By Dana Ullman MPH

You can find one of the almost 100 homeopathic study groups in the United States at the website of the National Center for Homeopathy.

Ever since the origins of homeopathic medicine, informal study groups have been one of the traditional methods of trans­mitting information on homeopathy.  Even at homeopathic medical schools in the 1800s, students and faculty members met outside of the classroom to study homeopathy together.  Occasionally, lay­people also participated in these study groups, but more often, laypeople organized their own groups.

Such professional and lay groups are still quite common today.  They provide a forum for people to share their thoughts and questions about homeopathic philosophy and methodology, their understanding of how and when to prescribe the medicines, and their experiences with homeopathy.  Groups tend to be helpful in guiding people to the best books and articles, and through the complicated process of studying homeopathic materia medica and repertory and the art of casetaking.  Of particular importance, the study sessions provide a support group for people who are involved in this distinctively different type of medicine.  This kind of support group is sometimes very important to them, since their doctors, colleagues and friends can be very critical of homeopathy whether these people have knowledge of it or not.

If there isn’t a homeopathic study group in your area, or if there is a group but you want to create another one, there are several tried and true ways you can get started.  One effective way to start a study group is to invite a nearby homeopath to give a public lecture on homeopathy.  Publicize the lecture through flyers and press releases.

Since a large number of people interested in homeopathy have children and are looking for alternatives to conventional medi­cine, it’s a good idea to post flyers for a lecture or for your study group at local child care facilities, public schools, PTA meetings, YMCAs, public swimming pools, churches, temples, commu­nity organization offices, and numerous other places where chil­dren and their parents go.

As for press coverage, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to get your activity listed in numerous local newspapers.  You may be able also to get one of the local papers to write an article about homeopathy that can both promote homeopathy and advertise the lecture.

Inform those in attendance at the lecture that a study group is being formed and that they are welcome to attend.  Hopefully, the lecture will inspire them enough to want to learn more.  Make certain to obtain the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all those who attend the lecture so that they can be kept informed about upcoming study group meetings and of future homeopathic lectures.

Besides giving occasional public lectures, some homeopaths attend study group meetings.  Since most study group meetings may not have a homeopath in attendance, one or two members of the group should keep a list of questions or concerns that the group raised in previous meetings so that these can be discussed with the homeopath.

There are numerous excellent cassette tapes on various subjects in homeopathy that are very helpful to study groups.  Groups of people can listen to tapes together.  The facilitator of the meeting can occasionally stop the tape to encourage dis­cussion on certain important points.  Some parts of the tape can be listened to more than once since the lecturer may be making a complex yet important point.  Cassette tapes can also be very helpful to groups who are unable to get a local homeopath to lecture.  For a list of lectures on tape, contact Homeopathic Educational Services.

It’s also a good idea to have introductory articles on homeopathy and brochures about how to obtain homeopathic books and tapes at all public lectures and at study group meetings.  Brochures from the various homeopathic organizations provide good information about homeopathy and give them access to the wider world of homeopathy.  Request a stack of brochures from sources of homeopathic books, tapes, and medicines.  Homeopathic Educa­tional Services also has introductory articles on homeopathy that are not only useful but which they allow others to duplicate.  An article is available for FREE for each book that is purchased.

In between guest attendances from local homeopaths and/or using DVD or CD-audiotape lectures, study groups can choose to discuss a particular chapter or a couple of chapters from a homeopathic book.  It is best to decide which chapter everyone should read at the previous meeting.  It is also recommended to choose a facili­tator for the meeting.  The facilitator will study the chapter(s) with particular care so that he or she will be able to ask essen­tial questions to elicit the deepest understanding of the materi­al.  The group will generally be more successful if the facilita­tor actively seeks the group’s participation in discussion.  It is also worthwhile to take turns being the facilitator.

Once your group gets going, you might consider studying the homeopathic materia medica.  Most homeopaths recommend that only one medicine be studied at a time.  The chosen medicine should be studied as thoroughly as possible.  You should each read about it in several materia medicas, and you might consider reading the chapter numerous times.

Another way to learn about homeopathy is to practice homeopathic casetaking.  Study groups can consider having one person take another person’s case in front of the group and then give the interviewer feedback about his or her ability to elicit symptoms.  People who agree to have their case taken should know beforehand that they will be asked intimate questions about their health and life.  Participants in such discussions must agree to full confidentiality, and nothing about the person’s case should be discussed to others.

Study groups can also consider breaking down in pairs of people who exchange turns taking each other’s case.   People quickly realize how much they don’t know when they first try casetaking.  This experience is extremely valuable in learning the nuances of interviewing a person to determine his or her homeopathic medicine.

Depending upon the study group’s collective degree of knowl­edge, there are some cases that may be too complex for its members.  Generally, people with acute, non-life-threatening illnesses are perfect for study group discussion, while people with chronic diseases should be seen by a medical professional.  Stephen Cummings and Dana Ullman’s Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicines and certain medical reference books provide some guidelines for when medical care is recommended and when various home-care measures can be considered safe.

Discussing cases from outside the study group can also be very instructive, for there is a tendency in study groups to talk only about one’s own cured cases.  Although discussion of successes will help the group’s members learn a medicine’s effectiveness, discussion of medicines that didn’t work is also in­structive in learning how to prescribe.  Even discussion of prescriptions that have uncertain effectiveness can provide their own helpful lesson in learning about homeopathic care.

As you probably have determined from this discussion of study groups, there is much value in studying homeopathy with others.  Besides providing a fine opportunity to learn about homeopathy, these groups also introduce you to a great group of people with whom friendships develop that provide their own special healing.