The gentle touch

Homoeopathic treatment is doing wonders for people suffering
from a variety of ills. Susannah Strong examines the progress and
success of one homoeopathic group working on the front line

Homoeopathy is defined by the Collins English Dictionary as ‘a
method of treating disease by using small amounts of a drug that in
healthy persons produces symptoms similar to those of the disease
being treated’. In other words it is about treating like with

But that, of course, is not the whole truth. There would be
little point in treating anyone homoeopathically if the result was
just to exacerbate already troublesome symptoms. Homoeopathy aims
to get at the underlying cause of visible symptoms, not treat those
symptoms alone – as traditional western medical and psychiatric
drug treatments do.

But although homoeopathy is gradually gaining acceptance among
the medical profession, most homoeopaths still practise

Homoeopathy for a Change is different. Core-funded by Tutor
Trust in 1993, it was founded specifically to provide free or low
cost treatment and training to those who would not normally have
access to alternative treatments. It operates, as acting director
Carol Boyce explains, ‘on the front line’. Boyce, a registered
homoeopath, started her work by approaching drug, alcohol and
mental health projects and ‘begging people to let us have a go’.
She offered centres six months of free clinics with the option of
paying for services after that.

Responses varied but were most favourable in projects where
workers had had positive experience of using homoeopathy
themselves. Homoeopathy for a Change now has homoeopaths working in
a range of London-based alcohol related projects and, since May, in
a St Mungo’s women’s hostel in north London.

The hostel houses 29 single homeless women, most of whom have
been victims of domestic violence and may also have drug, drink or
mental health problems. From the start there was interest in
homoeopathy and now 30 per cent of the women regularly use
homoeopathic remedies.

As it is as yet unknown how or why homoeopathic remedies
actually work in this kind of case, there is an understandable
reluctance from the staff of Homoeopathy for a Change to talk about
exactly what goes into their treatment, but they aim to treatthe
root of the problem, rather than just the symptoms.

St Mungo’s regional mental health worker Bridget Allison says
the effects of the homoeopathic remedies on the women were
noticeable – if somewhat startling – from the beginning. ‘There was
a noticeable shift. At first they became more angry. Natural
remedies kick start the body into action. Many of these women
contained a lot of repressed anger, which was normally internalised
in depression, anxieties and self-harm.’

But under the course of these treatments their anger came out.
And what also emerged in consultations with the homoeopaths was
that many of the women had lived within patterns of abuse which
went back to their childhoods.

After the anger came calm, and workers noted an increase in the
women’s confidence and self-esteem. Six months down the line and
Allison is optimistic that many of them will gain the strength and
confidence to break the abusive behaviour patterns that have been
with them all their lives.

‘These are often women at the bottom of the pecking order, they
have had limited choices. I hope homoeopathy will enable them to
make choices and to see that they can have control over their
lives,’ she says.

Many of the women also take traditional, more usual medication
like anti-depressants, tranquillisers and sleeping pills. While the
homoeopaths work with and around this, Boycesays that as the
homoeopathic remedies take effect, the women need less traditional

Boyce emphatically denies that homoeopathy works miracles: ‘I’m
not saying it takes one pill and you wake up and think “right, OK,
I’m a new woman”, but as the anxiety level decreases you are not so
angry all the time which gives you energy’.

Homoeopathy works well with disadvantaged people, Boyce thinks,
because it is ‘all about the individual. It is to do with treating
people, not just a disease syndrome’.

And while workers at St Mungo’s are undeniably impressed with
the results, they won’t be gettingfree sessions.

Through Homoeopathy for a Change, homoeopathy has become ‘part
of the culture’ at CASA, an alcohol counselling project in Camden.
Clients here have ‘every kind of complaint’ as a result of their
alcohol abuse, says counsellor Mark Fish, and the homoeopath has to
contend with both the mental and the serious physical symptoms many
clients have.

Fish says it is difficult precisely to define the benefits of
homoeopathy. ‘There is so much going on for clients,’ he says, but
it seems particularly helpful with men and women who are going
through detox. Both CASA and St Mungo’s are keen to expand their
use of alternative treatments – particularly into acupuncture which
has proved to be effective in treating people who are withdrawing
from drugs (especially crack) and alcohol. The problem – as ever –
is finding the resources to do it.

St Mungo’s is coming to the end of its free trial period and
looking for ways to continue to fund its homoeopaths. Meanwhile,
Homoeopathy for a Change’s core funding ran out at the end of
October. The current situation, as Carol Boyce frankly puts it, is
‘dead dire’, and needs remedying fast.

Homoeopathy for a Change, 15a St George’s Mews, London NW1 8XE
St Mungo’s: l to r, Bridget Allison MH officer, Christine Mc Manus
homoeopath, Sue Young homoeopath

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