When I first saw a homeopath, the most fascinating piece of it was the first appointment. From the breadth of information she was eager to know, to the ample amount of time where I could talk about anything that ailed me, it was an eye opening and healing experience.
Today I want to break down:
What the initial consultation entails
Why I explore each case with such depth
Why discussing your symptoms in depth is so important for healing
The Initial Consultation
We first go over why you’re here; what are your main complaints? Once you’ve given me the spark notes, I ask:
“And what else?”
Silence. And then a look to the side…thinking…
“Oh well, there’s this as well…I’m not sure if that matters.”
We continue on until you’re sure there’s nothing else…and then I ask more questions.
I ask about sensations, about things that help you, things that hurt you. I ask about appetite, thirst, temperature, weather preference, bowel movements, digestion, personality, perspiration, sleep, energy – anything that makes you, you.
In order to personalize treatment, we have to personalize case taking.
Why indulge so deeply?
Homeopathy is a science of individualization - my goal is to understand your individual expression of disease.
The treatment most North Americans are familiar with follows a certain formula: if you have a runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing, you are diagnosed with allergies and will typically be prescribed an anti-histamine, which counteracts the symptoms of Allergies
In Homeopathy, if you have the common allergy symptoms of a runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing – you could need any number of remedies! The more specific the symptoms, the more we’re able to narrow it down to one unique remedy using the principle of like cures like. Let’s look at allergies as an example:
So the more we investigate our symptoms, the closer we may come to the correct remedy, but can talking about and exploring our symptoms do more than just find a remedy?
The Power of Self-Awareness
“Ever since I started Homeopathy, I’ve become so much more in tune with my arthritis. I can anticipate, and take my remedy, before the flare up so it doesn’t hit me like bricks. I’m less angry at my limitations, I’m more patient with my emotions. I care about myself.”
Think of it as a meditation, or a process of self-exploration, or self-care. While the remedy stimulates the organs and promotes long-term healing, the process of a homeopathic consultation invites you to discuss and explore your symptoms…
What do they feel like?
Where do I feel them?
What makes them feel better or worse?
How do they affect my emotions?
Do they trigger a sensation elsewhere in my body?
Do my emotions have a physical manifestation?
A study on conflict resolution was done in the Middle East, that demonstrated the Power of Being Heard. Results found that when the less empowered group shared their stories with the traditionally dominant group, the dominant group gained a new perspective and the less empowered group felt heard. As a result, attitudes between the two groups improved and conflict reduced.
Rebecca Saxe, senior author of the study, stated “…for the disempowered group, the biggest barrier to reconciliation is the belief that their concerns are being ignored…if that sense of being neglected and disregarded and taken advantage of is the biggest obstacle to progress, from their perspective, then you can partly address that by providing an experience of being heard”. (Source)
While this study relates to interpersonal conflict, I can’t help but extrapolate theories about the conflict between our body (less empowered) and our self (dominant group) – can truly hearing our symptoms foster a new perspective of understanding? Can paying attention to our symptoms change our attitude towards then?
Attention promotes growth in patients. The patient who seemed shocked and confused at each question I asked in the first appointment, comes back with a detailed explanation of their ever-changing symptoms in the follow up.
They tell me, “Now that I know that the tension in my throat is related to my anxiety, when I feel it I know I need to slow down, pay attention, and breathe”.
The homeopathic consultation provides a new layer of healing; it encourages self-awareness, self-compassion, and understanding.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Full Catastrophe Living, has committed his career to the power of mindfulness in pain reduction. While I could quote his entire book, I particularly connect with his principle of giving symptoms wise attention.
“Wise attention involves bringing the stability and calm of mindfulness to our symptoms and to our reactions to them. We call it ‘wise’ to distinguish it from the usual type of attention we pay to our problems and crises.” (Full Catastrophe Living, pg. 279-280)
He goes on to explain that the type of attention most patients give to their symptoms is not helpful nor healing, it is reactive, judgmental, and fearful – it is the opposite of wise attention.
And so, in Homeopathy, as our aim is to understand disease on an individual level, we find ourselves becoming unprejudiced observers – digging deep to uncover the the symptoms that our body expresses.
We learn to step back to observe what we feel and have felt. And when we listen to what our body says, we gain a new perspective, we remove the negative attention and we open up space for healing to begin.