Silva in Psychiatry

Silva and the Psychiatric Patient

Dr. Clancy D. McKenzie MD

Prof. Clancy D. McKenzie MD

This research was done to measure the effects of the Silva Method amongst seriously disturbed psychiatric patients.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1980

Clancy D. McKenzie, MD, Director of Philadelphia Psychiatric Consultation Service, Attending Psychiatrist, Philadelphia Psychiatric Center.

Lance S. Wright, MD, Senior Attending Psychiatrist, Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital, Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry, Hahnemann Medical College.


In November 1970 we attended a Silva Mind Control class in Philadelphia because we were curious about some of their claims.

The Silva training provides the patient with an enhanced ability to use the mind and apply himself to whatever therapy he is in.

Psychotics have been helped so dramatically (at least when the patient is in treatment and the psychiatrist understands the course) that Dr. McKenzie now insists all his psychotic patients attend, while under his care and supervision.

Because of the dramatic improvement in most of the disturbed individuals, and because the training can be applied to large groups at once, the authors foresee an application as an ancillary form of treatment in the hospital setting.

The course was found to be safe and potentially beneficial for neurotics. it was relatively safe and definitely beneficial for the highly disturbed individual, when under the care of a psychiatrist familiar with the program. Both clinical and objective psychological data show that the benefits far outweigh any negative effect.

Silva and the Psychiatric Patient

This research was done to measure the effects of the Silva techniques amongst seriously disturbed psychiatric patients.


In November 1970 we attended a Silva Method class in Philadelphia because we were curious about some of their claims. As the course progressed, it became apparent to us there were three persons who were definitely emotionally disturbed and a fourth whose stability was in question. What was the reason? Did the course precipitate emotion illness? Had they been ill when they arrived? Were disturbed persons attracted to the course? We discussed the possibilities with our colleagues, and many of them speculated that the course could precipitate acute psychosis in unstable individuals. This sounded plausible. It is generally accepted that anything that facilitates regression may bring about an acute psychosis in someone who is so inclined. Sensory deprivation and hallucinogenic drugs can bring on psychotic-like behavior, and even such techniques as biofeedback and hypnosis can alter the psyche as well. Most psychoanalysts do not recommend formal psychoanalysis on the couch for the psychotic patient because it produces further regression. It remains undetermined how great this risk factor is, but there are claims that all these procedures have ended up in psychosis.

In 1972 two thousand students at a Philadelphia high school went through the Silva Method training with no psychiatric casualties, according to a responsible school official. This aroused our curiosity in another way:

Since adolescents are already in a state of ego instability, hearsay claims that the course was dangerous for unstable individuals were thrown into doubt. Our dilemma was compounded. We saw three disturbed individuals in a group of 30 and did not know if they had been made better or worse. There were claims by some members of the scientific community of large numbers becoming psychotic. The high-school study indicated this was not the case. In fact, some of our own patients, even severely disturbed ones, had taken the course and appeared to be dramatically benefited by it. A review of the literature showed opinions but no actual studies. Clearly, the only way to proceed was to evaluate and test individuals before and after the training.

The study

Over the next four years 189 of our psychiatric patients voluntarily went through the Silva Mind Control training while they were in therapy. Particular emphasis was given to a group of 75 patients who were diagnosed as psychotic, borderline, or psychosis in remission, before entering the course. These we called the severely disturbed group. At some time in their lives, 60 of them had either been psychotic or had been hospitalized. The 75 included everyone from the severely disturbed group found in McKenzie's practice over the last four years who agreed to attend the Silva Method course (66 patients) and a sampling found in Wright's practice over the last four years (9 patients). There were 7 severely disturbed patients who refused to attend, even when the course was offered free. They were not more disturbed than the ones who did attend. Those who attended included the most disturbed; those who refused simply tended to be more rigid and inflexible in their thinking. Presumably they would not represent persons who might get into difficulty during the course, because they were not likely to take the course in the first place.

