Creating and Maintaining an Effective Homeopathic Practice.
In today’s world Homeopaths face new challenges unseen in the early days of Homeopathy. We have had to develop skills in administration, marketing, advertising, accountancy, networking, speaking in public etc. Alongside these additional demands we have needed to grow a very ‘thick skin’ in order to fend off the anti-homeopathy lobbyists, the reduction in government funding and the influence of the pharmaceutical companies.
Homeopathy training is intensive, hard work, time consuming and costly. However, for many practical reasons some homeopaths do not succeed in long term practising once they qualify. As a result the existence of effective practitioners is reduced. There are fewer homeopaths encouraging the public to benefit from this profound form of medicine. There are fewer people to gather forces to champion Homeopathy. There is less support for one another other.
Support is Key:
Homeopathy is a solitary form of medicine. We rarely work in teams. This is the most important area to focus on when starting a practice or boosting a struggling one. Without support we are less likely to succeed and sustain.
I remember being told at college of successful chiropractors succeeding by joining together and creating group practices. They pool resources, provide peer support and cover for each other during absences. Rather than creating competition, the presence of strong collective practices entices more of the public into treatment.
College peers are important to maintain and grow as the years go on. You will need a support team to keep you happy and healthy in your life and a team to keep your practice on track. There are various Homeopathy support groups nationwide. Networking is a way to meet people and build your community. There are often practitioner support groups that form locally and your health food store is usually a good place to find out about these. The Homeopathy forums and Facebook groups are available on the internet and are really helpful.
Recognising our limitations and our own signs of triggering, burnout or overwhelm is essential. In order to facilitate balance in others we need to understand balance in our own lives. Inevitably there will be times when life just gets messy. We then have to weigh up the needs of our patients against our own needs, just one of the areas that support is helpful.
I have recently introduced a Six Month Mentorship Program to address the issues that arise for students and practising Homeopaths. I offer six monthly sessions either in person/skype/phone. During the program we will consider the intentions in becoming a Homeopath, setting/re-assessing goals and expectations and finding ways to resolve any blocks to a flourishing practice. (See link below)
Whatever support works for you to feel happier, healthier, more emotionally available and stronger, is encouraged in order to be a better homeopath – be it Mentorship, exercise, spiritual practice, hanging out with friends or being a very involved mum.
Expectations for your practice:
If you are currently in practice do you remember having a business plan or set of intentions of how being a homeopath would look and what your expectations were? Have you checked them out with other homeopaths? Are you meeting them? Have they changed? Are you happy with the results? If you met or exceeded your expectations do you have more that you can do/ideas for the future/changes you wish to make. How realistic were your ideas while training? Does this impact how you currently evolve in your work?
It is very important to re-evaluate these beliefs/expectations regularly to make sure you are on track.
Full time or part time practice – what is a busy practice?
In this current climate a most valuable asset we have to offer is extended, fully attentive time. This is not readily available on the National Health, unfortunately. We have the luxury of being able to listen to our patients and take a full case history.
A full time six to eight patients per day practice, will clearly be less easily achieved than a part-time practice of approx eight patients a week. However, a full time practice will result in less time available for each patient. Some homeopaths may be able to take a full case and prescribe and concentrate efficiently in order to accommodate for a full time day.
What is busy depends on you , your energy levels other commitments and how you wish to practice. This is totally individual.
Advantages/Disadvantages of a home practice:
Homeopaths do not always have a choice to create a practice space in their own homes and have to rent or share rented space as alternatives. There are disadvantages in both situations. For example; cost of heating, taking up space in the house, keeping the house clean, the fact you are on your own and not working in a team, household expenses, cleaning and heating etc. This can be compensated by the freedom and not commuting and being able to take breaks in your own kitchen, putting on laundry between patients and so on.
Creating your space:
Patients originally come for Homeopathy but they stay because of who you are. This is expressed through the environment the patient walks into. They may not return to treatment if the room does not feel right or the parking was difficult.
Choose to decorate with nice objects, crystals, ornaments, plants, pictures on the wall, Homeopathy posters etc. Keep the content personal but professional. Neutral is comfortable, but I like to see a little of the personality of a practitioner when I enter a treatment space. That isn’t necessarily everyone’s experience so I hold back on being too expressive in my space.
Clutter and mess can indicate a practitioner who is not organised or professional. Having a room in your house requires keeping the house clean in the areas that will be seen and used: the bathroom, practice space, hallways. As we are offering a medical service, our spaces need to reflect the sanitary conditions a patient would expect from a doctor. Reduce clutter, avoid dust and stale smells, and keep books, magazines, and keep toys fresh..
