Rowena J. Ronson interviewed by Alan V. Schmukler

rowena ronson

Our editor interviews Rowena Ronson, homeopath, counsellor, nutritionist, family therapist and author of Looking Back Moving Forward.

Rowena New  PICRowena Ronson is a UK homeopath who combines her talents as a homeopath, counsellor, nutritionist and family therapist to treat her patients. Rowena is author of Looking Back Moving Forward, in which she interviewed thirty four top UK homeopaths.

 

AS: You spent two and a half years working on your excellent book Looking Back Moving Forward, in which you interviewed 34 top homeopaths in the UK.What was that experience like? Any surprises? What did you learn from it?

RJR: The experience of researching and writing Looking Back Moving Forward was an extremely exciting one for me. First of all there was the learning. I was out of college a few years, enthusiastic, curious and determined. Inspired by interviewing George Vithoulkas during a trip to Alonissos with fellow writer Nigel Summerley, I knew that I was embarking on a journey into great minds and times present and past. And I realized the stories I was witnessing would be valuable and of great interest to the rest of our community, for generations to come. I felt our history needed to be captured, and I am so glad I followed my intuition on that.

But it wasn’t just the learning. It was an absolute privilege to be taken into the homes, clinics and colleges of our wonderful teachers – some of whom have since passed on – as they shared with me their experiences and lifelong passion for homeopathy. Special moments I can recall from ten years ago….. sitting with Martin Miles on his sofa in his front room in South London, as if we were old friends sharing a warm chat about the old times with a nice a cup of tea. My visit to Robert Davidson in Milton Keyes and his clinic full of gadgets and machines…. less relaxing but equally fascinating …. when I said that I couldn’t really get my head around what he was saying, he responded that I was arrogant to think I could. I actually really liked him for that!

Another trip further north, this time to Jeremy Sherr’s Malvern clinic inspired me to attend his Dynamis School – I loved how he spoke about homeopathy and his intention to move to Tanzania and search for a genus epidemicus for AIDS. Then there was my delicious trip to see Misha Norland in the rambling hills of Devon, roaming in the woodlands with his dog Bear. What a delightful man. I also recall Sheilagh Creasy pouring over ancient books she eagerly wanted to share with me; old Hebrew texts she believed influenced Hahnemann’s thinking. And Francis Treuherz’s impressive library and extensive knowledge of our history and beyond. And then there was my tipsy pub trip with Mike Bridger after observing him teach his post graduate students in London.

Reminiscing as I am today, I wish I could do it all over again!! I think I learned almost as much in those years interviewing and then editing the transcripts to transform those stories into a book, than I did while studying to be a homeopath. It was certainly a rounded education! Many students and practitioners have written to me over the years saying how much they learned from my journey, so it is lovely to hear it was a worthwhile exercise, and not just one that gave me pleasure.

 

AS:  I enjoyed those interviews very much. You’ve studied NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and Transactional Analysis.  When taking a case, do these come into play?  What do you notice that another homeopath might miss? How does that help in taking the case?

RJR:  I would say both of those trainings have helped me immensely, and in different ways. NLP has taught me to be very observant of the language my patients use. People have different styles of communication – visual, auditory and kinesthetic – and so I might use similar language to mirror back to them what I have observed (visual) and get in tune with them (auditory). I find this confirms my understanding, establishes rapport, encourages trust and allows my patients to go deeper in sharing the centre of their case. As I write this I can hear Jeremy Sherr in my head encouraging his patients to open up by saying ‘I see’. This is very visual language and as most people are visual, they would certainly find this reassuring.

Rapport is actually achieved quite unconsciously when we are truly present and actively listening to our patients. Do you sometimes notice that when you are really listening to a close friend, you start to mirror their body language? They might be leaning on their elbow, for example, and we might notice sometime later that we are doing the same. When we do, our energy fields seem to mesh and we establish a truly magical connection. Creating rapport with a patient is actually a natural process – if your focus is completely on your patient, you are actively listening to all they are saying, observing them on all levels and if your intention is clear.

Transactional Analysis helps with case taking in a different way. Understanding about parent-child dynamics builds awareness of what is really going on in the clinic room. If a patient is behaving in a child-like way, which they might be historically programmed to do with their doctor – asking us to provide the answers without them taking responsibility for their health – then talking adult to adult with them helps encourage their autonomy, which in itself has a huge impact on their health.