Initially patients from the severely disturbed group were sent to the course one at a time and with great caution. During the initial part of the study the patients were sent during a time of their remission. As the study progressed, however, the patient were sent during less-stable periods of their illnesses. Toward the end of the four-year period, 17 were sent while they were actively psychotic and delusional, and sometimes 10 or more went through the course at once.

In addition to their ongoing psychiatric treatment and evaluation, 58 of the 75 were given the Experiential World Inventory questionnaire before and after the course. The EWI is a 400-item questionnaire designed to measure reality perception. Drs. El-Meligi and Osmond, authors of the questionnaire, attempted to put the Rorschach in question-and-answer form, and arrived at a sensitive test for the marginal individual.

The results

The primary purpose of the study was to find out which patients might become more disturbed with the training. In that regard the results were startling because only one patient became appreciably more disturbed after the course. He was a twenty-nine-year-old catatonic schizophrenic patient who became upset two weeks after the course when he stopped taking his medication and began dating for the first time in his life. He was also the only patient who scored appreciably worse on the EWI after the course. He did not require hospitalization. Two other patients, one who had experienced psychotic depression and one with involutional depression, showed an increase in depression following the course, perhaps in contrast to the way they had felt during the training. The high feeling during the course was a marked contrast to their depressive state, and the experience was like taking a headache away from a person who had had it all his life. If it returned it was more noticeable.

However, these patients did score better on the EWI afterward, and they were able to make use of the training. The involutional depressed patient was able to use Silva Method programming later the same week and function with less anxiety at work; and the person with a history of psychotic depression was able to work through things in therapy she had previously been unable to handle.

Twenty-six other depressed patients, including involutional, psychotic, schizo-affective, and manic-depressive types, were much less depressed after the course and showed no harmful effects. One woman reported a sudden feeling of sadness during one of the relaxations. A man, not included in the 75, dropped out after the second day because he had flashbacks of unpleasant Vietnam experiences. His condition was not thought to be worse than when he began, but he did not return for further evaluation. (The relaxation puts persons in touch with feelings. Usually, because the mood of the group is high and the focus is positive, the feelings are of warmth and love, but on infrequent occasion persons evoke sadness and unhappy memories). Still another patient (not in the severely disturbed group) was afraid of the things to be done on the last day of the course, and after a bad dream did not go the last day.

A paranoid schizophrenic man, age 30, demonstrated great exuberance, approaching cyclothymic proportions, after the course. He tried various Silva Method techniques to determine what to do with the rest of his life, and spent many hours checking out possibilities from programmed dreams. This was seen as an increase of compulsive defenses. Nevertheless, as a result of his heightened activity, he was able to go back to school to earn his Ph.D. He also was able to discuss a delusional system he had experienced several years before, when he thought he was sent telepathically on a mission to kill someone. If he had not taken the course, this might never have been brought up and resolved.

In comparison with the relatively few and minor negative effects of the course, the positive effects and results would require a book to describe. The most consistent finding was one we were not looking for and did not expect:

In almost every instance there was an increase in reality perception. Of the 58 who took the EWI, one became appreciably worse, 21 remained about the same, and 36 demonstrated an impressive increase in reality perception. Of the 21 who remained about the same, 15 had scores that moved in the healthy direction.

Evaluation of the results

The average scores of the first 20 women who took the course were sent to Dr. El-Meligi, co-author of the EWI questionnaire. He lauded the dramatic changes that took place after the Silva Method training and said that in some categories the before and after scores were like those of a person during and after a bad LSD trip (see charts A and B). In each of the eleven categories there was consistent improvement.

Individual scores were more impressive (charts E, F, and G).

Composite scores of the 50 percent of the men and women who improved the most are indicated in charts C and D.

It is thought that no conventional psychotherapy could produce as much change in a week; indeed, it might have required months or years of therapy. One involutional paranoid woman s scores changed as much with the one-week course as it had on another occasion with eleven electroshock treatments and twelve weeks of hospitalization. After the one-week course, she was able to get on a bus by herself for the first time in four years.

