Homeopathic Education: The Unfolding of Experience - Catherine Coulter
Catherine R. Coulter's latest book "investigates the body of knowledge a homoeopath spends his life amassing and examines his manner of acquiring it. As in all forms of growth, during the process of becoming a full-fledged practitioner, there are certain clearly delineated stages to be passed through, each presenting challenges to be confronted, pitfalls to be avoided, and disappointments to overcome.
- Author: Coulter Catherine
- 321 pages
- Printed in USA
- ISBN: 9780971308275
Reprinted with the permission of The Society of Homeopaths (from "The Homeopath" magazine, Summer edition 2009):
Reviewed by Annie Batchelor:
I came to this latest Coulter publication with enthusiasm, enjoying her scholarly approach in revealing the material medica from her classical homeopathic view. Those of you who are familiar with her writing will also recognise the quietly assertive authorial voice and confident referencing to her own experience.
This work takes the form of three parts: 'Homeopathic Knowledge' is a description of the path to becoming a practitioner, the basic knowledge required and suggested approaches to establishing the knowledge learnt by practicing; 'The Educational Scene' is a critique of current pedagogy; the last - Individual Growth or deepening, continues to demonstrate her approach by a thorough evaluation of Argentum nitricum. She concludes with her thoughts on the way forward for us all.
Catherine Coulter has facilitated homeopathy instruction of medical doctors using the model of 'clinical preceptorship' since 1972. This is founded on an in-depth reading and understanding of The Organon and Lesser Writings, and Kent's essays and commentaries on philosophy and material medica. Apart from Boericke and Boger, both chosen for their useful repertories, there is a stunning absence of referred texts. But this is not a mindless exhortation but a passionate and well-reasoned exegesis of the value of our founding fathers. It follows patient and selfless encouragement of learning and has much to offer us all; it is, in sum, a plea for a return to the apprenticeship as a learning model.
In the second part The Educational Scene' the review of methodologies of teaching includes insights into the advantages and disadvantages of the preceptor model. The polemic emerges here with a gentle but firm finger-wagging at those in danger of straying too far from the fold. I found myself agreeing with much of it! This second part may convey her heart's desire. All of which leaves me in a quandary. Like so many texts published there is the appeal to 'everyman', yet this second part is Coulter's personal critique of other authors and methodologies in all but name.
This new Coulter contribution to our literature falls into a tradition of sound writing from a personal perspective. I am thinking here of Margaret Tyler and Phyllis Speight (will some kind publisher please re-print her wonderful Introduction to Homeopathy7.). These authors
have flair and call on their own practices to illustrate by example. This book is not of the ilk of the uber-referenced, academic studies; the bibliography is spare, there are no website or research papers to refer to. But in summary, I think the educators among us will enjoy its reach and the student homeopath will enjoy her knowledge and confidence. Personally, I would wish for a text edited with the profession more in mind, and this is its major drawback.
Second review: Reprinted with the permission of The ARH, from 'Homeopathy in Practice' magazine, Summer 2010 edition:
Reviewed by Jerome Whitney HCPF:
'This book is not a textbook or a teaching manual' pens Catherine Coulter in her introÂduction. As her earlier works on materia medica, it is a chest of conceptual gems to be savoured and integrated into the reader's awareness.
It is a work that merits consideration for being recommended reading, not only for all students, but also for certain sections of it to be 'must' reading for all who aspire to teach in homeopathy courses. Experienced homeopathy teachers will already be familiar with the content of some sections although, even on these pages, there are unexpected gems of insight and wisdom.
Although Coulter is a fascinating blend of cautious conversation, it quickly becomes evident that she is also a very pragmatic adherent of the evolved Hahnemann of the 5th and 6th editions of the Organon. This she does by drawing more fully from the range of methodologies addressed in these editions, rather than upon a limited few.
This then is a book that provides the opportunity for the reader to interact with and reflect on the nature, practice, and transmission of homeopathy.
It represents the digested wisdom of nearly half a century of active involvement in homeopathy and her 36 years of conducting long-term preceptorships (apprenticeships) for physicians seeking to deepen their understanding of homeopathic prescribing. In addition she draws on case histories and snippets of wisdom distilled from her Portraits of Homoeopathic Medicine series that has provided such an invaluable treasure chest of insights into the polycrest remedies. Coulter's purpose is
... to indicate and describe the rites of passage that ultimately bring the aspirant to his goal: to practise with confidence, integrity, and skill, the science and art of classical homoeopathy. She achieves this by dividing her work into three major sections: Part I: Homoeopathic Knowledge
1)Introduction into the Method
2)Expansion of One's Skills
3)The Homoeopathic Ideal versus Clinical Reality Part II: The Educational Scene
4)Classroom Instruction and the. Lecturer's Challenge
6)Role of the Layman
Part III: Individual Growth or Deepening
7)Forging of One's Style
9)The reach of Homoeopathy
Part I Homoeopathic Knowledge
In a sub-section of Part I entttled Initial Steps and Acute Prescribing'. Coulter writes: To be meaningful, knowledge of Materia Medica and methodology must be broadÂened and deepened by clinical experience -one learns as one goes along HahneÂmann reiterated that the only way to acquire medical knowledge is by healing patients ... [If] a student unwilling to wait to amass more information, feels the urge to begin practising on every bvmg creature within his sphere of influence, this urge should not be discouraged, every opportunity should be seized Moreover dunng the initial stage, many of the most edifying lessons come with setf-prescntomfc Coulter then proceeds to develop her outline for teachmg-learwng homeopathy with examÂples of remedy responses and references to materia medica MeamvMe. she addresses the points and issues that a student might ask in regard to the subject under discussion.
