A good advertisement for homeopathy
01 February 2011 at 16:19
HOMEOPATHY FIRST AID COURSE
The School of Homeopathy and The School of Health, Uffculme, Devon, EX15 3DR.
Home Study Course
Some time ago I wrote a review of a book on the principles and practice of homeopathy by a leading teacher from another of the Schools affiliated to the Society of Homeopaths to which I gave the title A Bad Advertisement for Homeopathy. I am more than glad to redress the balance by giving this review the completely opposite title. It is in every respect a good advertisement for homeopathy, and an excellent introduction to the subject for anyone; from the curious patient wishing to use homeopathy in the home, to the lay person embarking on the serious study of the subject with a view to professional practice, or the qualified doctor or health care professional considering integrating homeopathy into their clinical repertoire. In fact it is every bit as good an introduction to homeopathy as any I encountered when accrediting courses in the teaching centres affiliated to the Faculty of Homeopathy during my years as Dean.
The course has four components: A booklet called Homoeopathy: a rational choice in medicine, by Mo Morrish, a scientist by training before becoming a homeopathic practitioner; two DVDs ‘narrated’ by Misha Norland, the founder and current principal of the School and a widely respected practitioner and teacher; a booklet, Get Well Soon: a guide to homeopathic first aid; and a Prospectus for the more advanced courses available at or through the School. A set of the remedies taught on the course is included in the price.
Although it is incidental to the First Aid course itself, the Prospectus is a most interesting and impressive part of the package because of the way that it expresses the ethos of the School. In fact it makes a brave statement in this increasingly sophisticated academic age of medical education. It explicitly rejects affiliation to or accreditation by any university, although this is a path followed by some other ‘lay’ schools of homeopathy. (Incidentally, it does not seem to object to the epithet ‘lay’ in relation to its courses and graduates.) And it explicitly does not demand any specific level of academic attainment of entrants to its courses. It does not set exams, and peer group interaction is important to its formative assessment, along with the more formal ingredients of the process. The emphasis is on qualities rather than qualifications. But its expectations of those qualities, and of the commitment to developing personally as well as intellectually and professionally through the learning experience, are none the less rigorous for this shift of emphasis. In fact the ethos of the School is far more explicitly in tune with the vocational and healing goals that medicine should pursue than most conventional medical school curricula.
The booklet by Mo Morrish admirably complements the more instructional elements of the course. It is very well written, and examines the philosophical basis of health care in general and homeopathy in particular, offers a trenchant and perceptive critique of mainstream Western medicine and its scientific rationale, and presents a well-argued clinical and scientific justification for homeopathy. It is only very faintly tainted by the understandable resentment that many in homeopathy feel towards its mainstream detractors, and its comments on these and on ‘orthodox’ medicine are pretty fair:
‘Much of what is written about homeopathy in journals, newspapers and websites is negative and attacking. Most of the people who write these articles know very little about homeopathy. Much of what is written, therefore, is not true.’
‘Many people are sceptical about homeopathy. It is entirely reasonable to be sceptical but it is not reasonable to be dogmatic. Orthodox scientific thinking tells us that the idea of homeopathy is absurd. Cutting edge scientific thinking suggests that homeopathy is not nearly as absurd as we thought.’
‘There is nothing medicinal in mainstream medicine. It does not use medicines or treatments to stimulate or encourage healing. Instead, it uses (them) to alleviate, control and suppress symptoms. This is, of course, extremely useful in certain situations but it is not to be confused with real medicine.’
‘Mainstream medicine saves life . . . it also kills, maims and undermines health. People in Western cultures might live longer than they used to but their quality of life is not improved.’
We should all more often be as forthright as this in our discourse with conventional medical colleagues. But his attitude to mainstream medicine is also respectful and by no means dismissive. For example: ‘A good homeopath knows that a homeopathic approach is not always the best one in all circumstances, and will often be able to refer you to another kind of practitioner, one more appropriate to your needs. These practitioners may include a GP (etc.).’ He deals briefly and succinctly with placebo, evidence, ethics, safety (but see later), ecology, equality, the consultation and the use of time. He makes the point that homeopathy would certainly not have survived if it were not for its good results and the recommendations of satisfied patients. And he pays tribute to the huge contribution of courageous and independent-minded members of the medical profession to the history of homeopathy. This little book alone would be of value and give encouragement to anyone feeling daunted by the prevailing hostility towards homeopathy.
