Your first visit with a classical homeopath-one who uses traditional case-taking methods to find the one substance that best fits the picture-will vary somewhat depending upon the homeopath. We give a general picture here.
What is the initial evaluation like? First visit with a homeopath initial evaluation will be at least an hour and perhaps as much as two or three hours long. The homeopath will spend that time trying to understand your particular symptoms.
In addition to asking about your physical, mental, and emotional complaints or challenges, the practitioner will try to learn what makes the symptoms better or worse, what kinds of foods you crave or abhor, what your sleep patterns are like, the content and patterns of your dreams, your major fears, your weather preferences, and more. The homeopath will also probably ask you to give specific descriptions of your sensations because homeopaths find this very helpful. (For example, one client reported that the pain in his abdomen felt "like a live animal growling.")
These sorts of very detailed questions might seem unusual if you have only received conventional medical care, but these nuances are critical in a homeopathic evaluation.
How does the homeopath choose the remedy? Once the homeopath gathers all of your information, he or she will review your data looking for patterns. These patterns will guide the homeopath to a homeopathic remedy that has a similar symptom pattern.
The homeopath will likely go through a process of "repertorization," cross-referencing all of your symptoms in books (or computer databases) called Materia Medica, which list the various remedies and their characteristic symptoms. (These symptoms are identified in "provings." See What are Homeopathic Remedies? for an explanation of provings.)
Most homeopaths today use computers to help them match up the information they gather from you with the more than 5,000 known remedy pictures that exist, in an effort to make the best match.
Homeopath meeting with a patientSometimes the homeopath will make an immediate recommendation and provide you with the remedy at the first visit. Other times, the homeopath needs to study the information and contact you later with a recommendation. There may be a number of possible remedies for any given situation.
Depending upon your situation and strength, the remedy involved, and the homeopath's confidence in the remedy, the homeopath may recommend a one-time dose or a series of doses of a remedy. He or she will then follow your response over days or weeks. If the homeopath recommends a daily LM (liquid) potency of the remedy, he or she will typically want to see you back in 4-5 weeks to assess your response. (LM's are diluted and stirred (agitated) more with each dose, so there is a progressive increase in the potency of the remedy with each dose.)
It is an iterative process: the homeopath will make his or her best recommendation of remedy and dose, but then may need to monitor your response and possibly change the remedy or the potency to optimize the treatment.
Your response must be assessed by the homeopath because movement or change in symptom patterns are difficult to interpret, and what may initially appear to be a worsening of symptoms may indeed be a healing response, and an apparent improvement on one level (e.g. physical) could be suppression and may actually be a worsening or deepening of the disease.