Homeopathy is a branch of complementary and alternative medicine and is based on the principle of treating 'like with like'.
Substances which cause certain symptoms when taken in large doses are used by homeopaths in small amounts to relieve similar symptoms.
An individual is treated with very diluted substances, usually given in tablet form, in order to trigger the body's natural system of healing. Homeopaths decide on the most appropriate treatment for the patient on the basis of the symptoms the patient experiences.
A range of conditions are addressed; they might be physical problems, such as skin ailments, asthma or arthritis, or they might be of an emotional or psychological nature, like depression or phobias.
Homeopaths adopt a holistic approach with their patients, treating the person as a whole, including past and present symptoms.
Patients may seek treatment themselves or be referred to a homeopath by their GP. Duration of treatment varies from weeks to months or years, depending on the severity of the disorder.
Most practitioners are solely homeopaths but some are also trained in conventional medicine and practice as doctors, dentists and veterinary surgeons.
The work carried out by homeopaths includes:
- assessing patients and developing a detailed case history with them comprising psychological, emotional and physical symptoms and characteristics;
- using homeopathic remedies to treat a range of conditions e.g. arthritis and eczema;
- analysing each case to select a remedy or series of remedies appropriate for the individual (this may take several consultations);
- monitoring and evaluating patient progress;
- responding to patient queries and problems, either face to face or over the phone;
- instructing patients about the use and effects of particular remedies;
- advising on lifestyle issues, such as diet, exercise and mental health;
- referring the patient to other health practitioners, as appropriate;
- maintaining detailed clinical notes and records for each patient;
- visiting patients in their home (though this is less common than patient contact in a clinic);
- researching medical conditions and homeopathic remedies;
- managing a business (and all that this entails: finance, taxation and marketing or promotion);
- running seminars and presentations for groups in the community, or for other health practitioners, to promote homeopathy.
Homeopaths with a good level of professional experience may be involved with training and/or supervising homeopathy students.
The vast majority of homeopaths are self-employed. Income depends on experience, hours worked and, to some extent, local market conditions. Fees charged range from £40 to £250 per session and are likely to be higher in London and southeast England than in most other parts of the UK.
You will only receive a regular salary if you are employed to practise homeopathy on a regular basis by an organisation such as the National Health Service. However, these positions are rare and, where available, are more likely to be part-time roles.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are mainly 9am to 5pm, but homeopaths frequently offer evening or Saturday appointments and occasionally do home visits.
This work is not usually undertaken full-time due to its demanding nature; the majority of homeopaths work between one and three days a week, combining this with other work or family commitments.
What to expect
- You may work from your own home, from an alternative therapy clinic or sometimes in a GP's practice. Homeopaths need to be regularly accessible to patients, including giving support by telephone as and when clients require it.
- Self-employment brings with it both freedom and risks: hours of work, structure of the working week, and income all depend on the time put in, fees charged and the number of clients. Patients generally see their homeopath about once a month, so a large client base is necessary in order to achieve a full-time practice. Success will depend on the size of the local population and amount of competition from other practitioners.
- Jobs are available in most areas and, because self-employment is flexible, it is possible to set up a practice virtually anywhere.
- Travel within a working day may be required occasionally (especially if you are practising from several locations), but overnight absence from home is rarely needed.
- Overseas work or travel is uncommon. If you wish to work abroad, check local regulations; in some countries, only medically qualified homeopaths can practise legally.
Homeopaths may have medical qualifications (with additional homeopathic training), or they may be practitioners who have trained only in homeopathy.
You can enter homeopathy with a degree or HND in any subject, but a qualification at this level is not a requirement for training and anyone may apply. However, if you do have a relevant healthcare degree, you may be able to gain some course exemptions.
The route to professional recognition for those who are not medically qualified is a course at a homeopathic college, usually for three years full-time or four years part-time. Course requirements are flexible, in some cases two A-levels or equivalent may be required, but life and work experience are usually more important. A background in the biological sciences is helpful.
Details of courses are available from The Society of Homeopaths: Courses. Make sure you choose a course that is recognised and that suits your particular career interests and needs. Qualified healthcare professionals can undertake a postgraduate course in homeopathy through the Faculty of Homeopathy.
Attending open days and talking to current students will help to inform your decision about starting a career in homeopathy. Sitting in with a homeopath during patient consultations can be a valuable way to gain an insight into the role. Contact the main bodies or individual homeopaths to arrange a visit of this kind.
Competition for courses varies, but some only take on a very small number of students, so it is best to apply as early as possible.
Most students are self-financing, and course fees vary widely. Some small bursaries are available from the Homeopathy Action Trust (HAT). Part-time courses often take the form of monthly intensive college weekends, with significant amounts of home study.
