Brian Kaplan MBBCh FFHom
Homeopathy has been an important part of my practice since 1983 when I graduated as a member of the Faculty of Homeopathy. I consider homeopathy to be a powerful form of holistic stimulus capable of catalysing the body’s inherent healing ability.
Homeopathy was initially appealing to me because of the way homeopaths are obliged to listen to their patients in order to make an accurate homeopathic prescription. The patient’s subjective experience of his or her illness is all-important in homeopathy. So everything a patient says about their illness and how they experience it, is important. This to me shows enormous respect for patients and the narrative of their illnesses and lives. Homeopathy has taught me to treat patients as subjects rather than the objects of medical science and that has made a world of difference to me.
I don’t really like being called a ‘homeopath’. I am a doctor who uses homeopathy in his practice. I have not turned my back on orthodox medicine – far from it. I tell patients that it is my job to deliberately sit on the fence between homeopathy and orthodox medicine in order to find the best option for them and their particular situation.
For me homeopathy is one of the main tools I use in my practice – not an over-riding medical ‘philosophy’. In some ways it can be regarded as a passive holistic stimulus to the organism’s natural self-healing ability. Passive in the sense that all that is required of the patient is to be honest in the interview and remember to take the remedy. Thus I try to recommend an appropriate active holistic stimulus to the patient. That means something they can do for themselves that will act as a stimulus to the whole organism. Examples of active holistic stimuli include: exercise, yoga, meditation, dietary advice, psychological work and making changes in their life choices. I find teaching patients Autogenic Therapy, a powerful stress-proofing and stress-releasing technique, a perfect complement to my medical and homeopathic practice.
I also use a form of brief psychotherapy called Provocative Therapy which is the clinical application of reverse psychology and humour in medicine. Because of its contrarian ethos, I have dubbed it a type of homeopathic psychotherapy.
Bob Leckridge MBChB FFHom
I work at Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital. I’m a medical doctor, used to be a GP, but I became gradually disenchanted with prescribing only antis (anti-biotics, anti-depressants, anti-inflammatories, anti-histamines, anti-hypertensives… you get the picture) and only having the time to focus on little bits of people instead of the people themselves (we call those little bits diseases by the way).
I had perhaps strangely had a notion that being a doctor would be about being involved in healing (ever tried looking up “health” or “healing” in a medical textbook? Don’t bother. No such index items!) so just suppressing bits of people didn’t feel like what a proper doctor should be doing. On top of that there were situations every day where I just didn’t have anything good to offer (everything from infant colic, to night cramps, restless legs, sports injuries, PMT…).
I happened upon a course in homeopathy at Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital back in 1983 – I didn’t know there was such a hospital and had no idea what “homeopathy” was anyway, but something about the ad caught my attention – wish I could remember what it was! – I think it was something that mentioned “healing”! Well, I signed up. I learned there about homeopathic medicines, how safe they were, and what their indications were and they gave us a wee box of 10 remedies to go and try out in our practices.
Well, from the first try I was amazed at how good these treatments were. They could deliver improvements in conditions I hadn’t other answers for and that was very useful. Patients would stop me in the street and thank me for the prescription because it had helped so much – that never happened when I prescribed an anti-something!
To cut a long story short, the patient demand for homeopathic treatment drove my learning and after I passed the Faculty of Homeopathy’s Membership exam I started working at Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital in the Outpatient Department every Wednesday. Well, my Wednesdays soon got an awful lot more satisfying than the Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, so I had a crisis. All my life I’d wanted to be a doctor, no, not just a doctor, but a GP, and here I was thinking I don’t want to be a GP anymore. So I stopped being a GP and for a few months did a weekly radio show on ScotFM, wrote a textbook of homeopathy for GPs, and did my Wednesday clinics.
After a few months my friend and colleague, Dr David Reilly suggested we make a bid for the creation of full-time position for me at the hospital. I started there full-time in 1995 and I’m still there. I love it! Every single day, every single clinic, every single patient. I look forward to every day of work. How many people can say that?
Jeremy Swayne BA(Oxon) BM BCh MRCGP FFHom
As the adventure of being exposed to clinical medicine and the challenges of life as a junior hospital doctor wore on, certain aspects of the ethos of hospital medicine made me uneasy. These could be crudely summarised as the tendency to treat people as cases, and the preoccupation with the achievements of modern medicine, however desirable, over the broader well-being and interests of the individual patient. These criticisms reflect the untruth as well as the truth of all generalisations, but will probably be as recognisable today as they were to me in the 1960s.
