People journalist tries $2,500 ‘energy healing’ treatment Goop & Julianne Hough use

A couple of weeks ago, a video of Julianne Hough getting some kind of “energy treatment” went viral. You can see that here. She was writhing and screaming on a massage table, face down, while a guy talked about energy release and touched her neck and butt. The practitioner said that energy was bound up in her muscles and that he was allowing it to release or something. It was very weird to say the least. Apparently the man is called John Amaral, he’s trained as a chiropractor, and he has something called an “Energy Flow Formula” which he developed and charges $2,500 A SESSION for. Amaral was featured on that Goop Lab Netflix show but I’m not going to watch that f’king show, I’m sorry. There are some things I won’t do for this job. (Above is a still from the show, he’s the guy to the right.) People journalist Robyn Merrett did an energy healing session with Amaral and she said it sort-of did something, she thinks. Her response was similar to Hough’s. I’m sure she got it comped in exchange for the publicity.

He began by asking me to turn my head to the left and to the right before back to center. Next, without touching me, he addressed my lower body, specifically my pelvis area where I had surgery. He moved his hands above my body and told me to take a few deep breaths into my lower abdomen.

After about 10 minutes in, I remember not feeling anything more than just being in a deeply relaxed state.

He continued working, guiding me through the practice with his words as he waved his hands over my body, snapping his fingers at certain points.

Roughly 20 minutes later, I found myself overcome with emotion. I consider myself to be a passionate person, but I was stunned that I just began to sob uncontrollably.

“There’s a lot of trapped energy in your lower body and your legs,” Amaral told me as I continued to breathe in and out, letting out a sigh or a noise each time in an attempt to encourage energy to leave my body. He encouraged me to be as expressive as possible because he said it helps push the energy out of my body.

It wasn’t until he instructed me to turn on my back that my experience changed. Each breath was deeper and each sigh was louder and more dramatic. I was of course in control, but it was almost as though my body was more in control than my brain was.

That’s when I began to move. As Amaral motioned his hands over my chest, my body began to jerk. It was as though he was pulling something out of me, but without even touching me. My chest continued to lift and then my pelvis area did the same. I was shaking and I couldn’t control it. It wasn’t a violent shake, but still noticeable. I felt lighter by the second, letting more noises out with my breath.

Amaral then instructed me to place my hands gently above my surgery scar in an attempt to comfort and sooth the area, but at the same time to also release fear and regain trust. As I did this, my body again began to jolt involuntarily. This jerking went on for the remainder of our session and then it all came to a calm stop. When I asked why I was writhing uncontrollably, he shared that it was because the energy was literally leaving my body and it feels so aggressive because that energy was confined to such a tight space for long — like a can of soda after it’s been shaken up.

After the work was done, I lay there until I was able to sit up. I felt a bit alarmed at first because I was extremely lightheaded and dizzy, but Amaral assured me this was normal after moving such enormous amounts of energy around. In the end, I simply felt good. I felt lighter. It was literally like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders — not a drastic difference but different none the less.

For me, it was a dynamic experience. Since my session, I’ve felt good. I haven’t noticed more involuntary movement. I simply feel lighter and less tense.

[From People]

Merrett’s explanation of the effect sounds similar to the video of what happened to Julianne Hough, but his “energy leaving the body” explanation sounds like BS to me. You can read his intro to that on People, he said it’s based on “scientific principles of energy,” which… no. I did acupuncture a couple of months ago (It wasn’t my first time, but it’s been about 20 years since the last time.) There were two sessions in one for the intro. The first was awesome and relaxing but during the second with more needles I felt sick to my stomach and my neck hurt so bad, even though there were no needles there. The acupuncturist asked me later if I had any old injuries to that area, which blew my mind because I had whiplash about two and a half years ago. I’m not a firm believer and did it on a recommendation, going in as a skeptic. I left convinced that it did something. How does that even work?! I felt really sick from just some needles in my skin. I thought it would release endorphins and make me feel relaxed. There might be something to this energy healing in so much as it’s a wildly overpriced version of eastern medical practices. It could all be power of suggestion definitely, but that is also effective for people and I won’t knock that except for the cost, quackery and pseudoscience. There’s maybe $150 worth of something to this, similar to a massage or an acupuncture session, not 17 times that.



