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 Homeopathy: Psychological Problems: Treating Mind and Body 

Dr. Cooper's practice outside the prison included the treatment of many alcoholics. He conducted an informal study of alcoholics treated with homeopathic medicines. As a way to measure the effects of these medicines and to diminish the possible effects that his own presence may have created, he didn't actually see the patients himself in most cases. Instead, he talked to a loved one or relative who intimately knew the alcoholic's physical and psychological symptoms. Of the approximately 30 patients in the study, Dr. Cooper found a 50% cure rate, which he defined as a significantly decreased desire for alcohol and the ability to drink socially without excessive physical or psychological symptoms. (15) Homeopathy actually has a history of successful treatment of various psychological disorders. In 1874 the first public institution for the homeopathic treatment of the insane was opened in New York--the Middletown Asylum for the Insane (later called the State Homeopathic Hospital, at Middletown). Comparing the rate of discharge from conventional vs. homeopathic mental hospitals in New York between 1883 and 1890, we find that an average of 30% of patients were discharged from conventional hospitals every year, while 50% of patients in homeopathic hospitals were discharged. Although one can quibble about these statistics for one reason or another, it is less possible to question the fact that the death rate in conventional mental hospitals was 33% higher than that at homeopathic mental hospitals. (16)

By 1899 seven states in the United States had public mental hospitals under homeopathic supervision, and two of these states had more than one. (17) More recently, two British homeopaths evaluated 120 cases of various neurotic disorders in 1953. Their overall improvement rate was 79% after six months, an impressive statistic when one considers that most of their patients had been ill for at least a year, and many for several years. (18)

Psychotherapy: Homeopathic Style
Too often people assume that psychological problems require psychological solutions. Since some psychological symptoms arisefrom physiological processes (and vice versa), it is of value to treat the psychologically sick person holistically. A holistic approach is inherent in homeopathic care.

A homeopath prescribes the individually chosen medicine for the sick person, but he or she may do more than this. When appropriate, a homeopath will provide basic information on nutrition, exercise, stress management, and social and environmental determinants to health and disease. A homeopath may also counsel the person to help him or her deal with the emotional and mental state he/she is experiencing.

Today, many modern psychoanalysts utilize homeopathic-like perspectives and practices. In contrast to some philosophical theories that assume that human nature is essentially destructive and perverted, integral to homeopathy and many psychoanalytic practices is the assumption that human nature is basically creative and that the organism has implicit self-healing capabilities. Symptoms, including psychological ones, are presumed to be ways that the bodymind is trying to adapt to and to deal creatively with various internal and external stresses.

Some very simple psychotherapeutic processes that might be considered "homeopathic" in their approach are "paradoxical intention" (19) and therapeutic double-bind (20), which try to dislodge the symptom and thus to set a curative process in motion. In these systems the therapist actually encourages the patient to pretend to experience the problematic emotional state. For instance, if a person has a phobia of snakes, he or she is asked to pretend to see a snake and to pretend to feel afraid. This method is effective insofar as the person is sometimes not able to produce the fear at will and then not as susceptible to have the phobia at other times.

In another form of paradoxical intention, the therapist encourages the patient to exaggerate the emotional or behavioral problem. Milton Erickson gave a classic example of this strategy when he described the case of a boy who sucked his thumb. Rather than discourage the child from this behavior, Erickson expressed unmistakeable concern that the child was not giving equal attention to his other fingers. Erickson asked the child to begin sucking them. Shortly after this suggestion, the child stopped sucking his thumb altogether. (21)

Psychotherapies that recognize the importance of accepting rather than denying one's emotions are an obvious first step toward a "homeopathic" cure. (22) Engaging with and expressing those emotions is the second step. The energy block by habituated responses and long-term traumas is thus freed cathartically. The symptoms are transformed in an overall revitalization of the individual's healing capacities. This approach is certainly more in line with homeopathic thinking than shortcut methods that define an ideal way of being and that encourage patients to act in a specific, prescribed way. Simple rational analysis of emotional processes is likewise an inadequate way of dealing with structures and energies that are unconscious and go to the root of the organism. Behavior modification strategies that primarily change the way one acts but don't affect the underlying tendencies that led to that behavior in the first place are another clearly "unhomeopathic therapy." And therapeutic measures which palliate extreme symptoms may only temporarily compensate for problems, not cure them.*

[* Just because a psychotherapeutic intervention is "unhomeopathic" does not mean it doesn't have an equal value or efficacy in specific cases.]

Some principles of gestalt therapy are also quite homeopathic. Gestalt therapy, as the name itself implies (gestalt means a unified whole), is a way of looking at a specific problem in the context of the whole person. Rather than treating the problem as extraneous to the person and simply trying to change it, the gestalt therapist (and therapists from various similar schools of thought as well) encourages the person to become more aware of him/herself in toto and to transform one's whole being. If a person had a sexual problem, the gestalt therapist, like the homeopath, would not understand the problem as only a "sexual problem" but as "a problem of the whole person."

Modern psychoanalysts, like homeopaths, have understood that symptoms are not "the problem" but only manifestations of the problem. Sigmund Freud laid the groundwork for this perspective by uncovering the sublimated and unconscious nature of psychological disorders and the manner in which they are expressed. Carl Jung extended this perspective by showing how those sublimated psychological patterns contain also symbolic representations of transpersonal un unconscious materials. Wilhelm Reich showed how they were locked into actual physical states. In general, the psychoanalytic process involves the patient in re-experiencing those unconscious dynamic elements that lie at the basis of the pathology. This re-creating or mimicking of an original submerged experience is clearly homeopathic-like in the largest sense.