Get some details and document enquiry calls so you have some background before they come in. Discuss if Homeopathy is helpful for their condition. Refer to a different practitioner or doctor first if you feel it is appropriate.
Send/email a confirmation letter with the date and time of the appointment including the address, fees, length of session and the Homeopathy Helpline number for emergencies if you are not available. I also send/email a patient history form and ask them to complete it in as much detail prior to the appointment.
Always ensure the Consent Form is signed and this is kept together with the case documents. At the end of the appointment double check you have made a note of the prescription and the date of the follow up session.
It is helpful to keep all the accounts separate from any other banking, good records of purchases and expenses and a diary with your income against each appointment and add it up monthly. Remember to include all the self-employed expenses that can be written off against your tax bill if you earn above the personal annual allowance.
Look around at what other homeopaths in your area charge and take into consideration your years of experience and if you are offering other services alongside the Homeopathy e.g. Nutritional advise, Allergy Treatments, Healing.
Reduced fee/payment by donation is a way of offering your service to everyone. This can be given on an ‘as needs’ basis if you feel there is difficulty paying. You can also offer free clinics or volunteer for community organisations. Offer receipts for Insurance.
Asking a patient for money at the end of a session, if they forget, can be very awkward but unless you have a receptionist, this is just part of the job.
Homeopathy is ever-changing and developing. We are not expected to know all the remedies and their pictures but we do need to know where to find the information. Having a sense of mastery as a Homeopath is difficult as the knowledge is ever-growing. We need to develop mastery and confidence in knowing we will be able to find the remedy and course of treatment that will work and it is ok to research this after appointments.
Since my first day at college I kept thorough notes and created my most foundational resource – a database with all the hints and tips/therapeutics I learned from my research, teachers, students and the experience of the college clinics. I have continued this database extensively and now have over 1.400 therapeutic tips – 164 pages. Recently I have made this document available to others through my website.
To purchase my database go to the contacts page on my website:
Practice with Integrity:
Sometimes we just can’t resolve a case and part of maintaining integrity and trust is to let the patient know that. Consult your supervisor or mentor before giving up. The challenge of working with a ‘failing’ patient appointment after appointment will have an impact on how we feel about our work.
We represent Homeopathy every time we speak to a patient. Not all patients will have had experience before. We need to establish the trust and professionalism immediately. Avoid heavy sales pitching or convincing about the efficacy of Homeopathy. The patient will come based on their sense of who you are and practical details.
Educating and building trust:
Don’t overload the patient with information at the first session. It takes a while for newcomers to understand homeopathy.
Making the leap from traditional medicine to Homeopathy is huge for some people. Providing patients with an intro flyer, info about how to take remedies and clearly written instructions about what they are taking is important. Reviewing treatment regularly manages any expectations and pointing out little improvements along the way is encouraging.
The most important quality of being a good homeopath and maintaining patients is trust. If you are not trusted, even if you are an accurate prescriber, it is likely you will loose patients. We cannot afford the luxuries of traditional doctors, who are not necessarily expected to be nice, at the same time as being good.
We are working with people who are used to free medicine and the established system. Patients often are coming to us because traditional medicine has failed and not because they are already on board with alternative medicines. We need to educate about how Homeopathy is a process and that therefore chronic disorders, built up over time, often take time to resolve.
Perhaps they have had previous treatment with a classical Homeopath and loose trust if the new prescription they receive is so different from what they are used to. Similarly they may have had certain instructions from their doctors which conflict with the Homeopathy.
Offer articles, magazines, lend books and recommend for them to learn how to use remedies for acutes. Self-prescribing avoids many late night, desperate phone calls. This gives the patients faith in Homeopathy and ownership of their own health. Independent patients will refer more and will be more likely to take responsibility when remedies don’t work. They may even go on to train as homeopaths!
Make the effort to research the patient’s condition and emailing information for them to do the same. Each case is an opportunity to expand your knowledge base. Don’t forget to add to your therapeutics if you come across important tips.
Maintaining a practice while remaining inspired:
The following are a few questions to revisit from time to time. These may help you to stay inspired, keep fresh and interested and therefore be a better practitioner.
What inspires you – What can help you develop these areas in your practice?
What first motivated you to become a Homeopath – is this still relevant?
What is your identity/style/role as a Homeopath – a friend/doctor/advisor?
Do you feel fulfilled in your work?
Are you happy with the place you work from?