The two DVDs consist of a series of ‘talking heads’ tutorials delivered straight to camera by Misha Norland. This sounds a bit boring, and may take a bit of getting used to. But in fact it is surprisingly effective. This is because of Misha’s engaging manner and the informal style of presentation, which gives the series of short talks on the principles of homeopathy (disc 1) and the set of remedies supplied with the course material (disc 2) a particular charm and intimacy. You feel that he is talking to you, and not to an audience or even a camera. The DVDs are easy to navigate, and the ‘principles’ disc is presented as short chapters dealing with each topic so that each can be revisited as required. The presentations are by no means simplistic, and clearly reveal the profound insights into disease processes and healing processes that are so much of the strength of the homeopathic method, as well as explaining its therapeutic rationale. The informality is enhanced by the occasional apologetic false start to a presentation, or the cameraman’s intervention to remind Misha that he has forgotten an important detail of materia medica.
The Get Well Soon booklet is a ready reference similar to many such books that give lists of common ailments and their best indicated remedies, and brief symptom pictures of the remedies themselves, and augments or repeats what is on the DVDs. There is a short introduction that offers general guidance on self-help homeopathy. On the first page it states clearly, ‘Whilst homeopathy can promote healing on a great many levels, we respect medical science and know that there is a case for conventional treatment for conditions with developing pathology and, of course, surgical intervention may be necessary for emergency situations.’ (And medical intervention, too, of course; although that point is made elsewhere.) The course as a whole strongly supports a collaborative and integrative approach to health care that is most refreshing. The absolute importance of the medical science component of the more advanced courses is emphasised; and in the material for this course there is repeated insistence on seeking professional help, either of a well qualified homeopath or another health care professional, in difficult or threatening situations, recurrent illness, or failure to respond to homeopathy. And it makes it clear that the study and practice of homeopathy beyond this introductory self-help level requires a serious commitment not only to a four year programme (in this School), but to life-long learning.
Most of my few quibbles are editorial rather than substantial. But I would like to have seen the advice just quoted applied explicitly to those situations, which are described in the introduction, in which an acute remedy touches upon and provokes change in a more deep-seated constitutional or disease state; a challenge that is not always spelled out clearly when promoting the circumscribed use of homeopathy to doctors, either. And although the warning is implied, I would also have liked to see more explicit reference to the problem of indirect risk; the danger of neglecting conditions that require some other intervention by too great a reliance on homeopathy. Some discussion of the use of remedies concurrently or intercurrently with conventional medication is also needed. And I was disappointed not to find any reference to the work of the Faculty of Homeopathy, or to NHS Homeopathic Hospitals other than the RLHH.
I have a purely personal difficulty with two details in the course material that have nothing to do with its quality but that reflect a trend in the language of healing in medicine in general and in homeopathy in particular. One is the use of the term healer – ‘The School takes personal pride in its services because it is dedicated to your development as a healer - -’ (from the course handbook). I believe that no individual should arrogate to themselves the title of healer. Any of us, by our skills, our personality, our compassion and acceptance, our presence, our insight, or other gifts or attributes, may be agents of healing for others, in our everyday lives as well as in our professional lives. In that sense we are all ‘healers’. The other detail is the use of the term ‘spiritual’ – ‘The remedy works by stimulating your internal energetic (spiritual) life-preserving powers - -‘ (from Get Well Soon). ‘Spiritual’ is an ambiguous term. Its use embraces various meanings, from ‘immaterial’ to ‘divine’. It muddies the water of the discourse about homeopathy, and is better avoided. In the context of this quotation it compounds the quite sufficiently problematic use of the term ‘energetic’.
All-in-all, however, I warmly recommend that a few copies of this course material be added to the libraries of all Faculty teaching centres, and perhaps made available for sale on Faculty courses. It will enhance the learning experience of beginners, and refresh the minds of more experienced practitioners. For my part, after more than thirty years’ experience, it still enriched my enjoyment and satisfaction in the art and science of homeopathy.
Jeremy Swayne, February 2011.