If you’re a homeopath like me, the first thought to cross your mind on meeting another homeopath (after the glee of finding someone with such important common ground) is the “education” question. Asking someone new “Where did you study?” becomes the easiest way to make the common ground solidly traversible, clearing the way for further connections to be made between homeopathic colleagues. How we each come to what we know and practice has been an obsession among homeopaths for as long as homeopaths have existed. When we compare the answers on an international scale, as we can do with our poll results of last month, it’s clear that the standard of “formalized” education in Homeopathy varies dramatically throughout the world, just as it must whenever individuals approach learning about the healing art completely on their own. The issue of “self-taught” versus “formally taught” doesn’t narrow any of the definitions any more now than it ever has in the past.
Our poll caught the attention of 309 respondents, of which 194 report formal training in distance education, short-term schools, or full academic/clinic programs (62.8%). 27.5% (85 respondents) describe themselves as “self-taught”. The most structured training is offered in India and Pakistan, where people can have the opportunity to learn in classroom, hospital, and clinic environments, learn under supervision, and earn qualifications based on completed study requirements and evaluation systems including qualifying exams. 20.1% (62 of the 309 respondents) were lucky enough to study for five or more years of “regular” or formal study programs, making those who are “formally” trained in homeopaths the majority of respondents to our poll.
As many respondents note in their follow up posts, however, there’s a great deal of variation in what passes for “formal” training in Homeopathic medicine. Studies can include or exclude training in conventional medicine or medical sciences (which is always followed by the accompanying debate on the importance of this influence on homeopathy, i.e., should homeopaths “diagnose” and communicate that diagnosis?); and they can be distance or on-site, with limited or fully realized clinical facilities and supervision. While respondents like Dr. Leela D’Sousa report being challenged and generally happy with their training, there are many more who claim to have missed solid grounding in the Organon’s aphorisms, access to good clinical supervision or working with too few patients in total, or never being trained in treatment methods such as using LM potency remedies.
Some excellent issues come up in these brief posts: — affordability, accessibility of training to those with limited means (the courses can be shortened from four years to two years to enable learners to become qualified with less of a financial burden) — whether or not allopathic conventions (eg. theories of health and disease, training to diagnose/communicate diagnoses) should be allowed in the training at all–or whether homeopaths suffer from never learning things like anatomy and physiology along with the homeopathy training –valid “motives” (making a living as a practitioner, running a “profitable” practice as opposed to treating patients with “by the book” principles of classical homeopathy) — inadequacy of training in any formalized capacity, simply because each learner must continuously seek out opportunities to further their own understanding and learning processes, no matter how much time is spent in the classroom and clinic.
The variety of opinion on the “role” and position of homeopathy in the societies we live in is pronounced, with the central idea being that the variety of instruction will make a difference in furthering either the practitioner or the practice. C. Jeevanandam, in his post dated October 17th, writes of the need to encourage the widespread use of homeopathy by people other than the formally trained:
“Apart from the regular collegiate course aimed at professional homeopathic doctors, it would do well for the cause of homeopathy in general and help lay-lovers of homeopathy if the homeopathy colleges run 2-3 years evening courses for elderly and even yound (sic) non-professional homeopathy with practical exposure in paramedical subjects too. These people may be permitted to do family practice and act as barefoot doctors. There is a danger that all and sundry make use of this opportunity to make a living by homeopathy though not with the spirit of service to society. The candidates for these courses should be screened thoroughly for the level of intelligence, (may be only graduates are admitted) and also psychologically as to their interest in the subject.”
Adem Adem counters this with his post, also on October 17: “I am a second year mature student (54) and have yet to complete my 4 year course in homeopathy. My course is practical in that it teaches students all methods, and not just the classical method. This means when we start practicing we can treat many patients. After all as Robert Davidson says, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as if it was a nail….”
These two posts alone could provoke any homeopath to consider the definition of the term “practical” in light of what they do; as well as to think more seriously about educating the public around us about what we do (and what it is we actually do).
“Admirer of Homeopathy, India” raises yet another point about how much more we could all be learning as part of our basic training as homeopaths, as what we’re taught now is so different from what others learned in the past:
“My father was a Homeopath. I learnt Homeopathy as an apprentice under him and later from his Homeopathic friends. Today I cant help but laugh at the way in which this system of Medicine is practiced by the Homeopathic practioners. Our diagnosis was based on case taking and very rarely we were told to monitor the pulse. We just didn’t know the meaning of a Steth.
As for the Pharmacy, as children it was just hell to prepare the potencies. I still remember beating the pound bottles on the pillows. Tell me which Homeopath has the time to do this type of diagnosis and the preparation of Homeopathic medicines. Why don’t you introduce a one year distance education in Homeopathic Pharmacy. This will help the Dr’s a lot in their practice.”
Imagine how much more grounded we would all be in the knowledge of our own traditions if we could still “apprentice” as we learned, or grew up with the reality of homeopathy around us, as “Admirer” did–literally–first hand, as a child. “Admirer” makes me realise how much we need to learn from each other’s experience as well as from our structured courses…a sentiment echoed by respondents like “Snoopy”, who wishes some of the numerous clinical cases homeopaths treat in the world’s homeopathic hospitals could be videotaped and sold as learning materials to benefit homeopaths who don’t have such learning opportunities where they are.
How much you grow as a homeopath also depends upon your own desire to excel and the hard work that you put in. Such sentiments were expressed by Mary L English: “I studied for 2 years in the London College then 3 years at the (Devon) School of Homeopathy. I did this while bringing up my son and working. When you want to learn something, REALLY want to learn, nothing will stand in your way. Even though I found the studying hard, I am glad that I spent the years that I did on it. Learning Homeopathy never ends, as understanding people never ends, it just turns corners. My school placed a lot of emphasis on hands-on learning and I entered the Homeopathic world through supervised practice. Every case I saw was overseen by my supervisor, who was never critical, always encouraging. I also have a firm foundation in Hahnemann and Kent and actually prefer to stay with their methods in the main rather than use ‘new’ methods. If your forebears had good results, why change things? Yes Homeopathy can be easy, Yes it is a fantastic subject but becoming a competent practitioner takes time,energy,self-reflection,discussion with peers,encouragement and the flame of passion.”
From finding some kind of “standard” in training, to making the depth and breadth of the Homeopathic tradition accessible to everyone who wishes to learn about it, there is clearly so much that has to be done in the way of creating some kind of “international standard” in education in Homeopathic Medicine.
It is obvious, too, that training and learning has to take place outside of the formal classroom and clinic. Learning has to be lifelong in this profession. No matter how we start out, we all end up becoming “self-taught” for the majority of our ongoing lives as homeopaths, as our desires to learn more take us on our own learning paths.