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Homoeopathy: Working with Charities

by Peter Fraser(more info)

listed in homeopathy, originally published in issue 33 - October 1998

Most people working in complementary or alternative medicine experience a degree of envy when they think of the enormous resources that are available to practitioners of conventional medicine. Almost everyone that comes into healing is, at least partly, motivated by a desire to help his or her fellow human being. Yet the people who might most benefit from complementary therapy are the people who can least afford it. Some therapists find themselves caught between the needs of their patients and their own fundamental needs, whether they be spiritual or financial. Often a practitioner finds that a financial struggle becomes a more pervasive energy struggle, burnout is a common problem for alternative practitioners. These difficulties make for personal problems for practitioners, but they also cause real problems for alternative medicine as a whole. Ambitious dynamic people who want to make a mark on the world and those who have families and mortgages are all too often discouraged from entering a profession where it is very difficult to earn the respect or the financial rewards that they might expect in conventional medicine and many other walks of life.

Conventional medical practitioners have a whole different galaxy of problems. Nurses and many other health workers are overworked and underpaid. General Practitioners are forced to see too many patients and so are unable to give many of them the attention that they need, and burn out is just as much a problem in the NHS as it is in private alternative practice. There is also something to be said for putting a value on our health. If someone is willing to commit themselves to spending fifty or a hundred pounds on a course of treatment they will tend to take that treatment seriously and are more likely to consider the important changes in lifestyle that can be a major part of the healing process. In a free NHS there is a greater likelihood that patients might abuse the system. GPs can find it frustrating to be called out on trivial matters or to find their surgeries clogged with patients who do not really need their attention and for whom they can do very little.

The concept of Integrated Medicine, which has received so much attention since the Prince of Wales made it one of his pet projects, is part of an ongoing process of finding ways for conventional medicine and alternative practice to work together. It is a process that has a great deal to offer both sides but it is one that will be slow and perhaps painful and one which may yet come to nothing.

Dr Banerjee's mobile clinic which brings homeopathy to many areas of Calcutta. The van was purchased with money raised by Homoeopathy for a Change

Dr Banerjee's mobile clinic which brings homeopathy to many areas of Calcutta. The van was purchased
with money raised by Homoeopathy for a Change

In homoeopathy many of the difficulties that are experienced in other therapies are even more pronounced because of the long history of organized practice. Hahnemann, the eighteenth century German doctor who formulated the concept of homoeopathy, was regarded as a threat by the medical establishment of the time. He was chased from one city to another and one country to another because the doctors and the apothecaries were as worried about the financial effect of his success as they were afraid of his unconventional theories. Doctors who practised homoeopathy were mistrusted by the conventional doctors. They tended to keep their heads down and through the first half of this century homoeopathy became the preserve of the aristocracy and the elite who were served by a few prosperous Harley Street doctors. In some ways this process has survived. Ainsworths, one of the major homoeopathic pharmacies holds Royal Warrants from three generations of the Royal Family. In the interwar years the homoeopaths, John Clarke and J Ellis Barker led a campaign to bring homoeopathy to a wider public. Part of this process involved the training and encouragement of lay practitioners, people who were trained in homoeopathy but did not have an MD qualification.

With the coming of the NHS after the war the homoeopathic hospitals scattered around the country became part of the public health system. Homoeopathy survived through the fifties and sixties but it was not until the seventies that it began to flourish again. Now the situation of fifty years ago has reversed with a small number of doctor homoeopaths working in the beleaguered NHS and a much larger number of professional homoeopaths working mostly in private practice.

The introduction of fund-holding for NHS GPs allowed some doctors to purchase the services of professional homoeopaths for their patients. A number of homoeopaths now work some of their time seeing patients and ultimately being paid through the NHS. However, it is still a small part of what homoeopaths do and it does have some distinct disadvantages. Many GPs pass on what they call "heart sink" patients, the ones that they cannot help and feel oppressed by. Although these patients can often be greatly helped by homoeopathy, there are a large number of other patients for whom the doctor prescribes effective but suppressive drugs and they do not tend to see the homoeopath who might be able to give them a more gentle treatment that offers a better long-term prognosis.

Many in the homoeopathic community choose their own way of bringing homoeopathy to a wider world, especially that part which cannot normally afford it. Some homoeopaths run low cost clinics, especially for children. These serve a dual purpose in that by providing successful homoeopathic treatment for people who would not normally consider it, they show exactly how good a therapy it is and in the long run such clinics bring in new, often paying, patients. Other homoeopaths work with groups that help people with a particular disease, the homeless or the disabled.

Companies such as The Homoeopathic Supply Company, which supplies bottles and pills to many homoeopaths and Kent Road Books, which supplies homoeopathic computer software, operate a system of tithing, in which they give a proportion of their profits, usually ten per cent, to charities. There are a number of homoeopathic charities doing all sorts of excellent work. The three whose work is outlined below are very different but they share an approach that is three-directional.