Photos credit: Adam Rose/Netflix press site and

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57 Responses to “People journalist tries $2,500 ‘energy healing’ treatment Goop & Julianne Hough use”

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  1. Slowsnow says:

    I have watched a few episodes and:
    1) Gwyneth is unsufferable
    2) I’m shocked by the lack of awareness of sustainabiliy
    3) the pseudo-science is alarming, especially in this episode
    My theory: as soon as someone touches you or pays attention to you or certains parts of your body you never move work, emotion takes over. In my yoga class, certain people have felt emotional (me included). Of course our bodies are traumatised. As soon as they are dealt with, stuff happens.
    I also believe that there are some unexplained things, which I have experienced with a healer who did not charge me 1500$ and who did nothing but rely on old maya and buddhist medecine.

    • Celebitchy says:

      Thanks for watching it! I trust your judgment and will avoid it. This is a really good theory! I’ve been to yoga classes that people cry through too. There’s no judgment, everyone understands, and I’ve gotten teared up in yoga too.

      • Slowsnow says:

        Glad to be of service but I must say I haven’t watched all of them, sorry! Could not handle the silliness.

      • Jane says:

        I’d actually recommend the episode about female orgasm. Only because it’s talked about so rarely and it’s good to open the dialogue. Plus there is a hilarious-terrible moment where they have to explain to Goop what a vagina (vs vulva) actually is! She didn’t know!!!!!!

      • suzy_snowflake says:

        @Jane: see, this is what happens when people don’t grow up with a c*nt coloring book. LOL

    • charo says:

      I got feedback in massage school that I had healing hands, so I didn’t seek it out, it came to me. I could tell which spot to work on, w/o the client telling me. It’s real whether you know about it or not.

      If it’s authentic it’s a GIFT. Like a singing voice that you can train.

      Being afraid that someone can do this, or that a psychic can know something about you, is YOUR FEAR. It’s fine, keep your fear. But don’t deny other peoples’ experience. You don’t know what they feel.

  2. Carol says:

    Just find a good acupuncturist. Mine charges $25-$45 depending on your finances. I am convinced that the work done is wonderful.

  3. lemonylips says:

    I have not seen this Goop show but I did have a couple shiatsu treatments and I have to say I’ve experienced that energy flow and it’s insane. I felt tingles on the tips of my fingers and toes….it was incredible. And I felt so good after that. Like I lost 10 kg of weight.

    • Elisa says:

      I had a similar expererience with Chi Gong – not an energy release, but I felt the energy flow while doing it and afterwards, especially in the finger tips. I did the sessions with a group of people and some felt it even more intensely and some felt nothing. Just goes to show that everyone is different. And the sessions cost only a few euros, so…

      • lemonylips says:

        yeah my session was about 15 euros, something like that. less than a hairstylist here in London anyway 🙂 i think it also depends how much you’re ready to accept these treatments. in your mind. and relax. and they also press certain parts that usually are not, like someone mentioned above. but in order to achieve the effect you have to know which ones and how to properly. all that said, i wouldn’t buy what goop is selling cause she probably just picks up the most overpriced people and goes more for the spa experience than the actual treatment.

      • paranormalgirl says:

        Chi Gong is amazing. It puts you so in touch with your breathing and with your energy.

    • ans says:

      May i ask you where you went, lemonylips? I’m going to be in London soon and that sounds PHENOMENAL!

      • lemonylips says:

        unfortunately this was a price and service in Zagreb, Croatia, where I lived before. Sorry 🙁 but I’d love to find a good shiatsu treatment here as well.

    • Allergy says:

      I had shiatsu once and it hurt so much I didn’t want to do it again. Perhaps my body was oversensitive or seriously “blocked” or something?

  4. brinibini says:

    I only watched a bit of the episode about female pleasure (I think I read on Laineygossip that the ep was quite good) and had to stop when Gwyneth didn’t know what a vagina actually is after claiming it’s Goop’s thing.
    She didn’t know the difference between vulva and vagina, but tells people to use jade eggs and steam their vaginas. And I hate that there are enough people who listen to her nonsense!

