Homeopathic Education, Schools, and Career Overview
The history of homeopathy can be traced back to the 18th-century findings of German physician Samuel Christian Hahnemann. Hahnemann's "principle of similars" and "principle of dilutions" are the theories on which modern homeopathy schools base their training. The "principle of similars" theory, sometimes referred to as the "like cures like" theory, is the belief in the body's natural ability to self-medicate through the introduction of a natural substance that when given to healthy people, produces the same symptoms that an afflicted person suffers from. The "principle of dilution" theory, sometimes referred to as the "law of minimum dose" theory, is the belief that remedy substances increase in effectiveness as the dose becomes smaller and more diluted.
Homeopathic doctors use a holistic approach towards patient care. Instead of isolating specific symptoms and treating them individually, homeopathy training encourages doctors to spend extensive time with patients and prescribe only one remedy to treat the entire body depending on a patient's genetic background, current health condition, lifestyle activities, body type, eating habits, emotional stability, psychological tendencies, sleep patterns, and mental indicators.
Homeopaths use specially prepared remedies derived from natural materials like plants, animals, and minerals which can be delivered in forms such as liquid solutions, pills, granules, and creams. These medicines are regulated in much the same way as over-the-counter drugs, unless they claim to treat serious diseases, like terminal illnesses. The two major agencies that currently regulate homeopathy standards in the United States are the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States (HPUS).
How to Become a Homeopath
Homeopaths can prove competency by completing formal education and training programs in homeopathy. Although most homeopaths eventually earn a degree in homeopathy, there are non-degree programs that allow new students to acquire the clinical and didactic hours needed to qualify for national certification as a certified classical homeopath (CCH).
The North American Network of Homeopathic Educators suggests that all homeopaths acquire training in three major aspects:
- Health sciences, including studies in common medical treatments and side effects, anatomy, signs and symptoms of disease, pathology, and physiology
- Homeopathic training in non-conventional facets like materia medica, philosophy, and analysis and therapeutics along with practical homeopathic training in clinical case work and management
- Practitioner development, such as learning about the importance of listening and perception skills, effective client assessment and interaction, legal and ethical aspects of homeopathy, professional roles and boundaries, client and business management techniques, and new developments in research
Prior to entering a homeopathy training program, students are advised to complete courses like:
- Biomedical ethics
- Public health
- Philosophy of science
Campus and online homeopathic programs hold similar coursework requirements. Homeopathy programs usually begin with a general introduction into the field of homeopathy, the history of homeopathic medicine, homeopathic practices and principles. From there, homeopathy programs usually delve into the different types of remedies, preparation techniques, recognizing symptoms, and homeopathic law and ethics. Next, students learn how to evaluate, analyze, and manage individual case studies. Coursework can come in a variety of different forms such as classroom instruction, directed readings, independent study projects, case study research, community service, lectures, online activities, discussions, tutorials, and videos. Typical homeopathy courses can include:
- Pediatric Homeopathy
- Miasmas and Chronic Diseases
- Homeopathic First Aid and Acute Prescribing
- Principles of Research Design
- Comparing Conventional and Alternative Medicine
- Remedy Groupings
- Natural History
Some homeopathic schools offer programs that result in awards such as a Diploma in Homeotherapeutics, Diploma in Homeopathy, Doctor of Homeopathic Medicine Degree, and a Homeopathic Practitioner Certificate. Unlike programs that only provide documented education and clinical training hours, these homeopathic programs often require applicants to hold a baccalaureate degree in a liberal arts or life science major. In addition, these advanced programs may also ask students to finish coursework in subjects like anatomy, biology, chemistry, physiology, physics, and psychology prior to applying.
After spending the majority of the program learning homeopathic theory, most schools incorporate an applied clinical training component at the end on the program. Clinical training is often considered just as important as academic coursework because it prepares students to effectively interact with patients in a professional environment using the knowledge and skills acquired in the classroom. Mentorships, internships, observation of live cases, and volunteering positions are all customary ways that homeopathic medicine schools provide clinical training to students.
Homeopathic schools and programs in the United States offer various levels (beginner, advanced, professional) of homeopathic education and training.
Homeopathic training programs can be found in places like natural health institutes, homeopathic colleges, college-prep schools, career academies, private universities, research institutes, homeopathy centers, online schools, and medical colleges. Two resources for locating homeopathic training programs across the country are the Council on Homeopathic Education and the North American Network of Homeopathic Educators.
Although not all states in the country have on-site homeopathic education and training programs available to local students, online and distance learning programs in homeopathy are widely available. This option is ideal for students who can only complete education through the convenience of home due to conflicting work schedules, geographic location, family obligations, and transportation issues. Online students have the ability to pick and choose from a wider selection of programs to find one that best suits their professional interests, financial situations, and time constraints. Both full-time and part-time options are available. Although online homeopathy courses are a great way for students to earn academic achievements in homeopathy, some of these programs do not include clinical training with the required curriculum. In these situations, students are advised to seek homeopathic practical training through outside training providers like alternative and complementary medicine centers.
Homeopathy students typically choose from two different kinds of online and distance learning homeopathy programs:
- Those that award graduates with diplomas, certificates, and degrees in homeopathy
- Those that only award documented education and training hours in homeopathy
The latter often, but not always, strives to qualify students for national certification by the Council for Homeopathic Certification (CHC).