Another woman, who was paranoid schizophrenic and acutely delusional, maintained some of her delusional thoughts after the course, but was able to go repeatedly to her “Silva Method level” to examine these thoughts, and each time arrive at clear, rational ideation.

Another woman, with an acute undifferentiated schizophrenic reaction, was too disturbed to fill out the EWI. She was given her choice: shock treatment or the Silva Method. At the end of the course there was clinical improvement, and she not only could fill out the EWI but she scored quite well on it.

Still another, a hypochondriacal woman with a history of twenty operations, was about to have another. While the internal-medicine specialists were still checking out the heart and kidneys, she used a Silva Method technique to program a dream that diagnosed an intestinal obstruction at the ileocecal junction. She discovered from the same dream that she had produced the obstruction and how and why. Mind Control techniques enabled her to release the obstruction in a sudden, unexplained way one hour efter the diagnosis was confirmed at the surgical hospital. The exact location of this obstruction was confirmed from records of previous surgery.

Another very distracted twenty-one-year-old woman was dangerously suicidal and in the early phases of an acute psychosis. The patient had assured us there was nothing we could possibly do that would help, and that she probably was just going to kill herself. We sent her to the Mind Control course under careful monitoring. Much to our surprise, she became remarkably calm, was more rational, her thought processes no longer raced in all directions at once, and she was less pessiuch. She repeated the course two weeks later and again improved. She had changed dramatically for the better.

Yet another very delusional individual, who thought he could shrink people, took the course while hospitalized, returning each day to the hospital. affect was improved, other parts of the delusional system were fading, and he no longer spent hours ruminating over the meaning of simple parables. He took the course during his sixth week of hospitalization, and the changes were more dramatic than during all of the previous five weeks. (See chart E).

An involutional paranoid woman was back to her normal self after the course, Several others had a better understanding of their illnesses as a result of portions of the course. Clinically, the severely disturbed group as a whole showed an impressive change. Only one became more upset. All the others benefited to some degree from the training. There was an increase in emotional energy after the course and an improvement in affect. Many persons with flat affect showed enthusiasm for the first time. They had a more positive outlook about their future, and for some there was a better understanding of their psychotic processes. even some who maintained delusional thought were able to evaluate their ideation at the “Silva Method level” and arrive at clarity and understanding. There was a greater relaxation and lessening of anxiety. Patients learned to rely on their own inner resources to understand, cope with, and solve problems, and being able to do so gave them more self-confidence. Some of the patients who had been psychotic found that their illness had enhanced their ability to function in an altered state of consciousness, and this added meaning to their prolonged illness and meaning to their lives.

Neurotic patients (114 of them) showed no negative effects clinically. Six of them took the EWI. Their scores improved, but not as much as the severely disturbed group's, because their first scores were already so near the healthy end of the scale. Invariably the neurotic patients seemed to benefit from Silva Method training.

Those who continued to practice the techniques after training were able to alter their lives greatly, and even those who did not practice the techniques steadily were able to use them in times of personal crisis: when they had to cope with stress or had important decisions to make. For all it seemed to be a mind-expanding experience, a revelation that they could use their minds in new ways. Group enthusiasm mounted toward the end of the course, and most persons experienced a higher and more positive emotional level. In general, both the neurotic and psychotic groups improved after the course, as demonstrated on psychological examination and as determined clinically.

Only one out of 189 patients became appreciably worse. Data from any research have to be evaluated in light of all conditions present, the tests and criteria used, and the care that goes into the study. Therefore, we will try to point out all the factors we are aware of that might have influenced the result. From the standpoint of research, we wanted to know what effect the training had on disturbed individuals. As physicians, we wanted our patients all to get well. This undoubtedly had some bearing on the result, as they surely sensed this. We believe our optimism carried over in some way; this is an integral part of our everyday therapeutic effort. Initially with some of the psychotic patients we waited until they were well stabilized before sending them through the course, but eventually patients were sent in acutely psychotic states.

