Ever since COVID-19 hit, it has seemed that 90% of what I write is about COVID-19, the antivaccine movement that was turbocharged by the pandemic, and associated quackery, such as repurposed drugs for COVID-19 that don’t work, false claims that COVID-19 vaccines cause sudden death, “turbo cancer,” and all manner of other maladies. Yet, the more “boring” health nonsense is still with us; it’s never gone away. So when I encountered something called “Access Consciousness,” I thought it would be a nice change of pace to discuss this rather odd “healing modality.” Moreover, as Jonathan Howard argues, as horrible as misinformation and quackery involving deadly diseases is, it’s nonetheless important to critically examine seemingly “benign” modalities like Access Consciousness, because (1) many of the ideas behind such “benign” treatments undergird a lot of more dangerous quackery and (2) the these “benign” treatments are often not nearly as benign as they first seem. Moreover, often these same ideas can be traced back much further back in time. They persist, reappearing in new forms over time.

Which brings us to Access Consciousness, which is an unholy combination of energy medicine and what is arguably modern phrenology.

Three years ago, Harriet Hall wrote about this particular form of nonsense, but rather briefly. So I wanted to look at it a bit more, if only to educate myself about something that I either had never encountered before or just didn’t remember ever having encountered before. Again, as Harriet pointed out, Access Consciousness, no matter how bonkers its precepts are, is not benign, and Jann Bellamy briefly mentioned how Access Consciousness. has invaded social work, while my reading has opened my eyes to how much this form of pseudoscience has invaded athletics too. With opening ceremony of the 2024 Paris Olympics less than three weeks away, one wonders whether we’ll start seeing credulous stories on Access Consciousness being used by Olympic athletes, the way that we’ve been seeing the promotion of cupping for Olympic athletes in 2016 for the Rio Olympics and 2021 for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Like the case for cupping, there is a direct line between seemingly “obvious” quackery and the less obvious quackery that we see in “integrative medicine,” which is perhaps why someone like Dr. Vinay Prasad, who before the pandemic thought that debunking quackery like homeopathy was a waste of time, didn’t take long to drift into COVID-19 contrarianism and echoing even RFK Jr.’s old antivax tropes.

“Access Consciousness”

So what the heck is Access Consciousness I’m? If you do some searches, it doesn’t take long to find this five minute video:

Notice how happy and enthusiastic everyone is. That’s no surprise, of course, given that this is a promotional video, with people saying how unhappy they had been before they discovered Access Consciousness. Some of the claims are quite overblown, too, for example:

Access Consciousness What could the world be? War and famine and all the things that are considered dreadful here would not have to occur. It would be a place where when there is a forest fire, we could bring rain. Where there’s a sense of need to bomb, that need goes away. So everything could change with great ease if people were willing to use all these tools. I know that sounds idealistic and a bit crazy, but I know it can work.

Whoa. World peace, if everyone would just embrace Access Consciousness? That’s some claim there! It’s also so very, very deep, ma-an:

It’s a set of tools that you use, and at some point you actually become them, you be the tools. I can’t even express how much has changed because if I look before and after … two lives. It’s a whole new world, where for me personally, I was actually allowed to live. That’s what Access is for me, a world where I am allowed to live as me. That’s that … That’s that. Access Consciousness is a way of having your life back …it’s a way of getting the joy of living back, and ultimately create a different space for you to live as, that lets other people know that change in their lives, and change in the world is possible. Consciousness includes everything and judges nothing.

“Includes everything and judges nothing”? What does that even mean?

This, apparently:

Most people say, “be conscious.” What do you mean by that? If your eyes are open, you are conscious. No, you’re not. Being awake is not conscious; being aware is conscious. Consciousness is about never cutting off your awareness of anything. Always having that place where you’re willing to include everything, so you miss nothing and you get the choice that is always available. If you live from the place where you have a different choice, you get how much is possible for you, that isn’t it possible for others. What could you choose today, to create the world and the future that you’ve always known was possible?

Regular readers will recognize just how vacuous all this is. It’s Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts applied to consciousness and health, a backbone to a “therapeutic frame work” that claims to offer its recipients all sorts of tools to change their lives, as it distinguishes between humans—those who judge others—and “humanoids,” people who supposedly, for example:

  • recognize their oneness with the universe and they don’t pit themselves against it.
  • look for ways to make things better.
  • tend to sit in judgement of themselves
  • recognise their oneness with their bodies and the world around them

But how does one achieve this ever-so-deep accessing of even deeper consciousness, brilliance, and nonjudgment (other than of oneself, which to me sounds potentially harmful if taken too far)? Well, that’s where it all falls apart.