They prompted me to look to a career in general practice, from which I gained immense job satisfaction. Nevertheless, I experienced again a growing uneasiness with a tendency that I saw in medicine as a whole to focus on the mechanics of illness rather than the person who was ill; a tendency to control or manipulate body function and disease processes rather than to understand the dynamics of the illness, which are almost always multi-factorial; a tendency to seek out and fix the fault in the machinery, rather than to address the underlying discord, physiological or psychological, and restore better equilibrium. That is not to undervalue medicine’s ability to control and manipulate body function, often to our very great advantage. But the distinction between mechanistic medicine and what I came to understand as holistic medicine troubled me, and was reflected in the title of an article I wrote for New Society in the mid-70s, ‘Medicine and Healing: A broken marriage?’
Becoming increasingly aware of the many dimensions and mixed dynamics of illness in individual patients, I realised how little I understood them, and how little my medical education had equipped me to understand them. This realisation included an awareness that the health needs of the person as a whole sometimes included the spiritual dimension of their lives. The need to understand these things better, and to learn to respond more appropriately and more effectively to them, prompted me to find a way of practising that allowed me to spend more time with fewer patients, to be more attentive and to reflect more.
This lead me to set up a new practice in an ‘open area’, where I was able to ‘put up my plate’. The new practice provided routine 15-minute appointments, compared with the usual average of 7-8 minutes in most practices. This allowed for more thorough examination or enquiry, or for more attentive listening, which in turn both taught me and allowed me to deal more adequately with the true nature of the patient’s problem.
It was in this more favourable practice situation that I first became acquainted with homeopathy. Initially its appeal was not so much the method, which, although intuitively attractive was scientifically peculiar and difficult to learn, but the evident quality and good sense of the doctors who were teaching it, many of them experienced GPs. Quite soon, however, I was observing astonishing clinical outcomes in patients treated with homeopathy. And the homeopathic method and approach, with its insistence on detailed and respectful attention to the patient’s whole experience of the illness and its biographical context, richly complemented my natural style of practice.
The homeopathic approach is an excellent ‘vehicle’ for a good doctor-patient relationship that is not pre-emptive of any exclusive diagnostic pathway, but open to whatever exploration of a problem the patient’s need and experience dictates, which might be narrowly circumscribed or deep and wide-ranging.
General practice never lost its satisfaction, but having used homeopathy as part of my GP repertoire for five years, because it provided such a good vehicle for my style of practice, and because of my continuing desire to understand illness and healing better, after 14 years I left full-time general practice, took the qualifying exam for the Faculty of Homeopathy and embarked upon the precarious adventure of private homeopathic practice alongside other part-time medical work. The results have been a continuing source of insight into human nature, illness and healing, of scientific challenge and clinical satisfaction for me, and, I believe, of greater well-being for my patients. Homeopathy has remained just one part of my repertoire as a doctor, but without it that repertoire would have been much diminished.
Jeni Worden MBChB MRCGP MFHom
Homeopathy was a branch of medicine that I knew very little about when I started my medical training in 1980. It was mentioned briefly when I was studying to be a GP but I remained ignorant and sceptical of the whole subject of complementary medicine. I became a partner in a GP practice in Dorset in 1991 and very quickly became pregnant with my first child, Liz, who was born in 1992. George followed in 1993 and I started to look for an alternative medical career to add on to my half time General Practice. By a sheer fluke, I found out about a course to train doctors and vets in homeopathy, run by doctors and vets, based in Oxford.
This course changed my life, as it not only gave me another career but also made me approach my conventional practice in a different way. I learnt how to listen to patients, a skill that my basic GP training had taught me but which NHS General Practice had then allowed me to forget. It also gave me a safe and effective alternative for treating my patients on whom conventional medications no longer worked or were unsuitable for, or who simply wanted another option.
Because homeopathy is safe when used alongside conventional medications and also does not reduce the effectiveness of such medications, it was an ideal therapy to use in my area which had one of the highest percentages of elderly patients of any GP practice in England. Many of my patients had complex health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and arthritis, which meant that it would not be safe for them to stop taking their conventional drugs. Homeopathy meant they had something else to try and, judging by the number of repeat prescriptions that I did, it worked!
My hours spent working in homeopathy outside of General Practice meant that after ten years as a GP partner, I had to make a choice, so I left my practice and worked in a number of different private complementary medicine clinics for two and a half years. Realising that I missed the bustle of a GP practice more than I thought I would, I rejoined the NHS in 2003 as a salaried GP and now combine working as a conventional GP on two days a week with one day a week in my own private homeopathic practice.
I love the way that I can combine the two branches of medicine to treat my patients safely and effectively. Many of my patients now feel more like friends as I have learnt to talk less and listen more (although I have to keep practising that first bit!). Ok, so homeopathy cannot be used for everything, and if I feel a conventional approach would be the most effective, I will explain that to my patient. However, I now have a choice when it comes to helping my patients feel better, that I did not have when I first became a GP. That hopefully makes me a more sympathetic doctor and my patients happier.