The EWI test was thought to be a sensitive indicator of reality perception, and we found that the scores matched the clinical findings. Dr. El-Meligi confirmed that our clinical observations were consistent with the changes reflected by the EWI scales.

The only patient who became appreciably more disturbed was the only one whose score became appreciably worse. The ones whose scores dramatically improved consistently showed remarkable clinical improvement as well. The authors of the EWI believe that the test is repeatable and can be given over and over again. We did not initially test to see whether any of the changes noted were related to some repeatability factor. We tried to give the test the week before and the week after the training, but this was not always accomplished.

More recently, in seven cases the test was given twice the week before and once the week after, to determine whether there is any repeatability factor. The ratio of "wrong" answers on the three tests was 100:92:65. Thus the difference between the first two tests was nominal compared with the change after the Silva Method training.

Counterbalancing any repeatability factor is the fact that there were many answers expected after but not necessarily before the training that would earn negative points.

For example, two of the questions were "Can you read persons minds?" and "Have you had a religious experience recently?" An affirmative answer to either earns a negative point. The course teaches persons to function psychically, and most persons become convinced they experience ESP; and for some the experience is almost a religious one. Thus we would have expected a worse performance after the course instead of a better one.

Summarizing the reliability of the EWI, a repeatability factor was nominal and was counterbalanced by another factor that caused a worsening of the score. The test was thought to be sensitive and reliable, and results corresponded with clinical evaluation as well as with how the patients felt subjectively. For the purpose of the study we decided that anyone who became disturbed within a three-week period following the course would be considered a casualty, whether or not there were other factors contributing to the illness. With any group of 75 highly disturbed patients followed over a period of three weeks, we might expect one or more to become more disturbed. This might happen even if they are in treatment and not exposed to a regressive experience.

The fact that all patients were in treatment at the time of this study, and at times were given direction and reassurance, undoubtedly was supportive and perhaps prevented illnesses from occurring. But we believe that this supportive therapy could not of itself account for the dramatic positive changes that took place. It is our experience that acute psychotic illness has an early origin, with a pathological mother-infant relationship in the first two years of life, often reinforced by subsequent trauma.

This predisposition requires a precipitating factor in the person's current life situation to cause him to regress and re-experience the feelings and reality of the distant past. Usually the precipitating factor is a severe rejection or separation from an important person. The cause is early. The precipitating factor is current. Beyond this there may be a facilitating mechanism, such as hallucinogenic drugs, contact with original family, and other processes that foster regression. Thus we differentiate among 1) Origin or predisposition, 2) Precipitating factor, and 3) Facilitating mechanism.

Psychosis can be likened to most natural processes that have an origin, a triggering mechanism, and facilitating mechanisms. All psychotics we have treated became ill as a result of a rejection, separation, threatened loss (real or imagined), diminished attention, etc., triggering an unconscious fear of abandonment.

In several hundred psychotic patients over the last ten years, the authors cannot recall any that did not experience some relative degree of loss or separation, even if this was only implied.

The twenty-nine-year-old catatonic who became worse during the study, for example, was in conflict with his mother, who he thought would disapprove of his dating. This served as a precipitating cause, triggering regression to age one, when he perceived disapproval as impending abandonment and death.

If the Silva course were to produce psychosis in an individual, it would be acting as a facilitating mechanism, which would have to be combined with a precipitating cause in a vulnerable person. We cannot recall seeing any patient whose psychotic process was produced by a facilitating mechanism alone. Although we do not doubt that this is possible, it must be relatively rare.

What is Silva Mind Control?

The Silva Mind Control Method is a forty-hour course consisting of thirty hours of lecture and ten hours of mental exercises. The mental exercises not only teach persons how to relax the mind and body, as do other approaches such as biofeedback and Transcendental Meditation, but they go one step beyond. They teach persons how to function mentally when they are at the relaxed level. The entire course consists of techniques for using the mind in beneficial ways.