    • Slowsnow says:

      Oh gosh you are so right! I didn’t watch that one but it’s in the trailer I think? I know I saw that scene and was also puzzled but did not make the evident connection!! Yikes.

  5. ChillyWilly says:

    I totally believe in this type of healing. I also believe in Western modern medicine. I don’t see why one can’t be used in conjunction with the other.
    But charging $2,500 per session is disgusting. Same for all the overpriced crap Goop sells on her site.

    • ItReallyIsYou,NotMe says:

      This sounds a lot like reiki which has been around for a long time for pain and emotional release and without touching the body. A reiki practitioner charges maybe $100 per session. Leave it to GOOP to try and make it her own discovery and charge $2500 per session for it.

      • Jaded says:

        I’ve been a Reiki practitioner for 10 years. I volunteer at a cancer wellness centre and have never charged more than $40 per session. Sometimes I do it for free because I know the person needs it but can’t afford it. I do hands on Reiki, but some prefer hands off, their decision. I’m disgusted with Goop that she’d promote something that is clearly an elitist, snake-oil, money-making version targeting rich people instead of making it available and affordable to everyone. I strongly recommend looking up Reiki practitioners in your own locale. They’re doing the real thing at realistic prices.

    • prettypersuasion says:

      Me, too, and I’m not a pseudoscience type at all. But the body contains energy. Energy is everywhere. Just because we can’t “see” it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Anyone who has seen a corpse knows that you can immediately sense the lack of energy.

    • Sarah754 says:

      Eh, he’s charging celebrities, it’s like any other service really. You have the affordable, middle and luxurious brands to cater for different clientele.
      There are plenty of people who do similar healings charging minimal amounts, or pay-what-you-can-afford practises.
      I can’t say I would go to him as it’s exorbitant, but I don’t feel particularly strongly about it.

  6. Doodle says:

    I made it halfway through the first episode and then realized wait, I have a functioning brain and I like owning money and spending it wisely, so I’m probably not the target audience for a show featuring priviledged whiners getting high and feeling proud of themselves for it. So I shut it off. And I feel proud of myself for it.

    • Astrid says:

      Same here. Started to watch the first episode and it was bullshit. I stopped and moved on to something more entertaining.

  7. Eliza_ says:

    I would argue acupuncture and energy healing are different. But this man might too be triggering pressure points and joints to trigger a response. Reiki also is about movement over the body which provides relaxation, coupled with targeted movements he’s walking you through could be also lead to feeling lighter and lightheaded like a deep massage. He just advertises as something new and holistic and goopy to charge a lot more than a reiki session coupled with targeted stretching.

    • Carol says:

      When my dad was dying of cancer, Reiki was something that was suggested to help him feel better. My mom signed him up for a session, and she came to the house. He sat there patiently, but he was an engineer and scientist. My mom can still remember the woman being behind him and saying something about “moving his energy” and he opened one eye and looked at my mom with a “what kind of quackery have you gotten me into” expression. She had to stifle laughter. The woman finished, took her money, and then told my dad she could heal him over the phone next time if he wanted to use a credit card. He thanked her politely, then when my mom shut the door said quietly, “We won’t be trying that again.” A funny moment in an awful eighteen month time. Needless to say, I don’t sign up for these types of things.

      • Jaded says:

        She was not an ethical Reiki practitioner. I’ve gone through extensive Reiki training and would NEVER have done that. As in every kind of treatment, there are those who do it from their hearts and those who take advantage of sick and vulnerable people. Believe me, that is not what Reiki is about AT ALL, and I’m sorry you got taken.

  8. Erinn says:

    I just can’t with all the predatory quacks out there. They prey on people who are desperate, push treatments that have at best a questionable relationship with real science, and then charge an arm and a leg for it.

    I’m not saying people can’t get relief from alternative therapies – whether it’s real or a placebo effect, if you leave feeling good that’s fantastic. But I think it’s something that should go hand in hand with a REAL doctor, not as a replacement for modern medicine. And shows like this seem to embolden the major quacks out there and make their quackery more accessible and mainstream.