If you go to the Access Consciousness website, the splash page proclaims it to be:

The home of Access Bars® and pragmatic tools to change things in your life that you haven’t been able to change, until now.


OK, then, but how? First, there are the Ten Keys to Freedom:

  • Would an infinite being really choose this?
  • Everything is just an interesting point of view.
  • Live in 10-second increments.
  • Live as the question, not as the answer.
  • No form, no structure, no significance.
  • No judgment, no discrimination, no discernment.
  • No drugs of any kind.
  • No competition.
  • Do not listen to, tell, or buy the story.
  • No exclusion.

Naturally, you can pay to find out the details of all of these “keys.”

Ironically, the only one of these that I could approve of without much reservation is #9, “Do not listen to, tell, or buy the story”; that is, if the “story” is the one that Access Consciousness is trying to sell you. But what do the rest of these even mean? Who cares if an “infinite being” would “choose this”? We are not infinite beings; the belief that we are is a religious, not a medical or scientific, belief. If you’re peddling religion, you should just admit it.

I also wondered what the heck “living in ten second increments” means. Here’s one description:

I often talk to people about living in ten-second increments. The idea is being present for every moment of your life. If you live in ten-second increments, you create being in the present moment. Most people, rather than living in the moment, try to create a plan and a system for the future so it will show up the way they want it. They create the plan and think they don’t need to be aware any longer. But there’s only one place we can live—and that’s right here, right now. Anything else kills you. You don’t get to have a life. You miss out your own life.

If you live in ten-second increments, you can start to break down the conditioning that has you figuring things out and planning in advance. You can learn how to choose in each moment. You can’t judge in ten seconds because it’s here and it’s gone. We prolong our agony in life by judging ourselves and trying to fix what we have judged. This is especially true of the way we parent.

To the extent that this just means learning to move on and not perseverate over your mistakes and things that you might have done differently and/or to try to enjoy the present while you’re living it and not be constantly thinking about what you should do tomorrow, that’s all well and good. However, all the rest just sounds like more Deep Thoughts, combined with appeals to what is very transparently a variation of “energy healing.”

On first reading, I also wondered what “no drugs of any kind” means. Does it mean just no alcohol or mind-altering drugs, or does it mean no drugs at all? My most generous first assessment was that it probably just means no mind-altering recreational drugs, like alcohol, marijuana, or others, but, unfortunately and problematically, it also appears to mean no psychiatric drugs:

When Access Consciousness™ says “no drugs,” no one is recommending you stop taking your insulin if you’re a diabetic or your thyroid medication if that’s what your body requires. Drugs in this sense applies to all street drugs (including that “natural herb” marijuana) as well as prescription drugs that keep you from showing up as you. Among these prescription drugs are those prescribed for ADD and ADHD (including Ritalin which is more hallucinogenic per weight than LSD), as well as the mind altering anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs.

The danger of these mind-altering drugs, even though they are legally prescribed, is that they alter who you are. One woman who had done cocaine and alcohol for 13 years before getting sober in a 12-step program actually stopped also taking her anti-anxiety and anti-ADD drugs when she became involved in Access Consciousness™.

Notice how Access Consciousness equates psychiatric drugs for ADHD, anxiety, depression, and the like with “street drugs.” This is profoundly anti-psychiatry, no less so than Scientology, with advocates even likening the effect of drugs to possession by demons “entities”:

Another interesting consequence of using drugs is that it invites entities to come into the body. This doesn’t occur with a glass or two of champagne, but it does occur with heavy alcohol use, as well as the use of other drugs. When an entity occupies the body, the body’s “owner” does not have full control or use of it. It is hard for those around him or her to know exactly who they’re talking to, as the entities’ personalities are usually quite different from the original person’s, and generally not an improvement upon it!

If you’ve ever noticed the smoky feel to bars or pubs, even now that smoking in them is banned most places in the world, then you have been perceiving the entities that surround alcoholics. That smokiness is the alcoholics who no longer have physical bodies to drink the alcohol, trying to enroll others who do inhabit bodies to take a drink for them to satisfy the entity’s craving.

Street drugs all invite entities to come into the body, as do some of the “mind-altering drugs” available with a prescription. These include the drugs that change your personality, such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and anti-ADD drugs. The experience of being anesthetized for surgery can also invite entities into the body. As this is a rather finite incident, the problem of recurrence of entities that is the rule with regular users of drugs does not occur.