Homeopathic Certification and Licensure
Homeopaths are not typically required to become licensed or registered, but many choose to become certified because it is one of the few nationally recognized ways of establishing and conveying a level of professional aptitude. Although voluntary, certification is quickly becoming an occupational standard that most patients, consumers, and employers look for when choosing a homeopath.
Homeopaths who earn certification are also added to a national directory -- a listing that patients can refer to when selecting a practitioner, and which can help homeopaths to attract business and build clientele. In addition, certification qualifies homeopaths to become eligible for memberships into professional associations like the North American Society of Homeopaths.
The Council for Homeopathic Certification (CHC) is one the primary general certification agencies for homeopaths in the United States and has been in operation since 1991. Many homeopaths decide to get certified through the CHC because unlike other certification agencies, the CHC does not require candidates to be licensed or registered medical physicians. There are a few ways that homeopaths can qualify for CHC examination that results in homeopathic certification:
- Formal education: Students must complete at least 500 hours of formal education in classical homeopathy through academics, seminars, and conferences in addition to 390 hours of clinical education in case observation, case analysis, and full case supervision.
- Apprenticeship: Homeopaths and students must show that the apprenticeship was conducted by a mentor that has been certified in classical homeopathy and whose practice is in general health care consisting of at least 750 patient visits annually. Apprentices are required to complete at least 2,000 hours of contact training with a mentor over a three to six year period.
- Professional practice: Homeopaths can qualify by engaging in professional practice through a partnered practice. The applicant must hold a homeopathy job for a minimum of four years with at least 500 patient visits during each of these years.
- The CHC point systems: Those who have completed a combination of formal education, clinical work, professional training, and apprenticeship experience may be able to qualify for certification by accruing at least forty points within the application point systems.
Other major certification agencies include the American Board Homeotherapeutics (ABHt) and the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians (HANP).
Homeopaths interested in becoming certified should contact each individual agency and inquire about specific eligibility requirements, examination schedules, application processes, certification fees, and continuing education obligations as these factors may vary between agencies.
As of yet, the field of homeopathy is not held to federal licensing standards, this is partially because most homeopathic remedies contain little to no active ingredients. If a remedy does contain an active ingredient, this ingredient is always a natural ingredient that is considered safe in small amounts. The only states that currently offer professional licenses for homeopathic physicians are Nevada, Arizona, and Connecticut. These states only allow medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy to obtain licenses as homeopathic physicians. Admittedly, most homeopathic practitioners are also licensed medical professionals (nurses, therapists, physicians), but they don't necessarily have to be. It is the responsibility of consumers, patients, and clients of homeopaths to conduct individual research regarding a homeopath's education and level of training.
All certified homeopathic professionals must complete a specific number of hours in homeopathic education on an annual or tri-annual basis depending on through which agency certification was granted.
- The Council for Homeopathic Certification requires the fulfillment of twenty continuing education units (CEUs) each year.
- The American Board of Homeotherapeutics, which administers medical and osteopathic physicians with a diplomat specialty certification, must earn thirty hours of continuing education credits every three years.
- The Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians offers specialty certification for naturopathic physicians and follows the CHC guidelines regarding continuing education requirements.
There are numerous ways that homeopaths can acquire continuing education credits. The CHC suggests the following continuing education activities:
- Attendance at homeopathic conferences and seminars
- Post-graduate homeopathic training
- Providing homeopathic education
- Giving professional presentations
- Acting as a supervisor or mentor to homeopathic students
- Writing a published review for a homeopathic book
- Writing a published article for a professional journal
- Writing a published homeopathic book or manual
- Conducting homeopathic research
Career Outlook and Salary Information
There are many ways that homeopaths can increase their current salary earnings. For instance, those with nationally recognized homeopathic certification tend to attract more clientele and become attractive to potential employers, thus commanding higher salaries. Another way to boost salary expectations is by continuing to show commitment to homeopathic education by earning a degree in homeopathic medicine through an accredited post-secondary program. Likewise, homeopaths that gain advanced training in conventional medicine widen their scope of practice and increase their ability to work in both traditional and alternative medical and health care settings which can positively impact salaries and wages. Lastly, homeopaths that show flexibility in relocation often have greater opportunities to locate higher-paying positions.
The Council for Homeopathic Education (CHE) was established in 1982 in an effort to create educational standards for professionals practicing homeopathy throughout North America and to accredit homeopathy schools that instruct in homeopathy. According to the CHE, homeopathy training should consist of a combination of self-study, formal education, and clinical supervision. In an attempt to set forth education guidelines for homeopaths, the CHE developed a list of competencies believed necessary to accurately prescribe homeopathic remedies and evaluate the consequent reactions of those remedies. All homeopathic professionals should be knowledgeable in the following areas of homeopathy:
- History of healing
- Homeopathic philosophy
- Principals of homeopathy
- Homeopathic solution provings
- Material medica
- Case taking
- Case analysis
- Case management
Some of the most trusted resources for information on homeopathic education and training include the National Center for Homeopathy (NCO) and the North American Network of Homeopathic Educators (NANHE).
These organizations provide directories of homeopathic education and training programs and courses across the country. They also announce current conferences, seminars, study groups, discussion forums, and continuing education activities. Some of these organizations also offer provide educational materials like books, audio tapes, software, professional kits, products, research information, and videos pertaining to homeopathy.