    • Eliza_ says:

      I think it’s not complete woo-hoo. I’m sure he’s purposefully targeting joints and pressure points after consultation of what’s bothering the client. The price is ridiculous – go to a credited chiropractor or acupuncturist and meditation center. Yes, the placebo effect is huge in US (higher than any other country by a wide margin, which is why the snake oil business is big business here) so I’m sure that helps along the result. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t care that rich privileged ladies waste their money on this (a fool and their money…). It’s not like it was earmarked for charity but they decided to do this instead. It doesn’t effect me or anyone else. It’s when this hurts others that it bothers me, like when vaccinated adults won’t vaccinate their own children putting their children, other children and immunocompromised at risk them I get (4- letter- word) heated.

    • Birdix says:

      Agreed. A close friend of mine decided not to treat her breast cancer with western medicine, relying instead on alternative practitioners. All of whom told her she would be fine, they’d seen people far worse than her recover, right up until she died.

      • Arpeggi says:

        Oh gosh! I’m so sorry! You’d think that Steve McQueen and Steve Jobs would have been pop culture eye opener as to why handing your body over quack doctors is a terrible idea but I guess that some snake oil vendors and cult leaders are just really good at BSing

  9. Branvoyage says:

    I went to an energy healer about 15 years ago. I believe it was about $50. He sort of just lightly touched or held his hands inches above my body. I didn’t jerk or writhe, but I did begin to uncontrollably cry. He didn’t tell me that might happen, I felt embarrassed. I cried as I paid at the end and I cried all the way home. It was a weird, but releasing experience.
    The price they are paying is bonkers tho.

  10. Originaltessa says:

    There’s a guy in my town that does this. Not $2500, more like $100 for an hour session. He’s a “healer” through energy and touch. People swear by him. Like truly swear by him. He apparently cures allergies, sports injuries, autoimmune disease. He’s basically Jesus if you ask the people that go to him. I live in a very affluent community and most of these people are highly educated, most with advanced degrees… and they buy into it. They also go to church on the weekend, so… This is a thing. I think people would get the same cathartic release from putting on a good Four Tops record and just dancing it out, but what do I know.

  11. EB says:

    Didn’t watch goop but watched the Julianne Hough clip and…a professional dancer with incredible flexibility and body control just so happens to react like that? Sell someone else that bridge because all I see is a choreographed response to this “treatment” and quackery paraded as wellness. Pass.

  12. marmalazed says:

    The Washington Post had an article about the goop episode on female orgasm. Yes, she’s annoying, but it’s worth watching because of the content of the episode, as is the WaPo article.

  13. Gippy says:

    Last year we did fertility treatments and the clinic had a wellness center attached. My husband and I both did massages, reflexology (omg amazing!!!), acupuncture (before egg retrieval, just before and after embryo transfer), & reiki (this one just didn’t connect with me, but it was calming). After 2 years of treatment we went all out and did the whole wellness package too – and it worked!! So I’m not sure I believe in the energy —you’d be better served by therapy — I do believe in acupuncture and massage, they help with blood flow and such. In this case I think it was more the power of suggestion than anything else.

  14. Porter says:

    I am honestly distracted by the egregious manspread in that top pic. It’s like the dude is playing the world’s largest invisible cello.

  15. Mtec says:

    This just sounds like Reiki. And it seems this white dude figured out he could overcharge rich, bored, white ladies for. Nothing to see here but and overpriced treatment by some scammer trying to pretend he has some special power.

  16. lucy2 says:

    My feeling is if it helps people, even if it’s just giving them some relaxation and stress relief, and doesn’t hurt them (as many of Goop’s products could) that’s all fine and good, but charging $2500 and put this out there as if everyone should do it is ridiculous.

    • Allergy says:

      Agree, I totally believe in energy healing and naturopathy, but to charge such outrageous amount – no that’s not right.

  17. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I can’t. And when scrolling through Netflix, I’m careful to never hover on the Pepto Bismal Vagina Vacuum.

  18. Tracy says:

    I have a professional who does amazing energy work. The experiences with him have been incredible. During one, I left knowing my entire life was going to change and basically have had no underlying anxiety (which I just had all the time to some extent) ever since. That took place last April and the effects have stuck. My person does not cost $2500 an hour but I would have paid that if I had known about the result.

