About Us

Ann McKay, R.N.C., John McGonigle, M.D. and Mark Brody, M.D. have devoted themselves to homeopathy and related alternative medical treatments. In keeping with the spirit of homeopathy's founder Samuel Hahnemann M.D., we utilize treatments that emphasize safety and the restoration of the sick to health.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who are we, the homeopathic aficionados?

Today, a friend asked me about how my transition from psychiatrist to homeopath came to be, and whether this created conflicts for me. I said that I had always had greater conflicts with my role as a conventional physician, since I wanted to accomplish deeper healing and growth in my patients than I felt was possible by the use of medications, upon which modern medicine appeared to be so dependent. Homeopathy aspires to accomplish deep healing, on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. As this was revealed to me during my tutelage in homeopathy at the Hahnemann School in California, it could not have been an easier transition. The hard part, as Dr. Roger Morrison, one of my mentors there once quipped, was that once you go down that road, you can never go back. He certainly was right for me. Once you've tasted the profound changes that can result from a successful homeopathic case, it is all but impossible to settle for the palliative effects of conventional therapies.

Many homeopaths arrived on the shores of homeopathy as flotsam and jetsam from other medical fields, both conventional and alternative. The stories are similar in many cases: they are about people looking for a deeper more profound and effective way of helping their patients. But what about the patients. Who are they and how do they come to homeopaths? I've identified a number of types of patients who come to see me. If you see yourself in any of these types, you might want to call a homeopath for an appointment.

One way of identifying who homeopathic patients are is to first define who they are not. They are not persons who are satisfied with their current treatment and medical care. They are not people who are uncomfortable with novelty and the unconventional. They are not people who tend to be independent thinkers. They may be very bright. They may be very sick or very healthy. They usually are dissatisfied with their own treatment or the medical system they have encountered in their lives. They may be hippie-granola-lefty-radical types, or they may be more conservative in their political and social leanings. But they are quite sure that they want something different.

1. Homeopathic patients generally are dissatisfied with the medical care they are receiving. It didn't work, it didn't work well enough, it caused intolerable side effects, or it caused annoying side effects. These individuals often have long histories of trying numerous drugs and even alternative therapies without satisfactory results. To paraphrase a modern homeopath, Dana Ullman, who has written beautifully about homeopathy in many books, when modern medicine is failing people, that is when homeopathy comes into its own.

2. Some individuals go beyond side effects in their reactions to medication treatments. They are unable to tolerate nearly all pharmaceutical agents. These hypersensitive folks simply can't tolerate most conventional therapies, and are relegated to finding gentler alternatives such as homeopathy.

3. Some individuals don't fit into the boxes that physicians were taught to put people into. They don't have easily diagnosed problems or they have problems for which there are no well established treatments: these include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain syndromes, fevers of unknown origin, irritable bowel syndrome or other treatment resistant symptoms which don't add up to any clear diagnosis. Often these individuals are made to feel like pariahs in the medical system. Patients readily perceive that their doctors don't consider their complaints to be legitimate. Many doctors regard these individuals as having psychiatric problems, to be seeking "secondary gain," or attention of some sort, to be hypochondriacs, or to be just plain nuisances, since they never seem to get better and no sense can be made of their problems. Homeopaths do well with these patients, since they have a totally different diagnostic system, which is able in most cases to make sense of what is a confusing mish-mash to the conventionally trained physician.

4. Some homeopathic patients are simply cautious and fearful about undertaking trials of medications or surgery, whether for themselves or for their children. They tend to be people who read broadly and are aware of the side-effects and risks that are down-played by the pharmaceutical industry and conventional medicine, but which keep popping up in the news. They may have had a bad experience with a medication or surgery in the past, or know of someone who did, and are leery of exposing themselves or their loved ones to the risks of conventional treatments. While the fears of such individuals tend to be pooh-poohed by some conventional doctors, or even labelled as hysteria, these people from the perspective of homeopaths are not over-reacting. They are simply respecting the basic Hippocratic admonition that doctors appear to be less mindful of these days: that first and foremost, doctors should do no harm in their healing efforts (Primum non nocere).

5. There are a certain number of people who come to me who are probably overly prejudiced against conventional or allopathic treatment. They view conventional medicine as anathema and clearly have an axe to grind. I treat these individuals anyway, because I don't take sides when it comes to helping the sick. I just do the best I can.

But I don't share these patients' complete hostility to modern medicine (some of them are taking medication anyway!), because I believe that conventional treatment does have a time and place. These individuals are always looking for another angle because of what appears to be a deep anger at conventional medicine. I too have some anger about the way a lot of conventional medicine is practiced, but I know that many modern treatments are beneficial and necessary. Conventional doctors are not evil. Lives are saved, and people do experience benefits from modern medicine. However, many are harmed unnecessarily, and it is probably only in about 10 percent of cases (my own personal estimate) that modern medicine is clearly superior to safer alternatives. In most cases, where there is not an immediate threat to life and limb, safer approaches will work as well or better, and with far less morbidity and mortality. For those who do not respond to safer approaches, more risky ones can be used, with a full disclosure of these risks. To me, it is only sane to begin with the safer options, when there is not a pressing issue of a life and death nature, even if the scientific literature may not be as strong as we would like it to be. The reason most doctors do not do this is that they have been trained to believe that safer alternative treatments such as homeopathy are not valid.

Regrettably, it is only a minority of patients, usually those who are among the most broad-minded and sensible (in my view) with regard to exposing themselves to risk, or those who have had both the worst outcomes from conventional treatment and the boldness and energy to consider other alternatives who cross the threshold of a homeopath's office. For the rest, the conventional wisdom prevails, or people continue to suffer unaware that safer more effective alternatives exist a mere phone call away.