If you’re friends with skeptics on social media, or you pay attention to what’s popular on YouTube, you’ve probably seen some witty videos from JP Sears. His skits making fun of coconut oil, essential oils, and the gluten-free fad are spot on because they bring up the unfounded beliefs behind these alternative health trends and criticize the reasoning in a hilarious and informative way. In “How to Become Gluten Intolerant”, he makes sure to mention that there are people who really do have legitimate reasons to avoid gluten, but that he’s referring to those doing it for other supposed health benefits. JP’s delivery is on point.
After seeing a few of these videos show up in my Facebook news feed, I was curious about his background. My guess was that he was a comedian and/or a skeptic – Maybe not be an all-around skeptic but at least skeptical of alternative medicine and spirituality. But when I went to his Facebook page, I saw videos about emotional healing and awakening. These did not seem to be funny or satirical, but I wondered if he was maybe doing deadpan. I scrolled down his page some more and saw posts about spiritual retreats he was leading. I clicked on a link and saw that this was real and googled some of the other spiritual leaders listed. They were all promoting woo woo.
I then went to his Inner Awakenings website, and his About Me says:
JP Sears is an emotional healing coach, international teacher, world traveler, and curious student of life. His work empowers people to live more meaningful lives. JP presents classes, workshops, online seminars, and leads retreats at numerous locations around the world on inner healing and growth. He is also very active on his YouTube channel AwakenWithJP, where he encourages healing and growth through his entertainingly informative and inspiring videos.
JP served as a faculty member for the C.H.E.K Institute from 2006 to 2013. JP holds certification as a Holistic Coach Advanced Practitioner through the Holistic Coaching Institute in Columbus, OH.
“C.H.E.K Institute” (which I had to google) and “Holistic coaching” were what made me realize that he really does believe in pseudoscience. Then I clicked the link to his YouTube channel and saw that most of his videos are serious and promoting woo, not ridiculing it. He often differentiates the satirical videos from the seriously spiritual ones by putting “(Funny)” in the title.
The bottom of his About Me page has this video, which explains what his main gig is and has testimonials from clients.
While I don’t see anything over-the-top wrong here, I do have concerns about people seeing a holistic coach and not a mental health professional trained at an accredited science-based medical school. He doesn’t seem to be psychic or palm reader bad – at least from what’s revealed in the testimonials – but it definitely paints JP Sears in a much different light than what my impression was of him from his funny videos.
I thought his soothing, ASMR-inducing voice and pleasant facial expressions were a fantastic impression of an alt med coach. But the reason he’s so good at it in his funny videos is because that’s what he does as his main job!
Here’s one that’s especially soothing to me:
Much of what he’s saying is advice I read when I was in elementary school and thought I had psychic dreams, so I read books about it. Basically, if you are more into and aware of your dreams, the more likely you are to remember them. The sooner you record the dream, the more likely you are to remember what happened in it (or what you think happened anyway). Not really mind-blowing information here. But the way he speaks made me stare at him straight in the eye and pay attention, as though he were physically in the same room and speaking specifically to me, and as though he were saying fascinating things. I think this is a big part of the appeal of certain people who spread hogwash and of con artists – Not that I have reason to believe JP Sears is intentionally deceiving people, but it’s interesting to ponder how much of what we are willing to believe is based on the manner in which people present themselves.
Seeing all this made me realize my impression of him was wrong, but it didn’t make me dismiss him altogether. Although I was disappointed for a brief moment, it didn’t make me dislike the satirical videos I’d seen. I think it’s great that he can poke fun at his own community. It’s nice that, although he’s wrong on things, he doesn’t seem to have taken it to such an extreme. His criticisms of health fads may convince people who may never listen to skeptics or doctors. They may see JP as someone who “gets it” and not some Big Pharma dude and are more willing to see what he’s saying.
I do wish he wasn’t a holistic coach. I wish they didn’t exist at all and that people used evidence-based medicine from licensed doctors. So he doesn’t get a free pass on this. But I can tell from his videos that he gets what the alt medders he’s criticizing believe and that’s why he’s so good at satirizing it. Many skeptics I know are good at explaining why this or that alt med treatment is bunk, but many aren’t good at explaining what the belief is and why people come to their conclusions. So when they get into a conversation with a believer, it only makes them believe even more because they can easily dismiss the skeptic as someone who doesn’t get it in the first place. I know that’s what I did when I believed in alt med.
But then I wonder if I’m being inconsistent. I don’t believe in sharing any posts from David Wolfe. Part of how he’s gotten so popular on Facebook is that people see mostly harmless memes from his page with vague positive messages or nice videos of nature. People share it and some decide to follow him. But they then end up seeing his extreme posts about GMO conspiracy theories, how your face is a map to internal body issues, and other harmful misinformation that are links to his website. Once they click that link, they start seeing other junk that his site promotes.
While it’s possible some people will see JP Sears’ satirical videos, start following, and then start becoming a believer in his spiritual teachings, I don’t think he’s as bad as David Wolfe saying “Chocolate is an octave of sun energy” or “The reason why the oceans are salty is that’s what’s needed to hold the water onto the Earth”. It’s possible he does teach things to that extreme but I haven’t seen it or it’s things done in private sessions or retreats. However, I think those who follow him for making fun of woo woo are less likely to then become a client of his. But there may be more people willing to believe David Wolfe’s junk posts after seeing his cute animal videos.
And he seems like a cool guy. If he’s able to criticize what I assume is his own clique, he’s probably fun to hang out with and a pleasant person, albeit with some misguided beliefs. Someone like David Wolfe seems like an arrogant douche. But maybe I’m wrong. My first impression of JP was wrong, afterall. But I’d hang out with JP. I doubt I would with David.
I’m willing to change my mind on this. Do you think it’s OK to be a fan of and share JP’s satirical videos, even if you disagree with his holistic coaching? Are his beliefs really not that extreme compared to Food Babe or David Wolfe, or am I being too easy on him? Is this really not a big deal either way? I’d love to read your comments on this.