Part II The Educational Scene
This section begins with a tribute to the variety and non-standardisation of the educational ethos:
And on the whole, this variety of teaching formats is a desirable state of affairs. Until such time as the political climate mandates the certifying or licensing of homeopaths, homoeopathic education and practice should remain an open field. It is far healthÂier for the science to remain a loose confedÂeration of differing styles or even contraÂdictory approaches than to submit to some centralised authority that regulates how the method should be practised and by whom. None of the great homoeopaths ever held a homoeopathic certificate [emphaÂsis mine].
When it comes to addressing the background of homeopathic teachers, Coulter demonÂstrates a clear understanding of contemporary reality:
The resultant lack of experienced teachers able to satisfy the demands of eager students during the recent resurgence of the discipline forced many a homoeopath to take on the role of educator before he was prepared to do so. To qualify for this role at least a decade of practice is required ... The primary focus of Part II is the nearly 100 pages devoted to chapter 5, titled Clinical Preceptorship. Here Coulter provides the reader with the wealth of reflection and wisdom she has garnered over the past 36 years of mentoring:
... the principal concern of any homoeoÂpathic educator should be to provide opporÂtunities for the student to experience as fully as he can its living truths (as opposed to merely imbibing it theoretical ones) ... Here as he gains maximum exposure to the practicum of homoeopathy, there is no danger of being unduly impressed or led astray by words alone. Coulter then lays out her argument for the primary learning experience for homeopaths to be the direct contact of clinical apprenticeship. She then follows this with an extended outline of a suggested progressive programme to accomplish it. A cliche paraphrase for this important and extended chapter might well be termed 'Experience, Experience, Experience'.
Part III Individual Growth or Deepening
The chapters of the third and final section of Homoeopathic Education represent Coulter's organic continuum of the developmental stages in her programme for unfolding the potential of post-apprentice practitioner. She begins this section with:
The budding homoeopath who has proÂgressed from exuberant youth to sober maturity needs, at this stage in his developÂment, not only steadily to build up muscle and sinew (through practical experience) but also to deepen his homoeopathic understanding. Otheerwise, there is a tendancy on the part of some practitioners, who start out with the intention to practice classical homeopathy, to stray off the straight path.
Coulter then provides guidance through a range of considerations to support increasing confidence and competence as well as developing the practitioner's unique individual approach.
She concludes by reminding us that the law of similars is part of an ancient tradition given specialisation and focus by Hahnemann. As such it is a cumulative medical science based on principles that 'never lose their relevance to changing times'. As such the homeopath is in the position to reflect on the implications of the seeming imponderable aspects of convertÂing material substance into subtle healing essence.
Coulter's Homceopathic Education is neither a dry lifeless treatise on the latest fads nor the repetition of the jargon words of educaÂtionalists, but rather a stimulating breath of reasoned experience distilled over many years of practice, teaching, observation, and reflection.
It is unfortunate that this insightful hardback costs Â£38, and I'm sure hard-pressed students would more than welcome a paperback version.
Coulter's approach to education will not be everyone's cup of tea either for those in the profession who are seeking recognition from outside authority figures and institutions, or those demanding strict adherence to limited quotations of Hahnemann's works. Rather, she presents that rare blend of enlightened conservatism and respect for pragmatic flexiÂbility that brings homeopathy to life.
As a consequence her synthesis of seeming opposites reminds me of an afternoon some years ago that Rajan Sankaran spent with students of the London College of Classical Homeopathy. During it there was a long interÂnal where he took the case of the class by laving students voice questions, to which he calmly listened without response. When the questions 'dried up' Sankaran gave a reply that went to the very heart of their concerns by oting that the questions could be divided into no groupings of either strict adherence to books and tradition or of flexible application of the principles. He went on to support the need for innovation in homeopathy while noting that also needed to be balanced by drawing on past-established experience and wisdom. After left, a small group of students complained erly that the internationally respected nurneopath was 'no longer a classical homeoÂpath' in their eyes.
We need more individualists like Catherine Coulter in homeopathy today. Where are the graduates who are open to the full range of implications of the 4th, 5th, and 6th editions of the Organon? How often do they demonstrate the confidence and inner authority that only comes from direct experience? This, then, is the very within-out living expression of the fundamental principles of homeopathy. Coulter's book represents a wekcome step for pointing the student-learner in that direction.