that two participants expressed ambivalence about whether the alleged outcomes of therapy were attributable to physical or psychological causes. For them, getting a positive outcome for themselves or their clients was more important than, to use the biomedical phrase, the mechanism of action. In addition at least one respondent aired scepticism about whether the perceived outcomes of therapy were the result of other factors (e.g. relaxation being caused by the music and lighting). McClean does report that there were 'plural and contested ideas […] about the nature of healing' (2006: 225) at the Vital Energy Healing Centre where he undertook his study and that as a result the healers 'held an ambiguous position regarding their own healing powers'. What our findings emphasise is that some individuals involved in crystal therapy are aware of the contested claims that underpin the therapeutic practices and that some engage in critical self-questioning (to some extent at least).

Crystal therapy, according to the HLSCST (2000, section 2.1), is indifferent to the scientific principles that underpin biomedicine. McClean (2003, 2006) shows, however, that the performance of some crystal healers mimics biomedicine. In this study, we have reported that our respondents invoked rational discourse. They discussed notions of cause and effect and they revealed how they planned interventions and judged the outcomes of these against their expectations. One explanation of this would be to argue that crystal therapy may invoke aspects of rational thinking, but that it is guilty of causal errors or misinterpretations (akin to Evans-Pritchard's (1937) analysis of the Zande tribe, who attributed ill-health to witchcraft). It should be noted, however, that this interpretation continues to imply the superiority of scientific truth claims, a stance which may be open to criticism for appearing hubristic.

The other prominent theme in the data analysis related to ideas about using or trusting intuition. Our findings concur with McClean and Shaw's (2005: 739-41) discussion of the important place of intuition as a claimed form of knowledge (alongside expert and personal knowledge) in the performance of crystal therapy. It is, nonetheless, worth further considering this issue in light of debates about the nature of intuition. Intuition is commonly regarded as an inferior form of knowledge, not least because it is not readily open to objective critical evaluation: a cornerstone of scientific rationality (Ruane, 2005: 8-9). Zinn (2008: 444) argues, however, that intuition is important in expert decision-making, as a 'short-cut' through information overload (citing Gigerenzer, 2007). He explains that it can be seen as a 'pre-rational assessment of knowledge' that enables experts to make rapid decisions without conscious deliberation (citing Klein, 1998 and Benner, 2001).

This viewpoint prompts a question of whether the intuition reported in relation to crystal therapy may be regarded in this different light, as a 'short-cut' to expert knowledge. What is notable about Zinn's argument is that it is concentrated on the idea that experts who already 'know' (due to previous learning and/or experience) draw on this knowledge in a 'pre-conscious' or 'tacit' manner, such that this knowledge appears to be 'embodied (or even innate)' (2008: 443, citing Reber,1995 and Lyng, 2005, 2008).This conceptualisation is rather different to what has been described in the interviews above and in McClean (2006: 164-5, 178) and McClean and Shaw (2005: 739-41). Our analysis emphasises that the meaning of intuition as described by the respondents was a subjective feeling of attraction ('being drawn'), which often rested on ideas about people being guided or drawn by innate or external forces (which, we could surmise, were informed by spiritual ideas). As such, intuition in the context of crystal therapy appears less as a 'short-cut' through existing knowledge and more as an additional or alternative claim to knowledge.

With respect to future research, in this paper we have been restricted to interpreting the meanings relayed by our respondents (not least due to our choice of interviews as a method of data collection). Theories of symbolic interactionism would posit that people's understandings of (what they perceive as) the effects of crystals are learned through social interactions and social processes that create expectation and provide shared frameworks for interpreting experience or sensation. Generating findings about such processes and interactions would require further studyusing a participatory methodology, like McClean (2003, 2005, 2006) but including the perspectives of both therapists and clients (as we attempted). Such research could consider, for example, how the idea that crystals vibrate or that that a person will intuitively feel 'drawn' to a crystal form part of the interaction in therapy sessions or workshops, and how they are used to provide an expectation for how a 'novice' might (or indeed should) feel. Equally, it could investigate how shared expectations provide a vocabulary for describing physical or emotion sensations, and for sharing these with others.

In conclusion, for these respondents, crystals were objects that have an influence on their world. Our analysis shows how respondents had developed and attached meanings to crystals, and acted in accordance with these meanings. For them, crystals were associated with 'well-being', which included ideas about relaxation, protection, confidence and support. While there were views that were critical of biomedicine, there was not outright rejection, and furthermore there was some evidence of ambivalence and scepticism about crystal therapy practice itself. Intuition is a significant aspect of knowledge for people involved in crystal therapy, but our discussion of this rejects interpreting intuition in this context as being a short-cut to expert knowledge. We suggest that future research could examine how social interactions in particular contexts create shared expectations about the therapeutic power of crystals.

 


 

Notes

[1]Fleur graduated from Bath Spa in June 2010 with a degree in Psychology and Sociology. She is currently working as a psychological wellbeing practitioner and completing a post graduate certificate in mental health studies.

[2]Andrew Smart is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology whose interests include health technologies.

 

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To cite this paper please use the following details: Dewsnap, F. and Smart, A. (2011), 'The Meanings of Well-being and Intuition in Crystal Therapy: A Qualitative Interview Study', Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 4, Issue 1, http://www.warwick.ac.uk/go/reinventionjournal/archive/volume4issue1/dewsnapsmart. Date accessed [insert date]. If you cite this article or use it in any teaching or other related activities please let us know by e-mailing us at Reinventionjournal at warwick dot ac dot uk.