Hmmm. Maybe “demon” was the wrong word. Alcohol in bars sounds more like possession by ghosts than demons. At least Access Consciousness lets you undergo anesthesia for needed surgery because anesthesia is a “rather finite incident.” However, you get the idea.

I like how the Access Consciousness blog entry that I cited above is called Can Consciousness Change Your Cash Flow, Part V, because of course there appears to be a bit of an element of prosperity gospel to this whole grift.

Of course, thus far I’ve just described the philosophy (such as it is) of Access Consciousness. What are these “tools” described on the website and by its practitioners? Chief among them are Access Bars.

Access Bars

Here’s where the “new phrenology” comes in. Why? It turns out that “Access Bars” are supposed points on your head for which light touch can supposedly cause all sorts of psychological and health benefits. If you believe Access Consciousness, there are 32 of these points, and they supposedly store thoughts, memories, and emotions that can be manipulated for positive intent by gentle touching or “running the bars.” This three-minute video on the Access Consciousness website describes the process, promising to “reset your brain” with it:

Who doesn’t like a nice scalp massage?


Access Bars is a gentle touch hands-on process that releases hundreds of thousands of points of view which are limiting you in different areas of your life and body. These areas include body, aging, healing, sexuality, money, joy, sadness, control, awareness, creativity, plus many more. What would it be like to have more freedom in all these areas?

Having your Bars run tends to be a relaxing and nurturing process. At worst you’ll feel like you’ve had a great massage. Best case scenario, your whole life can change into something greater with total ease!

Looking at this, my first impression was: Who doesn’t like a nice, gentle scalp massage? It’s part of the reason many enjoy going to the hair stylist, because before the stylist styles your hair often the first step is a nice shampoo and scalp massage. OK, it’s not really a scalp massage, at least not as it’s shown in this video. Rather, it just looks like lying on a comfortable pillow and letting the practitioner gently hold your head. I love the part of the video where one of the speakers says, “The worst thing that can happen is that you just relax.” I can’t really argue with that. It does look relaxing. However, relaxation is also probably the best thing that can happen, because certainly touching some of the 32 bars (running the bars) won’t do anything more for you than that. It’s all the more amazing in that you—yes, you!—can become an Access Bars practitioner after just a one day online course, and Access Consciousness lists as of yesterday 486 such courses all over the world, with over 15,000 practitioners, again, all over the world.

Of course, I was curious about exactly where these “bars” are located. I wanted a map, and Google was my friend:

See why I say it looks like phrenology?

A more detailed map wasn’t too hard to find:

But what, you ask, is the evidence that any of this has any relationship to biology, medicine, neuroscience, or psychology—or even just to anatomy? The short answer is: none, at least no good evidence. The longer answer is: Of course Access Consciousness has a neuroscientist or two who claim to have “evidence,” published in—try not to laugh—the Journal of Energy Psychology: Theory, Research and Treatment by someone named Terrie Hope, PhD. in the form of a “trial”/case series of running the bars in seven subjects with mild-to-severe anxiety or depression and a more recent, even smaller case series of four UK police officers with anxiety and depression. Unsurprisingly, Hope is a naturopath “with advanced studies in quantum medicine, transformation and consciousness and has published multiple scientific research studies relating to neuro-activity, anxiety, depression and changes in stress levels and consciousness.”

But where did “Access Bars” come from? On Czech Wikipedia, there is an article that references an article in French that describes the origin of the process, as well as the beginner practitioner’s handbook. Fortunately, Google Translate tends to work well with French (unlike some other languages); so I’ll just quote the relevant part, translated:

Access Consciousness Bars is a supposed therapeutic practice promising “total health and ease and joy with our bodies,” as the promotional brochures claim. Invented in 1995 by  Gary Douglas, an American  who had a close relationship with members of the Church of Scientology, the practice arrived in France around 2010 and has been growing since 2015. For 2019 alone, the official website lists  more than 500 classes and events  in French.

In practice, the “therapist” places his fingers on one of the 32 points located symmetrically around the skull  to “activate” different bars  : that of sexuality, money, power, consciousness, healing, but also the tunnels of space and time, “reactivation”, the “aging toaster”, etc.


The first document (71 pages) is intended for first-level practitioners. From the outset, the founders of Access Bars insist on the need to “free oneself” by accepting that “everything we think, feel, believe, judge or have decided is simply an interesting point of view”. This basis appears, in light of the following documents, highly necessary for the acceptance of the new – supernatural – truths proposed by Gary Douglas.