Other really useful frameworks I have studied and utilize in my work are systemic family therapy, mindfulness, and shadow work. I very much appreciate how systemic family therapists view the family as a ‘system’ and a whole. So when a child is brought to me with an issue, I do tend to see it as a family issue and I look at the whole family for the answers. This fits in well with our own miasmatic prescribing.

I have the privilege in treating whole families as they see me as their family therapist to whom they turn to for relationship counselling, parenting guidance, sibling dynamics and, of course, their individual and family health issues on all levels. Sometimes if one child is suffering and well-indicated constitutional remedies do not seem to be doing what they should, a family miasmatic remedy can be the necessary key. Sometimes I prescribe it to more than one family member at the same time – maybe mother and child – and find the issue disappears. This has happened even in childhood eczema cases, to my surprise.

I am sure we have all seen cases where a mother brings her ‘difficult’ child into clinic, but it is actually the mother that would benefit most from a remedy. I do encourage sessions with children with at least some time with one or other of the parents present, as this fosters transparency and family healing.

Shadow Work’s philosophy is that we are all capable of feeling a 360 degree spectrum of emotions and whatever we are not really experiencing, we might well be holding in our shadow bag. This is similar territory to what we learn as homeopaths in terms of polarity in remedy pictures.  A patient may speak about her jealous partner and jealous friends, but then deny the emotion herself. We can also experience this in transference and counter-transference in the clinic space.

Finally, I will encourage my patients to increase their level of self-awareness in a session with me. I will explain about homeopathy, what information they are giving me that I am prescribing on, reflecting back the themes that I have heard and observed. I will try and loosen some stuck views if I can in the session, explaining how we are much more than our thoughts and perceptions in this world. And I will always tell a patient what remedy I have prescribed for them, and if they want to know why, I will tell them too. For me, homeopathy is all about encouraging awareness and healing, and creating an environment where patients are educated and empowered to feel autonomous and take responsibility for their health and their lives.

Learning additional skills will only benefit our case taking ability and how we can help our patients. I am actually currently designing CPD workshops to teach practitioners these skills to enhance their practices. And on a personal level, I use journaling to support my own reflective practice, so I remain in a healthy, clear space for my patients – and for myself!

 

AS: That’s quite a bag of skills to bring into play.  Can you share a bit of your most gratifying case?  Most frustrating case?

RJR:  I am not sure I can Alan. I have had so many gratifying experiences as a practitioner over the years and even daily, which is why I truly love my work. I do feel that there is something to learn from everyone that we have the privilege to work with. I find it very thrilling to see a person come into clinic wearing a remedy state that I have not prescribed for before. I learned about Hydrogen while studying with Jeremy Sherr on his Dynamis course and it was very rewarding for me to see that state being described by one of my patients. It was amazing to watch the case progress over the following months as the Hydrogen brought her back into her body in all sorts of profound ways.

In a very different way, I get excited about the little miracles. A young child covered in molluscum a few years back, whose case I took one afternoon and after analysis posted her Phosphorus. Her mother emailed me the following day to say that her molluscum disappeared over night after the session, and before she even took the Phosphorus!

Frustrating cases are more rare, I am pleased to say, and I think I have a high tolerance too, which I believe is needed if you are running a busy practice. Working with people with all the complex dynamics and issues they bring into clinic, it takes a stability of mind and clarity of awareness to be able to hold the space professionally while at the same time encourage the necessary trust and safety for patients to reveal their vulnerabilities to us.

I did feel some frustration though when I prescribed Arsenicum for a lady with diverticulitis recently. I felt the remedy suited her and that we would be able to work effectively together to resolve her health issues. After one dose of LM, she emailed to ask me what the ‘ingredients’ were. So I explained the grains of LM, the water and the drop of vodka I used for preservation. She responded that she was going to discontinue their use. I asked her why and she said because of the vodka. I said that I would be happy to make her up a bottle without the vodka, to which she did not respond at all.  I know I did the best I could to prescribe accurately for her. I also know that I had done my best and all I could to educate her about homeopathy and answer all her questions. I do not feel I could have done more. So I had to just let it go but I did tell her my door was open to her if she changed her mind in the future. I was frustrated but respected her decision.

 

AS:  I think her reaction proves the correctness of your prescription.  I was wondering how you handle patients who are on psychoactive drugs. Is it difficult to sort out the drug symptoms from the patient’s symptoms? Do you ever work with their regular physician during the treatment?