Are you in control of your admin – taxes/appointment system etc?
Do you have too few or two many patients?
Do you feel supported or isolated in your work?
Are you growing as a Homeopath, developing new areas etc, continuing studying?
Are you happy with your profile? – How you present/levels of experience etc.?
Are you struggling to maintain patients?
Are you still passionate about Homeopathy? – If so why, if not why not?
Keep a success log. The feeling of helping a patient and seeing the remedies have a clear and transformative effect is inspiring. This is an antidote to the kind of experiences that can be disheartening. With the intention of wanting to present a professional and available image we can easily forget we have a choice in who we treat. Some patients are very demanding and can drain us. Deciding on what is comfortable for you, maintaining your energy levels and setting boundaries is another way that you can sustain a thriving practice.
Deepening our own healing as we work with others enriches the experience of being a practitioner. We are lucky in this respect, working in such a rich and expanding field. Add to your existing skills, develop new ones, refreshing and renewing, widen community and networks, develop resources, a library, conduct provings, write articles, books, teach, supervise, mentor, take a post-graduate course.
Add to your toolbox. Most homeopaths have other tools to offer and unfortunately the need for this reflects the reality of our work, which competes, with the vast field of alternative medicine. Many Homeopaths also offer Reiki, kinesiology, acupuncture etc. Homeopathy is the foundation of many practices and yet a Homeopathic session is reliant on the patient’s ability to communicate their symptoms and the practitioner’s ability to take a case. Other therapies can add to the diagnostic ability and this can, if used in the right balance, inform the prescription.
Finding your niche is essential in your practice. This niche is the focus for your practice and will bring attract patients accordingly. Often this is influenced by your own life and your own health. Benefit from your learning to give back to others. While words like ‘branding’ don’t sit together easily with healing for many people, your niche is the area that will define your ‘brand’. I had an extensive and eclectic spiritual training and spirituality is my main interest. Spiritual Homeopathy is my website name and I attract patients who are interested in Homeopathy and Spirituality. Your path into Homeopathy may have included other aspects of your unfolding which create the foundation of your practice. I was also a trained Counsellor for many years and before that I was in marketing, so I also use these skills in my practice.
Websites, business cards ad promotional leaflets, depending on your proficiency, can be self-produced. As a first impression your business card and your website is as important as your front door. The cards, flyers and website are usually what gets the patient to the clinic. Some patients will be attracted to a professional, slick site and others will prefer a personal, homely page. Consistency in the marketing with your clinic and practising style is important. Webiste styles change over time so keep it classic and clear.
Patients will also find you through local directories e.g. Thompsons and online Health Directories. A good website is its own endorsement and if you are also listed that somehow gives extra weight and the patient is more likely to follow up. Mostly the recommendations are word of mouth once the business is established.
Mothers’ online forums are useful too. Remember to always encourage mothers to buy the Homeopathy First Aid kits. I suggest they put my business card in with the kit so they have my details if they need to ask questions.
Admin is the backbone of an effective practice. You can be a brilliant Homeopath but if you don’t keep appointments, forget to follow up, don’t have a way of letting people know you are there, you won’t have an effective or sustainable practice. Admin is a role that can be passed onto a secretary, or secretarial service but the basics need to be managed well.
Email confirmation of appointments and sending patient history forms in advance saves time during the consultation. You can also include cancellation fee information so the patient is more likely to turn up or let you know if they are planning to cancel. At the first appointment provide the patient with a flyer and a business card and always book a follow up appointment if possible.
Longevity as a Homeopath, success, financial and emotional rewards are ideal aspects in this work. Homeopathy can be so inspiring and enriching, valuable for us as practitioners and for the patients. By staying together, supporting each other, training well and a few good tips, there is no reason why students and young practitioners can’t make their practices work.
We haven’t chosen the easiest of professions. We are going against the tide of cultural and governmental thinking and policy but if we work at it, we can succeed. The rewards of doing so make it worthwhile.
Below are some basic rules to keep in mind that have worked for me over nearly a decade of practice.
Top Rules of Good Practice
Be accurate with advice
Remember we are a ‘complimentary medicine’ not ‘alternative’
Look after yourself
Look after your space
Have faith in what you do
Set intentions for your practice
Be an Admin master
Build your database or purchase mine
Pay attention to first impressions e.g. fabulous front doors
Offer a drink on arrival hot and cold
Give back – offer low fee service, free clinics etc.
Always make the next appointment before the patient leaves
AND ALWAYS GET SUPPORT!