The primary concern of all of them is to provide homoeopathic treatment in places where it might not otherwise be available. However, each in their own way is also making homoeopathy more widely known and contributing to the training and education of the next generation of homoeopaths.

The Friends of Homeopathy

The Friends of Homeopathy is the public charitable wing of The Society of Homeopaths which is the largest of the organizations that represent professional homeopaths. The Friends of Homeopathy is the part of the organization that makes contact with the general public. They publish an informative newsletter, Picture of Health, that is addressed to patients, as opposed to the Society's other publications that are for professional homeopaths.

The primary role of Friends of Homoeopathy is informing the public of the virtues of homoeopathy. An example of the way in which they do this was the series of regional seminars put on at a number of the homoeopathic colleges to coincide with Arthritis Research Week in June. Information about these seminars went out to all the members of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council, and they have informed many people of how helpful homoeopathy can be in treating this painful and distressing disease.

Although this informative role is the most important one for the Friends, like the other homoeopathic charities they actively promote making homoeopathy available to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it through grants to low-cost clinics. They also assist with the education of new homoeopaths through bursaries that go to students who are experiencing financial difficulty.

The Society has recently appointed a dynamic new fund-raiser and they have ambitious plans to expand the funds they raise and the way in which those funds are spent.

The Travelling Homoeopaths' Collective

The Travelling Homoeopaths' Collective, which was set up in 1990 and is now a registered charity, provides a homoeopathic service at public events. These clinics are for treating acute diseases: ones that have come up recently and are spoiling the patient's weekend. Since its formation the collective has grown considerably and now treats several thousand patients a year at more than a dozen events, including: Glastonbury, the Cambridge Folk Festival, Phoenix, Womad, V98, and the Big Green Gathering.

The prime purposes of the Travelling Homoeopaths' Collective are to provide immediate homoeopathic help; to promote homoeopathy; and provide homoeopathic education to practitioners and the general public. Many patients also come to seek advice about long-term health problems, and they are given the name of a homoeopath in their area who can help them. THC acts as a homoeopathic information service providing displays, introductory talks and workshops for the public. Approximately half a million people pass their marquee every year. Their presence is a great promotion for homoeopathy in general, especially when patients discover just how effective it is for their immediate problem.

There is also a very strong educational element in the work of the Collective. The groups working at each of the festivals or events are carefully balanced to make sure that each shift is composed of some experienced homoeopaths and some students or recent graduates. Students must be in at least their third year of study and are supervised by experienced practitioners. Every homoeopath who works with the collective has to have attended one of their induction days and must be qualified and insured by recognized bodies. This ensures that the patients get the best possible treatment, but that the clinic also offers an opportunity to train and widen the experience of the next generation of homoeopaths.

In practice 'acute illness' can include a wide variety of conditions from stings to emotional trauma, hay fever to drug abuse. There is no hard and fast rule as to the time or nature of the consultation, rather they offer the patient a professional service that meets their immediate needs. They work alongside the St John's Ambulance, the Samaritans and the other organizations to give the patient the best and most suitable attention.

If it wasn't for the Collective, homoeopaths would need to go to India to get experience of this type of front-line work. This means that the regular members of the Collective have an unparalleled experience of acute prescribing. They will be giving seminars, starting early in 1999, the dates and venue to be announced, that will make this knowledge and experience more widely available to homoeopaths and will also raise funds to improve the Collective's equipment.

Homoeopathy for a Change

Homoeopathy for a Change was set up five years ago to facilitate access to homoeopathy in front-line projects. From the beginning it has also been an objective to promote homoeopathy as part of an integrated approach to health care. Homoeopathy for a Change is affiliated with Homéopathie Sans Frontières and is involved in projects in Calcutta, Honduras, Bulgaria and Cairo. The general objective in working abroad is to help the setting up of a self-sustaining local network, one made up not only of homoeopaths but with teaching facilities and pharmacies as well.

Although the overseas work is quite glamorous, the bulk of HFAC's work takes place in this country in a wide range of projects. The emphasis was originally on drugs and alcohol projects but HFAC has provided homoeopaths for a women's refuge and for Body and Soul, which provides treatment and support for people infected with HIV and AIDS and their families.

HFAC is providing homoeopaths for a traumatic stress project in conjunction with Victim Support. This project, and others like it, are particularly exciting because they are in conjunction with national charities and have the potential to offer opportunities for homoeopaths all over the country.

The objective is that the projects should provide funding for the homoeopaths working in them while Homoeopathy for a Change provides the homoeopaths, selecting, training and supporting them. In practice in some projects the homoeopaths donate some of their time and HFAC covers some of the expenses. The homoeopaths always work in pairs and have the supervision and support of someone who has experience of the needs of the project's client group.

