Q: How did you get into Homeopathy?
Susan Sonz: All my life I’ve had an interest in health issues. I’ve always been fascinated by people’s problems and pathologies, and natural approaches to health care. I ended up being the person who my sisters, friends, and family would ask, ‘What do I do about my ‘such and such’ problem?’
I spent much of my adult life being a visual artist and struggling to bring up my two sons alone. Finally I thought, ‘You know, I need to do something that makes it easier to earn money.’ (this is a very honest answer by the way!) At one point a friend said, ‘Why don’t you become a naturopath, since you’re so interested in natural health?’ I realized that the only part of naturopathy that truly interested me was homeopathy, even though I personally had never used it. Shortly after my declared interest in homeopathy, someone gave me Robert Stewart’s number. I called him, and he suggested I attend class that very night. The rest, as they say, is history.
Q: According to your experience, what makes a great homeopath?
Susan Sonz: A good homeopath must understand his or her intention. You must know why you are doing this work. A homeopath’s intention must be to follow the 1st aphorism; your ‘high and only mission must be to cure‘. If this intention stays strong and clear, I think you cannot go wrong, because you will learn what you need to know and become a good homeopath. You will learn to leave your own “state” or case in the hallway and not allow it to blur the case you are about to take.
Also important is having a mind that has no limitations. There is never a case that is not fascinating, even if it’s an annoying case and they’re not giving you anything… which itself, can be fascinating. But when you have a case when someone wants to give it all up, there is no book or movie more fascinating! So you need this ability to be amazed, a mind that will go anywhere with the patient. So intention and an expansive mind… and stuffing lots of information into your brain helps also.
Beyond intention and expansiveness, what advice would you give to the novice wanting to practice homeopathy in this country?
Susan Sonz: Learn as much as you can, experience as many homeopaths as you can, go to seminars, and ask advice of your teachers. When you hear someone speaking about limiting the number of remedies we should use…your ears should perk up in warning.
Hahnemann was still changing his ideas, developing new ideas until the end. I argue against limiting ideas because Hahnemann is the last person in the world who would have done that. I think he would have said, ‘The whole world is remedies – let’s prove them all!’ If there is no proving of a remedy, I’m not going to ask my patient to wait for a proving. If I am sure of the remedy, then I’m going to use it. Don’t stop yourself, don’t limit yourself.
But don’t go looking for obscure remedies just because you think it’s impressive. This is one of the complaints about “modern” homeopathy. Some poorly trained homeopaths might believe that if someone looks like a certain animal, they would need that remedy. But that would be about the same as key-note prescribing.
When students graduate from the school and get your diploma, how many go into practice, have an income, and get their CCH ?
Susan Sonz: It’s quite a process to go from first year student to professional homeopath, which includes getting certified C.C.H. You’ll find it’s much easier to have the courage to call yourself a professional homeopath, once you are certified. Nowadays it’s much easier to get your CCH soon after graduation. Once was, you needed to have a certain number of cases under your belt before you took the test. But they have eased up on that for good reasons. I recommend students get their CCH as soon as they can after graduation. But the first step is to get your NYSH diploma.
I designed the curriculum to make it easier for people to get the CCH. In order to graduate from NYSH students must have completed five supervised cases and a comprehensive final exam, in addition to completing four years of homework and a senior project. All that prepares you for the CCH.
The first year class gets better each year- meaning the students are much more motivated and serious. This year I am getting a hundred percent homework passed in from the first year students. There’s a certain amount of expected attrition of course, especially from first to the second year.
It’s still hard to graduate and say, ‘I’m going to do this.’ That’s why there’s a mentoring program. It’s harder when you go to a school with a different teacher every weekend, as opposed to going to a school like this, where the teacher really gets to know you. I can encourage you, or if needed, discourage you, and after graduating you can form a study group with your colleagues and come back here to work together. We keep a classroom that can be used for study groups and other meetings. We also have a graduate apprentice program which helps students transition from student to practitioner.