RJR: I have been very drawn to the field of mental health these last few years. So much so that I have just started a PhD. I find the majority of patients are dissatisfied with the support they receive from their GPs and psychiatrists, privately and on the NHS. And treatments are limited and are known to help only a minority and with a multitude of side effects. Often GPs do not understand mental illness, and they certainly do not know how to support patients with addictions, for example. Some boroughs don’t recognise syndromes such as PDAS on the autistic spectrum and therefore do not offer support for them. Antidepressants are prescribed for almost all ailments and sometimes without patients even knowing, and often without their permission.

It seems commonplace that these side-effect laden drugs are given along with painkillers, for illnesses from shingles to IBS, especially if the patient is a regular visitor – a heart sinker. If a patient doesn’t fit in easily to their reductionist model of health, then it seems easier to give them an antidepressant rather than find the real cause of their dis-ease. I have seen antidepressants prescribed for young people, which have caused manic episodes, and steroid pills that have brought on psychosis. There are clear warnings for doctors not to prescribe where there is risk of an escalation or deepening of mental pathology in young people, but they prescribe regardless, and their patients are none the wiser.

In answer to your question, doctors and psychiatrists seem reluctant to support – and actively appear to discourage – patients coming off their medications, even slowly. They are warned of relapse of their anxiety or depression, for example, and a worsening of their condition, if they do. They tell patients they will be on medication for life in the case of bipolar and give no other options. Nutrition is balked at, as it has been in the allopathic treatment of cancer. This has been my experience but I am sure there are some wonderful doctors out there who do encourage independence from medication, I have just not come across them.

Some patients take the decision of their health management into their own hands, having had enough of the side effects, and reduce their medications over a period of time without telling their doctors. Our code of ethics highlights these issues and states that we need to encourage our patients to discuss their decisions with their prescribing doctors, but sometimes patients refuse to, and we are advised to record our recommendations, and their refusal, in our case notes.

I am sure we have all experienced wonderful results in our clinics treating patients with emotional issues with homeopathy. Our materia medica are brimming with remedies that contain the whole spectrum of emotional symptoms. These symptoms readily come through in our provings, most likely because we are easily susceptible. There is a difference between mental and emotional symptoms though, even if the two are put together in the same category. ‘Mind’ emotional symptoms are quite different from chemical imbalances and structural defects in our brain. It is likely that fewer true ‘mental’ symptoms come through our provings. This might be because not all remedies are proven above a 1M potency, and again, not everyone will be susceptible.

I would say that it can be difficult to identify a remedy picture that fits patients with chemical imbalances and resulting mental illness, for example, if they are very depressed and cannot think….with or without the added complication of an allopathic medicine engrafting its own picture into the mix. When a homeopathic picture is difficult to perceive, or we have tried a few remedies and there is no reaction, carefully prescribed vitamins, minerals, amino acids and herbs such as curcumin, which is anti-inflammatory, can create enough healing within the brain so that we can then help again with homeopathic remedies. This is my current thinking.

Prescribing for the classical constitutional picture can produce brilliant results, which can be found by focusing on the language of the patient, and their gestures, which do come through regardless of what the patient is talking about or how they are feeling. That true expression of a patient’s deeper self is always there and is waiting to be discovered. Much like a disease state that wants to be healed and is giving signs and symptoms in many different ways so that it can be seen, heard and identified.

I work in a private hospital and I do receive referrals for all sorts of issues, but my experience has not been of doctors encouraging or indeed supporting their patients off medication for mental health issues. I am planning in the near future to raise awareness of how I work with local GPs and mental health organisations. I am sure doctors and mental health workers would also appreciate having options they can offer their desperate patients.

Our materia medica includes many wonderful homeopathic remedies that can create profound shifts for people with imbalances on the mental level. But I do feel that we are limited in our training in how to work with people who have these kinds of issues. And our expectations can be way too high of single doses even of high potencies.

Many years ago I was in a relationship with a man whose son had had a bad experience smoking cannabis at university. The incident had been a year before, but he had been left with a lack of appetite, a compromised confidence in himself and other subtle changes including crippling inertia. I explained homeopathy to his father and impulsively he took his son to see someone he found on the internet, without my knowledge or recommendation. The son was prescribed a remedy, was not told what it was, and the homeopath then went away on holiday and out of contact.

