Northwestern Academy of Homeopathy, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, opened its doors in January of 1995 with a class of 16 students. I sat down with Valerie Ohanian, dean of NAH, to talk about the vision for the school back in the mid-1990’s, what has changed over the years, and her vision for the future.
KN: Next spring, NAH will be graduating its seventh class of students. In your opinion, what has made the school successful in training homeopaths?
VO: When Eric Sommerman and I started planning the school back in 1993, our vision was to create a program that would prepare a student to become a professional homeopath. At the time, there were few programs for non-MD’s and interested students had to piece together their learning from many sources. We wanted to create a complete program that was part classroom learning and part clinical training that would prepare someone to be ready and comfortable to start practicing homeopathy.
We are very strong in teaching the Organon and Hahnemanian theory. Without this base, one cannot properly evaluate a case – what the action of the remedy really is, what to expect, when to intervene with a different remedy, or whether the state is changing to a different state. With these strong fundamentals, students can make their way through difficult case management issues and that can mean the difference between staying in practice or not.
Also, we focus on providing personal attention to each student. Faculty members serve as mentors and stay with the student during their time here. We try to understand each person’s relationship to the material we teach – How do they learn? What do they need? There are countless theories on how to teach and learn. We try to teach our students in the same way we teach them to be with their clients – as individuals.
KN: Alumni of the school rate their clinical experience in the program very highly. Can you describe your thoughts behind the development of the clinical component of the school?
VO: At the time we started the school, there were no programs providing the clinical training we thought students needed to be successful practitioners. Our vision was to create an opportunity for students to see a large variety of clients and hone their case management skills in a live setting. Many other homeopaths advised us not to do the clinical component – that the liability would be too great. But our first class was seeing 16-20 new clients per month, and learning so much when the clients would come back, better or not. We started with one year of “student clinic” and quickly expanded to two years by our fourth class.
Our students are divided into groups of 4-5 each and are supervised by faculty and by graduates of the program. The school promotes the “student clinic” in the community and schedules clients at a reduced fee during the school weekend. One student takes the case and acts as the case manager while others in the group observe the case and participate in the analysis. The students receive feedback on all aspects of their work – from demeanor and professionalism to their analysis and understanding of the case. In the last five years we have also introduced the “intensives”. The faculty member is in the room with the student during the entire case taking. The client is asked to leave the room several times while the faculty member discusses the case with the student giving suggestions that can be incorporated immediately into the interview.
During the two years of clinical training, students take up to sixteen new cases themselves, plus participate in dozens more while observing their group members. Students are involved in following and monitoring all these cases over the two year period. This vast exposure to such a variety of individuals helps bring the necessary confidence to practice. The clinical part of the program is intended as an internship of sorts. By the second year of clinic, students are encouraged to transfer clients out of the student clinic and into a private practice. This frees up slots in student clinic for new clients, plus allows students a transition time between being a supervised student and being out in practice on their own. Advisors meet with students during this time to help and answer questions related to starting a practice.
KN: Alumni also highly rate the area of “self-growth”. Can you talk about this aspect of the program?
VO: Preparing oneself for the client-homeopath interaction requires more than knowledge of Materia Medica and philosophy alone. While study and practice of homeopathic subject matter is important, a student’s ability to accomplish his or her own self healing work is directly proportional to the student’s ability to assist others to heal. Journaling exercises are the key part of the curriculum in this area. Students look at the various blocks in their lives – reactions or behaviors that keep them from seeing the client in front of them, that have repeatedly impacted their lives in a negative way. Journaling during student clinic is especially important to reflect on behaviors that will keep them from being successful in clinical practice. If they choose to share the process with their advisor, they can receive guidance in moving to another level in their practice.
KN: What encourages you for the future?
VO: Homeopathy is gaining credibility day by day and reaching a broader range of people. Interest in homeopathy continues to be high. We have graduated over 130 students at this point with two current classes of active students scheduled to graduate within the next few years. With our class starting in January 2011, we will be offering a distance learning component to our program. There is great interest among the students and alumni in becoming certified homeopaths. Certification is necessary for creating more professionalism. We are looking to improve everything we do from graduate level courses to an expanded student clinic. We want to create more job opportunities for our graduates and want to expand the reach of homeopathy into our community even deeper. It is a good time to be teaching and practicing homeopathy.
Valerie Ohanian, RsHom (NA), CC Hom, practices homeopathy in Minneapolis, Minnesota and has studied and practiced homeopathy for over twenty five years. Ms. Ohanian attended the Hahnemann College of Homeopathy, where she later became an associate faculty member. She also has an AB in Journalism from Humboldt State University. She is co-founder of Northwestern Academy of Homeopathy and past chairwoman of the International Council of Classical Homeopathy. A co-founder of NASH, Ms. Ohanian served as Vice President for five years. She was also a key founder and officer in the Minnesota Homeopathic Association.
Northwestern Academy of Homeopathy
7575 Golden Valley Road Suite 385
Golden Valley, MN 55427