It’s easier for people who also have another occupation like social workers or psychologists to move from the CCH to actual practice. Some students have a spouse who is earning money and that helps them take time to ease into building a practice. Can you make a good living doing this’? Yes, but it’s not easy at first…and you have to be doing something else while you are building your practice.
In your opinion, what are the limits of homeopathy? In other words, when do you suggest an allopathic approach?
Susan Sonz: Idealistically, I believe there are no limitations. On a practical level however, I think there are few patients who aren’t also involved in allopathic treatment, which can limit the effectiveness of homeopathy. When one is being treated with their true simillimum, I don’t think there’s any situation that the right remedy and good management can’t cure.
However, on a practical level, I always suggest that patients go to an allopath for investigation. I want to know if there’s a tumor, or if a rash is cellulitis. If the situation is acutely dire, such as cellulitis, my feeling is that the patient should be the one to choose whether or not to take the antibiotics. I don’t want to be the one who makes a suggestion in a case like that. I think the patient should follow his/her own conscience.
If a doctor says that you need an antibiotic, I don’t stand in the way. Or, when it is a fast moving, emergency situation like a heart attack or there is the possibility of meningitis, I say, ‘Call 911!.’ There are a lot of emergency procedures that the allopaths are very good at. No one should die because they believe in homeopathy – go to the hospital when it is necessary.
Do you think there is a different set of skills required in terms of book learning vs. application?
Susan Sonz: Yes. Some students who do excellent homework, might find it difficult to work in the clinic because it involves a different set of skills. Suddenly you are dealing with real people and they are unpredictable and often not easy to interview. On the other hand, if you don’t do your book learning, you will waste a lot of time when you are working with patients.
When we start groupings, like spiders, you’ll soon understand the general characteristics that any spider is going to exhibit. Then you will learn the particular symptoms of the lesser known spider remedies, you can select which specific spider remedy to use. But if you don’t remember the symptoms of Tarentula, which are basically the symptoms that most spider remedy patients talk about, then you will waste a lot of time looking up all the patient’s symptoms. And then if you finally do recognize a spider remedy, most likely you will simply give the template remedy, Tarentula, instead of looking further. If you study hard and learn this work, you will save time in the end. That’s why working with “groupings” is so useful. The universe is actually pretty well organized, and homeopathy reflects that.
How do you combine classical and sensation system and when would you prefer one over the other?
Susan Sonz: I always combine the two when I am hearing a remedy that is well known. When I think I’m hearing the patient describe the experience or speak from the source of a well known remedy, I still want to see the rubrics and symptoms that are known about that remedy.
Take for instance, our clinic case of Lilium tigrinum. The student who was invited to take the case was a shy person and up until then it was hard for her to take a case in class because of her shyness. This student was able to take the case in a sensation style, because it does not require building a “relationship” with the patient. She kept saying “tell me more” and because the patient being questioned happened to be living her life “close” to the source of the remedy she needed, it was a successful interview. We ended up hearing the patient clearly describe the sensation of the plant family Liliflorae.
She spoke of a feeling in her sinuses that felt like something was being extruded, squeezed out, and she used very strong gestures to demonstrate this feeling. She described the sensation of squeezing her acne (which was quite serious), the exact same way. Emotionally she spoke of being excluded, left out and neglected. It was beautifully clear at the time.
The Sensation System was relatively new to us. Assuming this was a Lily, and because it was a sycotic case, probably Lilium tigrinum, I decided then to take the case in a more classical way. And it turned out that she had been longing to be a gay woman, but because she was brought up in a conservative Christian family, she knew it would be completely unacceptable. She was suffering from this religious feeling that she couldn’t do what she wanted sexually, because it was a sin. She was both drawn to the idea, and suffering from the idea that she would be punished for that kind of behavior. This is a well known mind symptom of Lilium tigrinum, Tiger lily. It was a beautiful case, her acne cleared up quickly as did her very painful sinus problems. She was able to settle her sexuality issue in her mind and was able to tell her parents. It was such an interesting case.