Like all these charities, HFAC sees education as an important part of their work. Through the projects they inform people about homoeopathy, people who might otherwise never have known anything about it. The homoeopaths receive an intensive induction course and gain experience working in what are often difficult circumstances. HFAC has raised funds through seminars given by leading homoeopaths and therapists. However, like the Travelling Homoeopaths' Collective, they see it as vital to share the specialist knowledge that they have gained through working with other charities and health care professionals. Through seminars and training workshops they will be teaching homoeopaths about working in a more integrated way and informing other professionals about the wonderful power of homoeopathy.

All three of these charities are finding ways of working that bring benefits to specific patients; to homoeopaths and students through work, experience and training; and to the community as a whole through more widespread knowledge and experience of homoeopathic practice.

Working with Homeless Women

Christine McManus has worked, through Homoeopathy for a Change, at a women’s hostel in North London, for two and a half years. The client group in this project consists mostly of homeless women, many of whom have a history of mental health problems or a history of difficulties with drugs and alcohol.

She has found it personally fulfilling to be providing homoeopathy for a group of people that would otherwise have no contact with it. Very often she finds that she is prescribing for severe emotional crises, such as acute panic attacks. This is the sort of experience she just doesn’t get in private practice and the effectiveness of remedies in these situations has strengthened her own belief in the power of homoeopathy.

She also works with some of the clients on a deeper level and again has experienced the wonderful healing capacity of homoeopathy. This capacity lies not only in the remedies but in the whole homoeopathic process. Patients have been impressed by the homoeopathic process, which does not seek to slot them into a diagnosis, but listens to their story and validates their experiences.

Christine can’t imagine doing such stressful and difficult work without the personal and group supervision that Homoeopathy for a Change provides. She doesn’t feel that it would be possible to do this kind of homoeopathy without knowing that there is a whole organization behind her.

Besides offering treatment to the client group she and the homoeopaths she works with give talks on homoeopathy to the workers at the hostel and she feels that they make homoeopathy a little more known, a little better understood and more available.

Working with Victim Support

Joanne Breton has been working for some months in a pilot project in Lambeth, working in conjunction with the charity Victim Support. Prior to that she worked, though HFAC, in a project with people with alcohol problems.

Victims of all sorts of crimes are referred to Victim Support by the police. They may have experienced beatings, rape, muggings or domestic violence, or they may be in some sort of shock from having their homes robbed and vandalized.

The clients tend to be people who are in a state of shock, and sometimes it is a state that has remained for several months. They may be suffering from altered sleeping patterns, eating difficulties and flashbacks of the attack. They may be very fearful and unable to go out at night or on their own.

Whatever the actual symptoms their lives are being limited by their experiences. Many are receiving counselling or taking anti-depressants such as Prozac, but are stuck and unable to move on. Joanne says it is wonderful to see the effects that the remedy has, helping them to eat and sleep more normally and allowing them to live their lives again.

She has found that while acute remedies such as Aconite, which is one of the most important remedies for the immediate effects of shock and terror, and Arnica have some positive effect; it tends to be the deeper, constitutional remedies that have a far deeper curative effect.

The experience of working with an organization and particularly in partnership with another homoeopath has been different, has worked well and is part of a powerful learning experience.

Further Information

Friends of Homoeopathy are at 2 Artizan Road, Northampton, NN1 4HU Tel: 01604 621400 email: society of homoeopaths@btinternet.com
The Travelling Homoeopaths' Collective can be contacted at: 3 Lower Pertwood, Hindon, nr Salisbury SP3 6TA email: info@thc.org.uk
Web site: http://www.thc.org.uk
Homoeopathy for a Change is at: 15a St. George's Mews, London NW1 8XE Tel: 0171 722 3020

UK Contact for Dr Banerjee

Dr Banerjee is an internationally respected clinician and lecturer. He is Director of the Bengal Allen Medical Institute, Calcutta, which also offers training courses for international students in Calcutta. He recently became Principal of the Allen College of Homoeopathy, Essex. For a propectus, please send an SAE to Jasmine House, High Street, Earls Colne, Colchester CO6 2QX.

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About Peter Fraser

Peter Fraser is a homoeopath practising in Bristol and Primrose Hill in London. There are special children's clinics at both practices. He has a particular interest in new remedies and adminsters the Homoeopathic Information Service website. http://www.hominf.org.uk He can be contacted at 23 Berkeley Road, Bishopston, Bristol, BS7 8HF. Tel: 0117 944 5147, Email: peter@hominf.org.uk. Or at Lifeworks, 14 St George's Mews, Primrose Hill, London, NW1 8XE. Tel: 0171 722 7293. Visit his own website at http://www.hominf.org.uk/peter.htm

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