By Dana Ullman MPH
(Excepted from Consumer’s Guide to Homeopathy, Tarcher/Putnam)
This may be a more difficult question than at first it seems. While it may be easy to compare mechanics, it is not so easy to compare homeopaths or other types of healers. Still, there are various specialty board certifications available, some of which are open only to those who have certain professional degrees. One can generally assume that practitioners who have received one of the following certifications are qualified homeopaths.
Medical doctors (M.D.s) and osteopathic physicians can obtain a doctorate in homeotherapeutics (DHt) from the American Board of Homeotherapeutics.
Naturopathic physicians (N.D.s) can obtain doctoral certification (DHANP) in homeopathy through the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians.
The Council of Homeopathic Certification was formed to provide certification to any individual, otherwise licensed or not. This test for certification is considered one of the most challenging given by any certifying agency. The certification (CCH, Certificate in Classical Homeopathy) does not guarantee the legal right to practice homeopathy, though it does convey to the public that the holder is knowledgeable in homeopathy.
There are other certifying organizations in the U.S., though as yet they have not established the same high standards as those listed above.
Because certification is not presently required to engage in homeopathic practice, many homeopaths have not sought to be certified. There are, however, some general guidelines which can help a consumer determine if a homeopath is good. You are more likely to know that the practitioner is a good homeopath if he or she:
- specializes in homeopathy as the primary therapy;
- prescribes constitutional medicines, not just remedies for acute or recurrent symptoms (see Chapter 2 for a discussion on constitutional homeopathy–Sorry, not online–see book);
- asks you to describe each symptom that you have in exquisite detail;
- conducts a first interview at least one hour in length;
- devotes a significant part of the interview process to a detailed series of questions about your psychological state;
- uses a computer to help find the correct medicine;
- uses a book called a repertory in your presence (this may not be necessary if he or she has a computer).
It is important first to recognize that these guidelines are based on the premise that “classical homeopathy”–that is, the prescription of only a single medicine at a time–is the preferred method of prescribing homeopathic medicines. Although there are different ways to practice homeopathy that are also effective (for more details, see “What are the Different Ways that Homeopathy is Practiced?” Sorry, not on online–see book), classical homeopathy is generally the preference of the greatest number of homeopaths throughout the world.
Because homeopathy is a deep system of medicine that requires many years of study and practice, a practitioner tends to be better at it when he or she specializes in this system. If a practitioner uses homeopathy, acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, and massage, it may suggest that he has not focused his learning on homeopathy. Please note that there are exceptions to this rule because some practitioners may have seriously studied other disciplines prior to, during, or after their involvement in homeopathy, but unless these practitioners have been serious students of the healing arts for at least ten to twenty years, it is unlikely that they could have effectively mastered these various disciplines at the same time.
The best practitioners question you about each symptom in exquisite and sometimes infuriating detail. The first interview is at least one hour long, and many good practitioners will not prescribe a medicine at the end of this first interview because they still need more information about you and your symptoms.
A significant part of this first and most of the subsequent interviews should be devoted to detailed questions about your psychological state. This is essential because a person’s psychological symptoms play an important, sometimes vital role in selecting the correct remedy, even when the ailment seems purely physical.
Another sign that the practitioner is good is if he or she uses a computer to help find the correct medicine. The most informed practitioners know that they cannot have information about every symptom and every medicine in their head. Computers now provide access to the incredibly large store of information accumulated on homeopathic medicines and help practitioners be more accurate in their prescribing.
Despite the value of using computers in homeopathic practice, it is important to acknowledge that there are many older and more experienced homeopaths who don’t use computers but are excellent homeopaths. One of the most important criteria for measuring a good homeopath is decades of experience. It is, however, important to find out if the practitioner’s experience was primarily in homeopathy or if it was dispersed among many types of treatment.
If a practitioner does not have a computer, he or she will often need to review the homeopathic resource books called repertories. Do not consider the practitioner ill informed if this takes place; it is a good sign that special effort is being made to individualize a remedy specifically for the patient.
Another strategy for determining whether the practitioner is good before you see him is to go to his office and talk to people in the waiting room. This strategy is not always viable because some people in the waiting room may be new patients and without experience, and it may be a bit uncomfortable “hanging out” in the waiting room to talk to them.
One other factor worth considering is how you feel intuitively about the homeopath. Do you like him, feel comfortable talking to him, and confident in his knowledge and skills?
An important final note is that people sometimes have to travel long distances to see a good homeopath. Although such efforts may have their downside, the special health benefits that accrue from quality homeopathic care make these efforts worth the extra cost and aggravation of traveling.