I always expect, if it’s a well known remedy, that I will see symptoms right from the materia medica along with kingdom and source, along with the rubrics and the big ideas. It just makes sense that it will all be there.
It’s only when the patient is showing the remedy of a homeopathically unknown substance like octopus, where we don’t have any materia medica, that we have to rely solely on source material and natural history information. When that happens you will see that the issues of the patient are a part of the experience of that plant, animal, or mineral. So, then I go to the internet to look at the natural history of that substance or creature I am considering, and I get confirmation of the remedy.
In school it’s useful to be taught from both approaches. That way it won’t be a shock when you come to clinic. Remember the two cases we took last week who were mostly repertory cases? What if we hadn’t learned how to use the repertory or learned our m.m.? On the other hand, we wouldn’t have been able to choose Ozone for that patient unless we were loose enough to “hear” all that talk about air and oxygen and able to back that up with the Ozone proving information and rubrics. We are always using all the systems together at the same time, sub-consciously.
Where do you see/would like to see the future of homeopathy going?
Susan Sonz: Well, that always brings up licensing. I am not someone who, given the current political climate, wants to see homeopathy licensed. The more visibility we have, the more we will upset the powers that be (the pharmaceutical industry). I don’t think doctors are particularly threatened by homeopathy. But the pharmaceutical industry comes down very hard on groups that don’t use their drugs. So if we got licensed, they would come pouncing.
I believe in health freedom. If you’re looking for a worthy charity, give to the National Health Freedom Coalition. The idea behind that is to legalize modalities that do no harm. Consumers should have the choice to come to you. On the other hand, licensure is exclusive, it means ‘I can do this and you can’t.’ Instead I would like to see health freedom in each state. I would like to see homeopathy and nutrition as part of college curriculums, but we need health freedom first.
England is suffering because of the persecution which is backed by the Pharmaceutical Industry. Homeopathy could suddenly no longer be covered by National Health. Given the current climate, I think it will become an even bigger problem for English homeopaths. Let’s do our own work. We don’t need insurance to cover it. Let’s face it, good homeopathy is bad business. If you have a good homeopath, you’re not going to spend a lot of money on that person. So why do we need homeopathy to be covered and get buried in paper work and restrictions? We are too small for Big Pharma to care about now and I prefer to keep it that way. As we can see from the recent experience in England, they will not allow alternative medicine to become big, because it hurts their profits.
You said you used to be an artist- were you a painter?
Susan Sonz: I was a sculptor. The way I worked was, I would throw porcelain on the wheel and make these rather large vessels. Then I would spend sometimes 2-3 weeks reshaping those forms and changing the balance. I would cut them and twist them and re-form them. The work was successful by the way, but it wasn’t a good way to make an income. I was always supporting my art along with supporting my kids.
I know a number of artists who became homeopaths, including Robert Stewart. I don’t think it was any accident that Hahnemann referred to his work as the medical art. It is artful. And that’s why it keeps developing, growing the way art does. I mean, really, there is no truly original work of art; no truly original idea. It all keeps expanding. To call it the medical art is perfect, because it doesn’t stand still. It can never stand still.
As a teacher, what is the most important thing you would like to pass on?
Susan Sonz: As the risk of being redundant, intention is the thing I want to stress. I know it seems like a simple idea, but it isn’t. Many people come to homeopathy schools because of their own case or a loved one’s case. That’s ok, it’s a valid reason to become interested- after all many of the most famous homeopaths like Kent and Boenninghausen came to homeopathy for the same reason. But if that remains the only reason, your intention is a bit blurred. If you soon find yourself intending to do profound work with homeopathy, then it’s ok. Whatever got you in the door is fine, but ultimately your intention should be to cure, nothing less than that.
Sometimes in a particular case you need to settle for less, for one reason or another. The patient may be on meds or just won’t give enough information. But if your intention in every case is to profoundly cure, you will aim high and keep going until you succeed. That’s what I want to leave you with.