After experiencing this ourselves and witnessing many others using it, we have no doubt about the superior ability of the mind to function when the person is using specific techniques in an alert relaxed state. It is similar to the state Sigmund Freud described in his paper on listening; like the state Brahms went into for creating his compositions, or the state Thomas Edison described for arriving at new ideas. The course teaches a quick, easy method for going to this level of relaxation at any time.

Trainees practice visualizing, imagining, and thinking at this level of consciousness, until they learn to function there mentally. They capture a wider range of brain activity for conscious use. They have an expanded range of consciousness. Instead of just daydreaming when they are relaxed, they can use their minds effectively at that level. Instead of being in a light slumber, they can have awareness and use of the mind at that level too. Instead of just dreaming at night, they can use the dream state to solve problems and arrive at answers the mind is not capable of at any other time.

When persons learn to function mentally at the deeper levels of relaxation of mind and body, creativity is enhanced. Memory is improved, and persons are better able to solve problems. From the altered state, they are able to direct the mind to do what they desire, and thus control of such habits as smoking is made easier.

Continued practice at the relaxed level has an effect on the thought processes of everyday life as well -i.e., persons have access to their “level” without being there, like a musician who no longer has to concentrate on the music to know when a wrong note is played.

The mind has great capabilities, but as its normal level of functioning it is constantly bombarded by various stimulae at once: thoughts, wishes, needs, desthe relaxed level it is. But persons ordinarily are at that level only when they are falling asleep, and they have not practiced using that level. Most often they do not even know that it exists and can be used.

Once a person experiences the results obtained from this level of consciousness, he never attempts to make important decisions or solve problems without using it.

The course most importantly teaches a person to use this level of mind. In addition to teaching persons to think while in the state of relaxation, the course teaches special techniques for habit control, problem solving, goals. Persons learn to get a fuller attention of the mind, perhaps because it is no longer bombarded by as many external stimulae when it is relaxed. With this fuller attention, they are better able to direct the mind to do what they want it to.

Another large portion of the course is learning to repeat beneficial phrases to oneself while at this level of mind-body relaxation. This is thought to have a powerful effect. Positive thinking is always valuable, but positive thinking in the relaxed state is immeasurably more so.

The last portion of the course deals with parapsychology; almost all persons report having ESP experiences during the course. This is so common that Silva Method guarantees a full refund if trainees do not feel they have experienced clairvoyance on the last day.

Why does Silva Mind Control help the mental patient?

Early in the study we stopped speculating on why the Silva Method might harm the mental patient and turned our attention to why it helped. We do not know all the answers, but we think we are in a better position to speculate than those who have not carefully evaluated patients before and after the training.

The mobilization of energy may be an important factor. Freud said, in "Analysis Terminable and Interminable," that the effectiveness of a therapy of the future may depend primarily on the mobilization of energy. Persons are highly energized by the end of the course. The positive attitude and optimism generated in the course must have a beneficial effect on the patient.

Perhaps telling oneself beneficial phrases while at the relaxed level does effectively program the mind in a way that goes beyond simple positive thinking.

Relaxation diminishes anxiety and therefore decreases symptomatology. A person cannot be in a relaxed state of mind and body and be extremely anxious or conflicted at the same time. Functioning at that level is thought to produce the same carry-over effect of relaxation throughout the day as noted in TM.

The mood of the Mind Control group is high, and persons experience greater feelings of warmth and love while at the relaxed level. Perhaps the love energy plays an important part. Persons in love are generally not troubled by things that might otherwise bother them.

Since persons at the relaxed level are not in as much conflict, the early defenses of emotional distancing are not as necessary. Therefore affect is improved. They are more in touch with their feelings and more in touch with reality. They have captured a wider range of brain activity for reality testing. Perception is improved at the relaxed level of mind and body, and clear thought and judgment are enhanced.

Special techniques help patients to solve some of their own problems, and they are able to program for relaxation and better feeling to last throughout the day. To be able to rely more on their own inner resources gives them more confidence. The therapists trust the answers they get at the altered state, and this adds to the patients confidence. A group phenomenon is present. The good emotional feeling of the group is contagious and carries over even to the most disturbed.