Because the American simply claims to have “asked questions to the Universe” and to have received, in return, “medium and channel abilities”, which allowed him to invent the “32 points on the head that we now call the Bars”. Information that “did not exist in this reality before it was transmitted to Gary”. The latter then “realized that the Bars were a tool to help people function differently on this planet” and that he had to “offer classes to strengthen and facilitate more choices and possibilities in others”. The term “offer” is obviously relative, since the many classes and trainings are obviously paid.

Of course they are. Elsewhere in a blog post, Access Consciousness basically admits that Douglas just pulled the Bars out of his nether regions, so to speak:

Where did the Bars come from?
The Bars were originally channeled by Gary Douglas, the founder of Access Consciousness, in 1990. They did not exist on earth prior to that.

How nice. Also, it’s all basically just “energy healing”:

Are the Bars like Reiki or Cranial-Sacral work? Are they Acupuncture points?
The Bars never existed on earth before they were channeled by Gary M. Douglas. While the points may appear to be cranial-sacral or acupuncture points, they have a different function when done as part of the Bars. We have not seen any other method generate the changes that are created by the Bars.

Reiki practitioners tend to do very well at learning the Bars since they are already familiar with energy. The Bars and doing the Bars for others seem to have a more wide-ranging effect on the whole lives of the people doing the Bars than Reiki practitioners seem to experience.

There you have it! Gary Douglas “channeled” the Bars into existence, and they’re not at all like reiki, cranioscaral therapy, or acupuncture, even though they very much are.

I also like how Gary Douglas basically “invented” the 32 bars based on “information that did not exist in this reality before it was transmitted to Gary.” But who is Gary Douglas? According to a page from the Access Consciousness website that is now only available on the the almighty Wayback Machine:

Gary describes the creation of Access as a series of revelations and insights. “What we now call Access started coming through in about July 1990 when I was a successful Realtor in Santa Barbara, California,” Gary explains. “I began channeling information about points on the head that act like a computer bank for all our thoughts, feelings, emotions, considerations, attitudes and decisions; anything that we decided that was important at anytime in this life or any other lifetime. I felt that maybe this could be a class for massage therapists or body workers. I came home and called four friends to come to a class on energy work. That was the first Access class.”

There you go. Douglas was soon joined by Dain Heer, a chiropractor, because of course Heer is a chiropractor. He apparently experienced an Access Bars session and instantly became a believer.

There is, of course, more to Access Consciousness than just Access Bars, because of course there is. There is also the Clearing Statement, which supposedly “clears the energy underneath the words,” as well as Access Body:

The Access body processes are an energetic, hands-on method that creates miraculous change, possibilities, and space in our bodies. They unlock the tension, resistance, and dis-ease of the body by shifting energy dynamically.

An Access Consciousness Body Process is a hands-on method that uses different hand placements on various positions on the body while asking specific energies to run at each spot. These processes facilitate the body’s return to its original functions, which assist with repair and longevity. The energies are the natural energies that bodies access from everywhere in the universe.

Nope. Nothing like reiki or acupuncture, is it? Actually, this sounds a lot like “healing touch” or “therapeutic touch,” except that the practitioner actually does touch the subject. And, of course, a cardinal sign of quackery is there, the use of the word “dis-ease” instead of disease.

Access Consciousness: More “energy healing” nonsense combined with modern phrenology

The bottom line is that Access Consciousness, its practitioners’ denials notwithstanding, really is a lot like reiki, craniosacral therapy, therapeutic touch, acupuncture/acupressure, and every other form of “energy healing” nonsense. It’s primarily religious or mystical in nature, requiring the belief in “energetics” or “energy fields” that are manipulated by the practitioner through touching these various points. Like many forms of energy healing, it’s basically faith healing that substitutes New Age mysticism for Christianity as the religion or supernatural belief system undergirding it.

I’m sure that someone like Vinay Prasad will say that Access Consciousness is so obviously ridiculous that I just wasted my time writing 4,000 words deconstructing it, but if there’s anything that the pandemic has taught us it’s that nothing is too ridiculous to become widely believed, even the idea that COVID-19 vaccines contain nanobots or somehow turn you magnetic yourself.



Posted by David Gorski

Dr. Gorski's full information can be found here, along with information for patients. David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, FACS is a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute specializing in breast cancer surgery, where he also serves as the American College of Surgeons Committee on Cancer Liaison Physician as well as an Associate Professor of Surgery and member of the faculty of the Graduate Program in Cancer Biology at Wayne State University. If you are a potential patient and found this page through a Google search, please check out Dr. Gorski's biographical information, disclaimers regarding his writings, and notice to patients here.