Once you are qualified, you can choose to belong to one of the voluntary homeopathy or multi-therapy registers and submit to that register's regulatory processes. Although it is not currently mandatory, registration with one of the relevant professional bodies is highly recommended.
It generally takes at least two years to build up a practice, so other work may be necessary to support yourself at first. Some homeopaths practise additional complementary therapies, such as kinesiology, reflexology and flower essences.
You will need to have:
- well-developed interpersonal, communication and listening skills for case-taking and patient management;
- an open, non-judgemental and understanding approach and the ability to gain the trust of patients;
- sensitivity, maturity and resilience to cope with the emotional demands of patient consultations;
- a good memory and an independent nature;
- an analytical approach combined with creativity and intuition for choosing the appropriate remedy;
- in-depth knowledge of the remedies, and an understanding of disease processes;
- the ability and confidence to promote and run your own practice.
Pre-entry experience is desirable, although specific experience is not required. Experience of working with people, possibly in a related field, such as homeopathic pharmacy, and recent biological study will help.
The majority of practitioners who are not medically qualified work in private practices based in the community, often alongside other complementary therapists. Other patterns of work include:
- working independently from home;
- being based in a clinic dedicated to homeopathy;
- working in group practices, possibly from several bases.
The vast majority of homeopaths in the UK are self-employed. Complementary medicine and healthcare is a developing area, with increasing interest from both the public and the conventional medical establishment. This has led to a growth in opportunities for complementary healthcare practitioners and some roles have emerged for experienced practitioners to work as sessional therapists within the NHS.
There are NHS homeopathic hospitals in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. However, while there is an interest within the NHS in involving more complementary therapies in the future, this is unlikely to provide extensive opportunities.
Where there are jobs in the NHS they are likely to be part time; full-time positions are rare.
The most common methods homeopaths use to publicise their services are through talks and presentations, via their own websites and by word of mouth. Those based within clinics or complementary therapy practices may benefit from joint advertising and promotional events.
Homeopaths are mostly self-employed so jobs are not generally advertised. Clinic space is occasionally advertised in The Society of Homeopaths newsletter and its journal, The Homeopath.
You can advertise your services via the registers of the:
- Alliance of Registered Homeopaths
- British Homeopathic Association
- Homeopathic Medical Association (HMA)
Following qualification as a homeopath, further professional development and supervision is encouraged. Weekend, short courses and conferences are all available, plus a small number of more substantial part-time, post-qualification courses. Keeping up to date with developments in homeopathic remedies and research is essential.
Homeopaths can find information about conferences and training events in the journals, newsletters and websites of the relevant professional organisations, such as:
- Alliance of Registered Homeopaths
- British Homeopathic Association
- The Society of Homeopaths
The vast majority of homeopaths are self-employed, so it is important to maintain contact with relevant professional organisations in order to benefit from the continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities they offer.
Homeopaths based in trust hospitals of the NHS may be able to access general training courses offered to hospital staff.
For all homeopaths, there may be part-time science, technology and health-related courses on offer at local colleges, which may be of general interest and use in their work.
Accredited postgraduate courses, which are available only to healthcare professionals, are offered by the Faculty of Homeopathy. They are taught at a number of locations in the UK and overseas. Students are encouraged to sit the specialist examinations which lead to the faculty's qualifications at various levels.
Business development organisations and your local chamber of commerce, can also provide useful support in relation to setting up and maintaining your business, and networking opportunities. They offer training in specific skills, including marketing, managing finances and business development. Find out more about self-employment.
Because the vast majority of homeopaths in the UK are self-employed, career development tends to be mainly through developing their practice. This takes time and a great deal of persistence, marketing and promotion. Some geographical areas may not offer the same potential patient base as others, so it is important to consider practice location carefully as this will affect potential career development.
Thinking innovatively and proactively about networking and developing your practice is a key part of a successful career as a self-employed homeopath.
The growth in interest in this area of work has led to an increase in training courses, making it even more important for aspiring professional homeopaths to complete an accredited course and register with the relevant professional bodies.
Training in other alternative therapies to complement the practice is also an option. Other alternative roles include naturopath, herbalist and acupuncturist. It is possible that this might lead to running your own clinic.
Training in developing a small business may be useful for those who aim to run their own clinic.
A very small number of opportunities are available within the NHS (see NHS - Complementary and Alternative Medicine). Currently, it is mainly doctors and other healthcare professionals with further training in homeopathy who are working in homeopathic hospitals and other facilities.
For experienced homeopaths, opportunities include running tutorials, supervising students and possibly teaching at specialist colleges offering courses in complementary therapies. Opportunities to teach may arise at general colleges that include some element of homeopathy in their health studies and complementary therapies courses.
It may be possible to become involved in research or journalism in the homeopathic field. There may also be opportunities to assist in the manufacture of homeopathic products.
Opportunities exist for voluntary work abroad, particularly in India and Eastern Europe.