Homeopathy & Psychology

Words: Dr Dana ULLMAN

Too often people assume that psychological problems require psychological solutions. Since some psychological symptoms arise from 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 they 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 them deal with the emotional and mental state they are experiencing.

Perspectives In Practice 

Today, many modern psychoanalysts utilise 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 elements, are presumed to be ways that the body-mind is trying to adapt to and to dealing creatively with various internal and external stresses.

Some simple psychotherapeutic processes that might be considered ‘homeopathic’ in their approach are ‘paradoxical intention’ and therapeutic double-bind, 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, they are 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 behavioural problem. Dr Milton Erickson, MD, 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 behaviour, 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.

Engaged Expression

Psychotherapies that recognise the importance of accepting rather than denying one’s emotions are an obvious first step toward a ‘homeopathic’ cure. 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 revitalisation 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. Behaviour modification strategies that primarily change the way one acts but don’t affect the underlying tendencies that led to that behaviour 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 [NB: 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 themselves 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 Outlook 

Modern psychoanalysts, like homeopaths, have understood that symptoms are not ‘the problem,’ but only manifestations of the problem. Dr Sigmund Freud, MD, laid the groundwork for this perspective by uncovering the sublimated and unconscious nature of psychological disorders and the manner in which they are expressed. Dr Carl Jung, PhD, extended this perspective by showing how those sublimated psychological patterns contain symbolic representations of transpersonal 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 the 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 classic homeopathic texts contain an out-dated psychological terminology, the very basis of homeopathic medicine comprises of a sophisticated psychoanalytic framework. More recent homeopathic texts correct this problem, and the best homeopaths are often excellent psychotherapists [Refer: Dr Edward C Whitmont, MD, 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. Dr Constantine 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, individualised 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 sophisticated psychotherapy, both with and without actual homeopathic remedies. And, ultimately, when homeopathy’s ‘Law of Similars’ is more fully understood and utilised, psychologists and psychiatrists will automatically recognise 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.

Dr DANA ULLMAN, MPH [Masters in Public Health; UC, Berkeley], and CCH [Certification in Classical Homeopathy], writer, author, and historian, is widely recognised as the foremost spokesperson for homeopathic medicine in the US. This piece [©Dana Ullman] is excerpted, with especial thanks, from his book, Discovering Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century [North Atlantic Books].

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