The parapsychological part of the course helped some of the disturbed patients in an unexpected way. Many who were pushed to the outer reaches of the mind reported frequent parnormal experiences that psychotherapy did not explain. It was only in the parapsychological part of the course that they gained understanding.

One of the stated purposes of deep psychotherapy is to make conscious what was unconscious. Expanding the range of consciousness and exploring the parapsychological aspects of the mind served this very same purpose. Patients felt relieved to uncover this aspect of their mental processes and found it to be real and accepted. Because emotional illness helped them experience paranormal phenomena, this added meaning to their prolonged illnesses and meaning to their lives. The therapist learned to apply Mind Control techniques to psychotherapy, helping the patients further.

Summary and conclusions

Seventy-five highly disturbed patients were sent through Silva Mind Control training to determine which patients might get into difficulty. Only one became appreciably more disturbed.

The most consistent finding was a dramatic increase in reality perception, as determined clinically and on objective psychological testing.

It is important to note that all the disturbed patients from one psychiatric practice were asked to go through the course, which meant that this was a complete sampling from one psychiatric-patient population. No one was withheld. Therefore the results do not apply to selected individuals only.

Silva Mind Control is not a psychotherapy. It can be used as a tool in any psychotherapy, particularly if the therapist is familiar with the course and not antagonistic toward its concepts. It provides the patient with an enhanced ability to use the mind and apply himself to whatever therapy he is in.

Psychotics have been helped so dramatically (at least when the patient is in treatment and the psychiatrist understands the course) that Dr. McKenzie now insists all his psychotic patients attend, while under his care and supervision.

Because of the dramatic improvement in most of the disturbed individuals, and because the training can be applied to large groups at once, the authors foresee an application as an ancillary form of treatment in the hospital setting.

The course was found to be safe and potentially beneficial for neurotics. it was relatively safe and definitely beneficial for the highly disturbed individual, when under the care of a psychiatrist familiar with the program. Both clinical and objective psychological data show that the benefits far outweigh any negative effect. The scales are as follows:

  1. Sensory perception consists of items which describe the external world through direct sense experience, utilizing all sensory modalities.
  2. Time perception samples phenomena related to subjective time in four categories: change in experience of time flow; temporal discontinuity; orientation, including mode of engagement in past, present, and future; experiential age or awareness of one s age and identification with or alienation from one s generation.
  3. Body perception covers three aspects of experiencing one s body: emotive aspects, hypochondriacal complaints, perceptual aspect.
  4. Self-perception includes emotive tendencies toward self-expression of one s self-esteem and identity problems.
  5. Perception of others is represented by five different patterns: dehumanization of people, ascribing unusual powers to people, feelings of change ideas of reference, anthropomorphic tendencies in relating to animals.
  6. Ideation focuses on pathology as reflected in one s experience of his own thinking process or its content, and it deals with various categories such as: deficit in thinking process, disorganization, change in thinking habits or ideology, intellectual omnipotence, change in rate of thinking, and presence of bizarre ideas.
  7. Dysphoria taps three levels of dysphoric affect; somatic, emotional, and intellectual. In addition, it contains items concerned with death wishes and self-destructive tendencies.
  8. Impulse regulation contains items emphasizing deficits of volition or will as an experience rather than actual loss of control. The three classes of phenomena represented are: manifestations of hypertonicity; work inhibitions and problems of decision making; compulsivity, and complete suspension of action; asocial, antisocial, or bizarre impulses.

Silva UltraMind Systems Persuasive Thoughts book


For more information:

Dr. Clancy McKenzie is the author of several books including Babies Need Mothers.

His work is also featured in several of our books including Silva UltraMind Systems Persuasive Thoughts and Jose Silva's Everyday ESP.

You can see his old website on the Wayback Machine. It is no longer active but still has a lot of excellent information.

Ed Bernd Jr.

About Ed Bernd Jr.

Silva UltraMind ESP Systems Instructor and Author.