She is the author of Looking Back Moving Forward, a book of fascinating conversations with thirty four renowned homeopaths in the UK.
Rowena Ronson trained at the London College of Classical Homeopathy and Jeremy Sherr’s Dynamis School, and has been practicing since 2001 in the UK. She is the author of ‘Looking Back Moving Forward’ (2007), a compilation of conversations she had with 34 renowned teachers and practitioners of homeopathy. In her practice, she combines homeopathy, psychotherapy, nutrition and functional medicine.
NS: Rowena, I know that you are very passionate about Functional Medicine. I also know that you are an extremely experienced and multi-talented practitioner who takes the business of healing very seriously, so I’m intrigued to know what it is that Functional Medicine has added to your practice. For a start, can you simply answer the question: what is Functional Medicine (FM)?
RJR: Thank you Nigel. I am delighted to have this opportunity to talk about Functional Medicine, as it has opened up a whole way of thinking, understanding and healing for me as a person, as a family member and as a practitioner. As homeopaths, we already view our health differently from the doctors and specialists that we have consulted in our lifetime. We see ourselves as whole beings and use holistic frameworks and remedies that impact us as a whole. Allopaths view humans as a collection of separate systems that require specific treatments, often treating one part of the body regardless of the possible effects – or side effects – on other parts, including our minds.
FM is an inevitable evolution in thought and application for the treatment of chronic disease. Similarly to a homeopath’s view of health, in FM we create a timeline for our lives and for our health, and in our mind’s eye (and on paper) we can chart all the incidents, choices and ailments that we have experienced along a continuum from birth to the present – and we can see how we have got to where we are. We can imagine this as upstreaming and downstreaming, in a way. And by doing so, we can appreciate cause and effect – and aim the arrow of our treatment accordingly.
All the systems of our mind and body are of course connected and they all have particular ways of functioning. Issues start occurring in our systems when they start malfunctioning, and this happens for many reasons. FM provides us with a framework for understanding how we function, tools to assess how we malfunction, and answers to how we can correct our functionality and prevent and treat chronic disease. Can you see why I am so passionate about it?
NS: I’m certainly beginning to. I understand the importance of the holistic approach to health and to our history of health, as do conventional homeopathic practitioners. Homeopaths treating chronic disease usually establish a detailed timeline for the case. Are you saying that in the FM approach this timeline is established in a different and perhaps more detailed way?
RJR: I would question whether all homeopaths create timelines, but would thoroughly recommend them, as they are so useful, and not just for case analysis. I would imagine only a small percentage of homeopaths share the timelines with their patients and educate them about their health. Even if they did, it would be to consider remedies and remedy states, as that is how homeopaths view health… it is our language. With FM it is more about how our body is functioning and disease processes – and as a result, lifestyle changes are highlighted and discussed. It is a different kind of awareness.
NS: So the appreciation of remedy states and the use of homeopathic remedies are just some of the tools you use in your practice, which seems to have a whole new dimension thanks to the FM approach?
RJR: Homeopathy, psychotherapy, nutrition, life and health coaching, and now FM all play an important part in my clinical practice. I integrate and use whatever skills I need to help patients with each process we are going through at any time.
NS: Are there many homeopaths looking at FM as a way of enhancing their practice?
RJR: Health practitioners from many diverse fields are attracted to the trainings in FM. At the London course in April 2017, a third of the participants were doctors, a third were nutritionists, and the remainder were other holistic therapists, including a splattering of homeopaths. As a result, we all practise differently, and so not many of us use homeopathy and FM – but there is a growing number.
For me, the training and all that I have learned since through further research and studying DNA reports and blood tests, for example, has taken my understanding of health to a whole new level, and for that I am very grateful. I now view disease as a process, which starts with a breakdown in how we function. For each patient, I work as a detective looking for points of change, and use homeopathy, psychotherapeutic interventions, diet and nutritional support and other lifestyle changes, in order to assist rebalance and disease prevention and/or treatment. It is all about keeping ourselves functioning to our individual optimum. I use homeopathy as I always have, constitutionally, acutely and therapeutically.
NS: It makes sense for practitioners of all sorts to establish timelines – and I know many homeopaths do that – but how do you ensure that these timelines are accurate and do not have gaps or incorrect sequences? Is the patient always a reliable witness?
RJR: Patients becoming more aware of their health as a continuum is very important. As part of the registration process for FM, patients dedicate at least an hour and a half of their time to filling out comprehensive questionnaires on line, which, when finished, create the timeline as well as a matrix of their health. This chart splits our health into seven functions: defence and repair, assimilation, structural integrity, communication, transport, biotransformation and elimination, and energy. It is better if the information is accurate, but approximations, in terms of dates, are ok too. The idea is that it all creates a picture and raises awareness for the patient about their health on all levels. Is the patient a reliable witness? I like to encourage my patients to take responsibility for their health, resulting in them becoming more and more reliable in their observing and witnessing.
NS: How do patients react when asked to provide this kind of complete detail about their history of health? For many of them, it must be a novel experience.
RJR: A novel experience? I like that! Yes, it can seem new and much like writing a novel! Some reject the idea completely! And then it is a process of education, much like it is when we work just with homeopathy. Homeopathy takes some explanation for patients to really embrace it and incorporate it into their life. The same is true for FM. In order to embrace it, we need to look at lifestyle, and there can be a fair amount of resistance. And I always work with the individual sitting in front of me. If they are not ready for form-filling, then that is fine too. It is not all about timelines. Sometimes they just need to be in the present and work with what is in the here and now, and we can do that too.
NS: When they do detail this information, do they themselves have revelations about their health? Do they see patterns and so on?
RJR: With assistance, yes. They start to understand the consequences of stress in their lives, or the taking of a medication, such as antibiotics for example, and then a reduction in their immunity. As we all do as homeopaths, we encourage as much self-awareness as we can.
NS: You say ‘with assistance’? Would it be possible for people to do this for themselves? Or do they need the kind of professional help that you bring?
RJR: Would they be able to understand their health as a process and all that that entails without assistance? I doubt it. That is like asking, would someone who knows about Arnica, be able to understand classical constitutional remedies, for example Carcinosin, and prescribe them to themselves, without studying homeopathy.
NS: I know every case is different, but is the patient who wants to tackle their health issues in this way having to make a long-term commitment? Perhaps of many weeks or months?
RJR: It is the same answer that I give to the yo-yo dieters who come and see me… It is much easier to view health changes as an educated and enlightened new beginning. When changes are suggested to the mind, if this is done in an empowering way, they will not feel burdensome, like a long-term commitment – which can be so triggering because of its negative connotations. It is like if you are smoker and you give up – if you view it as a long-term commitment to not smoke, it becomes a chore. It can create a conflict inside ourselves between our inner parent and child. Our internal parent is telling us we must not smoke, eat unhealthy food etc, and our internal child is either being well-behaved (for a while) or rebelling like a teenager. If we make decisions from our internal adult to live a long and healthy life, then it is much easier to transition into change, and to feel like we are opening to the relishing of a self-nourishing process.