- How Do I Find a Homeopath?
- How Can You Know That a Homeopath is Good?
- How Much Does Homeopathic Care Cost?
- Does Insurance Cover Homeopathic Care?
How Do I Find a Homeopath?
The National Center for Homeopathy publishes a directory of homeopaths in the United States and Canada. It is available from them as well as from Homeopathic Educational Services of Berkeley (addresses for these organizations are in the Resources section, Part IV). In addition to listing homeopathic practitioners, it also lists several hundred homeopathic study groups. These groups of laypeople meet once or twice a month to learn homeopathy together. Homeopathic study groups are usually the best resource for learning about homeopathy and for getting recommendations for the best practitioners in the area.
This directory is by no means complete because every practitioner listed must be a member of the National Center for Homeopathy and must pay a small listing fee, and many good practitioners do not need or want additional publicity. For further recommendations of practitioners, consider checking out the following:
1) Health food stores. It is useful to go to local health food stores and ask people who work in the homeopathic section for recommendations. Some health food stores have personnel who are more knowledgeable than others, so you may have to check out a couple of stores.
2) Homeopathic pharmacies. Some pharmacies have begun to specialize in homeopathy. Such pharmacies are a great source for finding a homeopath.
3) Conventional pharmacies that sell homeopathic medicines. There are also a growing number of conventional pharmacies which sell a small number of homeopathic medicines. These pharmacies are usually relatively new to the field and may not know much about homeopathy. Still, it may be worth asking them.
4) Health and medical professionals. Health and medical professionals, especially those who utilize some natural therapies themselves, are sometimes aware of homeopaths in the area. Many conventional physicians still remain ill informed about homeopathy and homeopathic practitioners, though a select few have seen enough of their own patients improve under homeopathic care to refer patients to homeopaths.
5) Alternative newspapers and magazines. Newspapers and magazines that cover natural health and healing often have listings and advertisements for homeopaths.
6) The Yellow Pages. You may be able to find homeopaths by simply looking in your Yellow Pages. However, because many homeopaths do not know that they can obtain this separate listing, the number of homeopaths in the book is usually limited.
7) Check with the Internet. There are now various alternative medicine/holistic health forums with people discussing homeopathic and natural medicine. The Internet is great for asking for what you need and getting it.
8) Your friends. One of the tried-and-true ways to find a homeopath is to ask a friend. You’d be surprised how many people assume that their friends aren’t into “this homeopathic stuff,” but once the question is broached, you may discover that they and their family have been using these medicines for a long time and may be aware of a good homeopath in the area.
How Do I Know If a Homeopath Is Good?
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.
Recently, the Council of Homeopathic Certification was formed to provide certification to any individual, otherwise licensed or not. Despite the laxness of this qualification, the 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.
Another certifying agency is the National Board of Homeopathic Examiners. Originally started by and for chiropractic physicians, this board now certifies any graduate of an accredited homeopathic training program. It offers different certificates depending upon the practitioner’s previous degree: a DNBHE, a diplomate with the board, is awarded as a first level certification for medical doctors, osteopaths, dentists, and chiropractors; a SrDNBHE, or senior diplomate, is awarded as a second-level status; a RNBHE, a registrant with the board, is awarded for nonphysician health professionals such as nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and acupuncturists; a CPHT, a certified practitioner of homeotherapeutics, is awarded to laypeople.
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.
How Much Does Professional Homeopathic Care Cost?
The cost of homeopathic care varies considerably from one homeopath to another. Generally, medical doctors who practice homeopathy charge more than non-M.D.s, and the longer the practitioner has been practicing, the higher the fees tend to be.
The first visit to a homeopath usually lasts from 60 to 90 minutes. When seeking the care of an M.D. homeopath, you will find the fees for this visit comparable with other physician specialists, ranging from $100.00 to $300.00. Other homeopaths charge from $50.00 to $250.00. Follow-up visits last between 15 and 45 minutes. M.D.s charge from $50.00 to $100.00, while nonM.D.s charge from $30.00 to $80.00.
While fees for homeopathic care by homeopathic M.D.s tend to be similar to conventional physicians’, the amount of time that homeopaths spend with their patients tends to be significantly longer. Homeopathic physicians earn good incomes, though generally not as high as the average medical doctor.
The actual cost of the medicine itself is negligible. If only one medicine is prescribed (as is most common), it costs between $4.00 and $10.00. Some homeopaths provide whatever they prescribe without charge.
The costs of homeopathic care, like the costs of all medical care, are high, but the costs of illness, especially chronic illness, are even higher. Some people may be tempted to treat themselves and avoid professional homeopaths, but such decisions can be more costly in the longrun because it is highly unlikely that this care will be effective.
When one considers that homeopaths typically discourage frequent visits unless they are medically necessary, and that the time between visits ranges from one to six months, the yearly cost of homeopathic care is considerably less than conventional medical care as well as most types of alternative medicine. This does not even take into account the further cost savings that accrue from the ability of homeopathic medicines to strengthen one’s immune system and prevent future costly diseases.
While medically trained homeopaths will recommend laboratory analysis when indicated, they rarely need to run such tests to determine the appropriate homeopathic medicine. Because of this, they tend to perform laboratory tests significantly less frequently than do conventional physicians,1 further reducing costs. The absence of side effects from homeopathic medicines also reduce the cost of care, since side effects usually lead to the need for more medical treatment.
The French government compared all the costs associated with treatment from a homeopathic physician with that of a conventional physician and discovered that homeopathic care costs one half as much.2 Considering the growing concern about the cost of health care, let alone the concerns about the efficacy of therapies, homeopathic medicine again seems to provide significant advantages.
Will Insurance Cover Homeopathic Care?
Because the vast majority of professional homeopaths in the United States are licensed professionals such as medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, and others, most insurance companies pay for their care. Consumers are encouraged to review their own insurance to determine the coverage of chiropractors, acupuncturists, and naturopaths, because many policies allow only a limited number of visits and some do not cover any visits at all. If your policy does not cover the care you want, rather than immediately switch insurance companies, contact the company or your insurance broker and inform them of your interests. Only when consumers make their desires heard will the insurance market change. It is also good to know that there are now some insurance companies that specialize in coverage of alternative health care. Look for their advertisements in health magazines or consult an insurance broker.
When a homeopath is not a licensed professional, it is unlikely that an insurance company will cover his or her care, except in instances when a medical doctor prescribes homeopathic care and the insurance company agrees to pay for specialty care when prescribed by a medical doctor.
As mentioned earlier, the first interview with a homeopath usually lasts 60 to 90 minutes, and therefore, homeopaths commonly charge more than the usual office visit fee for this lengthy interview. Some but not all insurance companies pay for these higher first visit fees. In such instances the patient may be required to pay a portion of the homeopath’s fee.
Insurance companies will not cover the small expenses of homeopathic medicines because they tend to pay for prescription drugs only, and homeopathic remedies are primarily over-the-counter drugs.
1Jennifer Jacobs, Presentation at Annual Conference of the National Center for Homeopathy, 1993, Alexandria, VA. (paper updated and recently submitted to a professional public health journal).
2Statistical Studies, CNAM (France’s Health Care Insurance Agency), January 1991.
Copyright 1991 by Dana Ullman, M.P.H. used by permission of the author from
the book Consumer’s Guide to Homeopathy: The Definitive Resource for
Understanding Homeopathic Medicine and Making it Work for You
published by Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.
For further information about homeopathic medicine, contact:
2124B Kittredge St.
Berkeley, CA. 94704