That weekend, and two days after the young man had taken the remedy, we all spent a family day together and we watched as he slipped into a manic episode, very similar to the experience he had smoking weed the year before. The remedy had opened a door, but unfortunately his state was not a passing return of old symptoms. By the following day he was in raging psychosis, running around his house without clothes, and completely delusional. He feared that if he sat down on a chair, some alien creature would enter his backside.

And we could not get hold of his homeopath so we could not antidote the remedy or prescribe another, as we did not know what he had been given. His father really did not want to have his son hospitalised and medicated but he literally was climbing the walls and swinging from the curtain rails. I was only newly qualified myself, but felt that I had to do something. I could see a clear Hyoscyamus picture but, of course, wondered if he had been given it by his homeopath and whether he was proving it.

Out of desperation, I prescribed it in a 1M potency. Pretty much immediately and for about thirty seconds afterwards, I managed to make a connection with him as if he had a moment of clarity where his normal conscious mind was present. I could really tell the difference in how he was in those seconds and I was hopeful that he had responded, but his reaction did not last and I was fearful of repeating. Now I would know to repeat the remedy at five-minute intervals, probably plussed in water, and observe his reaction closely, continually assessing.But I was too nervous and inexperienced then, and I was very aware that he was not my patient.

When his homeopath returned a week later, he heard from my friend that his son had been hospitalised and was now on heavy medication. He told us he had prescribed a single dose of Sulphur 30. But he gave no warning that this might happen, probably because he had not experienced this kind of case before in his practice.There are many issues to be aware of when working with patients with mental illness and as I said, our training and experience in practice is limited. I think it is important not to get carried away with ourselves and think we can manage these cases with a consultation once a month, no contact in between, and a dose or two of a remedy. Patients need to be educated and supported properly.

I feel the same is true for GPs. From my experience they too have little skill in understanding and treating mental illness and their prescriptions can create a great deal of damage through their lack of awareness. Mental health syndromes, such as bipolar, do tend to run in families, and where there is a history of mental imbalances in a young person and a tendency towards depression, careful consideration should be given when prescribing antidepressants, and steroids for that matter, and patients should be fully informed of the possible outcomes. But they are not.

And psychiatrists too, can be very narrow and negligent in their prescribing and support, asking depressed patients to just fill out an outdated form to assess how depressed they are – a soul destroying task at the best of times. I have observed a complete lack of compassion and empathy and a total absence of interpersonal skills and awareness. And vulnerable patients with mental health issues need more understanding and care, not thoughtless exposure to any risk of unprofessional treatment, allopathic or otherwise.

I am currently receiving many referrals, through word-of-mouth, for families where a teenager is struggling mentally, emotionally and behaviourally. I encourage transparency by working with the teenager and one or more members of the family so that I can observe dynamics and make interventions. The option is always there for the individual to speak with me on their own, but often they choose for a parent to be there so that we can work on the issues that they are experiencing within their family.

It might be that parents are over focusing or under focusing on their child. I encourage an openness of discussion about drugs and alcohol, as these are modern day issues for all teenagers to process, as these brain toxins are so readily available as soon as they start secondary school. Parents might feel these are subjects not to be discussed for many reasons including fear. Parents might have little awareness of the dangers of the potent cannabis that young people smoke nowadays, comparing it with what was around when they were young. In my clinic I encourage transparency and awareness on all these subjects and those discussions have a really useful impact on the teenager, the family and all their relationships.

I am exploring the importance of good nutrition, including supplementation with vitamins, minerals and amino acids, to rebalance brain chemistry, taking into consideration the link between gut and brain. ‘Functional medicine’ in combination with homeopathy and herbal tinctures, together with family counseling and CBT from an experienced and compassionate practitioner, could create a viable option for patients with clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar, addictions, Autism and ADHD, and this is what I will be researching during my PhD studies.

 

AS: That a very inclusive and holistic approach. Your patients are lucky to have all your skills in their service. Thank you for sharing with us today!

If you would like a copy of Rowena’s book, visit her website at

http://www.evolve2solve.co.uk/

You can also contact Rowena through her site for more information about her CPD workshops for practitioners.

About the author

Alan V. Schmukler

Alan V. Schmukler

Alan V. Schmukler is a homeopath, Chief Editor of Homeopathy4Everyone and author of ”Homeopathy An A to Z Home Handbook”, (also available in French, German, Greek, Polish and Portuguese). He is Hpathy’s resident cartoonist and also produces Hpathy’s Tips & Secrets column and homeopathy Crossword puzzles each month. You can visit Alan at his website: http://g.tinyurl.com/Healgently2

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