The awareness of the dynamic complexity of symptoms is shared by homeopathy and psychoanalysis. Although most classichomeopathic texts contain an outdated psychological terminology, the very basis of homeopathic medicine comprises a sophisticated psychoanalytic framework. More recent homeopathic texts* correct this problem, and the best homeopaths are often excellent psychotherapists.

[* See Catherine Coulter, Portraits of Homoeopathic Medicines and Edward C. Whitmont, Psyche and Substance: Essays on Homeopathy in the Light of Jungian Psychology.]

Still, homeopaths have much to learn from the field of psychology. Too often homeopaths try to obtain information about a person's psyche by asking such direct questions as "What fears do you have? What makes you angry? What types of things make you cry?" Homeopaths obviously have to learn more sophisticated means not only getting but of interpreting this information and distinguishing real character from affect and ego-oriented character.

And of course, the field of psychology has much to learn from homeopathy. Hering's Law of Cure is an invaluable assessment tool for the progress of treatment. The emphasis in homeopathy on the minimum dose will encourage therapists to find the deepest-acting, individualized treatment which doesn't require obsessive re-application, but is powerful enough to have a significant effect. It is interesting to surmise how this might be done in a sophisticated psychotherapy, both with and without actual homeopathic remedies. And ultimately, when homeopathy's law of similars is more fully understood and utilized, psychologists and psychiatrists will automatically recognize symptoms as the organism's adaptive responses and seek to aid patients in efforts to go with, rather than against, this self-defensive, self-healing process.

1. C.F. Menninger, "Some Reflections Relative to the Symptomatology and Materia Medida of Typhoid Fever," Transactions of the American Institute of Homoeopathy, 1897, 430.
2. Jonas Robitscher, The Power of Psychiatry, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980, 282.
3. Jerrold S. Maxmen, The New Psychiatry, New York: William Morrow, 1985, 42.
4. Ibid., 58.
5. Ibid., 112.
6. Paul H. Wender and Donald F. Klein, Mind, Mood and Medicine, New York: New American Library, 1982, 345.
7. Ibid., 197.
8. Maxmen, 158.
9. Menninger, 430.
10. Edward C. Whitmont, Psyche and Substance: Essays on Homeopathy in the Light of Jungian Psychology, Berkeley: North Atlantic, 1981.
11. Catherine Coulter, Portraits of Homoeopathic Medicines: Psychophysical Analyses of Selected Constitutional Types, Berkeley: North Atlantic, 1986.
12. George Vithoulkas, "Nux Vomica" and "Arsenicum Album," Journal of Homeopathic Practice, 1,1, 36-50, Spring, 1978. Also, select medicines are discussed in G. Vithoulkas, Homeopathy: Medicine of the New Man, New York: Arco, 1979.
13. There are many good materia medicas, including M. Tyler, Drug Pictures, Essex, England: Health Science, 1942; C.E. Wheeler, An Introduction to the Principles and Practice of Homoeopathy, Essex, England: Health Sciences, 1948; J.T. Kent, Lectures on Homoeopathic Materia Medica, New Delhi: B. Jain (reprint). D.M. Gibson, Studies of Homoeopathic Remedies, Beaconsfield, England: Beaconsfield, 1987. See Resources for other materia medicas.
14. T. Adorno, The Authoritarian Personality, New York: Harper and Row, 1950.
15. Jack Cooper, "The Treatment and Core of Alcoholism and Related Illnesses on an OUtpatient Basis with Homeopathy," Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy, 75,2:18-21, June, 1982. J.P. Gallavardin, a French homeopath in the 1800s, experienced a similar 50% cure rate of alcoholism with the use of homeopathic medicine. For further information, see J.P. Gallavardin, How to Cure Alcoholism: The Non-toxic Homoeopathic Way, Katonah, New York: East-West Arts, 1976.
16. Seldon H. Talcott, "The Curability of Mental and Nervous Diseases Under Homoeopathic Medication," Transactions of the American Institute of Homoeopathy, 1891, 875-886.
17. Ellen L. Keith, "Progress of the Year in Regard to State Hospital Work," Transactions of the American Institute of Homoeopathy, 1899, 566-568.
18. D.M. Gibson and B.S. Lond, "Some Observations on Homoeopathy in Relation to Psychneuroses, British Homoeopathic Journal, 43,3, 1953.
19. V.E. Frankl, "Paradoxical Intention: A Logotherapeutic Technique," American Journal of Psychotherapy, 14, 520-535; V.E. Frankl, "Paradoxical Intention and Dereflection: A Logotherapeutic Technique," Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 12,3:226-237, 1975.
20. G. Bateson, D.D. Jackson, J. Haley, and J. Weakland, "Toward a Theory of Schizophrenia," In G. Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, New York: Ballantine, 1972. Jay Haley, Problem-solving Therapy: New Strategies for Effective Family Therapy, New York: Harper and Row, 1976. P. Watzlawick, J. Weakland and R. Fisch (eds.), Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution, New York: Norton, 1974.
21. Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961.
22. Jay Haley, Uncommon Therapy: The Psychiatric Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, New York: Norton, 1973.

Additional Helpful References

Linda Riebel, "A Homeopathic Model of Psychotherapy," Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 24,1:9-48, Winter, 1984.

Daphna Slonim and Kerrin White, "Homeopathy and Psychiatry," Journal of Mind and Behavior, 4,3:401-410, Summer, 1983.

(Excerpted from Discovering Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century)
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 About The Author
Dana Ullman, MPHDANA ULLMAN, MPH, is one of America's leading advocates for homeopathy. He has authored 10 books, including ...more
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