The joy of Belonging: HPTG
One day in 1989 I received a phone call from a doctor called Lee Holland. He, like a few others, and me had fallen under the spell of that maestro of classical homeopathy, George Vithoulkas. He was keen to form a group of doctors who would teach and promote a more classical, whole-person orientated homeopathy. I leapt at the chance and very soon after that the Hompeopathic Physician Teaching Group (HPTG) was formed. We were eight doctors who were itching to pass on this type of homeopathy to others and we were carried through to success on a wave of joint enthusiasm.
At HPTG we achieved much. A decade after we formed, British homeopathy had had definitely swung to the classical, whole-person approach and I believe we had a lot to do with this. Lee Holland’s dream was really coming true when tragically he died in an motorbike accident in 1996. We were devastated but united in the belief that he would have wanted us to carry on the good work. Another two members of the original group left us and suddenly we were five.
From the start we had made a wise decision at HPTG. We employed a group analyst to sit with us for two hours every couple of months. This helped us deal with many issues and our changing personnel. The group continues and it’s honesty and authenticity makes it a part of my life that I will always value enormously. It is a simple process of dropping ones mask and being prepared to talk about ones feelings. This may not seem a lot but it’s a million miles from the way doctors and other professionals normally relate to each other.
When HPTG decided to include veterinary surgeons in our training we were delighted to welcome two veterinary teachers into this group. A lot of vibrant discussions ensued. This helped us all become more empathic towards each other and it feels a privilege to belong to an organisation that functions at this level. Every minute spent relating in this way feels right although we all have our moments of discomfort! When you use your sense of self in medicine, these are the clinical meetings you need to attend! In pure orthodox medicine such meetings would be eschewed as a ‘waste of time’ whereas an X-Ray meeting where everyone looks at radiographs would seem natural and useful. This is the difference between objective and subjective medicine. Conventional medicine is scientific and essentially objective. Homeopathy demands both a subjective and objective approach. The feelings of the homeopath during the consultation often mirror the feelings of the patient and understanding this can be helpful in choosing a medicine. However, the homeopath also needs to be objective in separating himself from the patient and objectively choosing a medicine that suits his patient.
With these fascinating issues in mind we decided to work with a psychotherapy supervisor, Robin Shohet, and this entailed supervision of our clinical cases as well as group work where we dealt with our feelings towards each other. The days spent with Robin were energizing and enjoyable and I realised how important and sustaining this debriefing process was to me. It seemed to epitomise what was missing from my time in medical school and hospital medicine.
In 2000, I had shown Robin, the plan for a book on the process of the homeopathic consultation. Many books had been written about the medicines and theory of homeopathy but little on the type of conversations homeopaths have with their patients. Robin’s suggestion of writing the book as if the reader were in conversation with me, making the relationship between the reader and myself a parallel process to the relationship the homeopath has with his or her patients. This proved to be good advice as when the book was published (The Homeopathic Conversation, Natural Medicine Press, 2001) many people remarked on how they had enjoyed the conversational style of the book. I had been honest in the book about my travels through medical school and hospital medicine into homeopathy and HPTG and it felt good to share this adventure with others on similar journeys.