  19. Arpeggi says:

    All these quacks keep saying that word “energy”, but I don’t think it means what they think it means.

    It’s definitely not close to the scientific definition of energy

  20. heidstar says:

    It sounds like somatic touch with trauma triggerpoints healing. I had work like this done with a similar healer-woman in Los Angeles. She was the real deal and I had experiences similar to this journalist’s description. She was generous and charged me only about $50-100 a session. Her celebrity clients paid about $250-500. Her training came from Peter Levine who wrote ‘Waking the Tiger: how the body stores trauma.’ I’ve had reiki too: it’s a bit different.

  21. Lila says:

    A fool and his money…

  22. Nicole says:

    Is this not just reiki? That practice has been around for a while. If it floats their boat, who cares. I would give it a shot.
    My sister has a co-worker that is training to be a reiki master and he asked if he could do a practice session on her. She loved it! She thought it was fabulous and placebo effect or not, I’ve seen a noticeable improvement in her attitude.

  23. Mia says:

    I watched the entire Goop series and expected to hate it. However, I loved it. There are so many aspects to holistic medicine and healing besides tradition medicine. I applaud Goop for exploring these.

  24. Sara says:

    Actually this is a energy technique invented by a chiropractor named Donal Epstein. It is actually a legitimate chiropractic technique. I am a chiropractor since 2005 and this technique was not taught in the schools, it is something that was pursed outside of the curriculum. Not sure if some schools have incorporated it as an elective technique as there are many technique electives you can take during your curriculum. Again, this is a legitimate energy technique that uses chiropractic contact points, certainly never was my thing and I thought it cooky when I first saw it done.

    • HoudiniHarry says:

      Thank you, Sara, for letting us know the origins of this treatment. I would have never thought it was a chiropractic technique! Now I’m wondering if there are any chiropractors in the rural area where I live that might know how to do this technique. I have had fibromyalgia for eight years and would love to have more energy, even a little bit more. Again, thank you Sara!

  25. Jaded says:

    I’m a trained Reiki therapist and teacher. Over the 10 years I’ve done Reiki, both as a business and volunteering with cancer patients, I can attest that working with positive energy transference works. I’ve had clients and cancer patients break down in tears on my table. I’ve had some who seem to go into a kind of hypnotic trance (I’m also a trained hypnosis practitioner) that I had to lead them out of. Every last one of them reacted so positively to Reiki that I truly believe it has a positive effect on stress levels, energy levels and helps create a positive state of mind. I’ve worked with cancer patients up until days before they passed, and their families were grateful that I was able to keep them filled with positivity and tranquility up to and as they passed over.

    I really side-eye people like this who 1) charge exorbitant amounts of money to identify someone of “energy” problems and; 2) claim any kind of “cure” from their treatments. I have never charged more than $40/hour for private treatments, and I’ve given many freebies to people who were desperate for help but couldn’t afford it. These guys are in it for the money and their form of “Energy healing” is snake-oil nonsense. What we as genuine energy workers hope to create in our practices is a release of stress, an inner acceptance of whatever illness – mental or physical – the client is dealing with, and an understanding that by transmitting positive energy, we can help them along their path – be it facing their imminent death or easing debilitating emotional and psychological problems. That’s all. We provide a loving and accepting environment they can take with them as a tool to work towards wellness.

  26. Sara says:

    Yeah, hi, deep breathing from your belly and clearing your mind into a relaxed state is called meditation. You can take a meditation course for a lot less than $2,500. Been there, done that, it’s helped me a great deal. But I think I paid like $100 for a five day course.

  27. JanetDR says:

    There are several methods I know of that can lead to what’s being described. Cranial- sacral, Qi Gong, zero balance and myofasicial release techniques as well as Reiki. I’ve taken some basic classes and it’s amazing what comes up and how it releases. I practice on my boyfriend who goes into what seems likes past life states he can describe in elaborate detail. We kind of backed off after the session where he was begging me to pull the sword out… The Levine book, Waking the Tiger (as someone mentioned above) has been required reading for more than one class.
    I don’t know anyone who charged anything like that.