Karen Hooton shares her homeopathy story

People started coming very quickly. Then they came back and they told their friends.

We now have almost 150 patients on the books. If I had more time for appointments, I could fill them two or three times over.

It’s a sunny Summer’s afternoon and, on a rare break from patients, Karen Hooton is reflecting on her first two years running Homeopathy UK's Edinburgh clinic. Opened in October 2017 in the city’s West End, the clinic has clearly had a positive impact on the local community. “It’s not just Edinburgh either” adds Karen, “people are coming from as far afield as Cumbernauld, which is 40 miles away. Losing the NHS homeopathic services in Lothian has definitely hit us and people really value the treatment we offer here. I’m also getting a real sense that people are disillusioned with some of modern medicine and are trying other things. The demand is definitely coming from patients”.

When not running Edinburgh Homeopathy Karen practices a number of complementary therapies and has a particular interest in working with people trying to conceive as well as babies and children. Having spent more than 30 years as a healthcare professional, her passion for wellness is as tangible today as it must have been at the start of her career. “It’s always been about treating the individual for me. The idea of holistic person-centered medicine just makes so much sense” she explains. Initially trained as a paediatric nurse, it was while working at Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children that she began to explore other ways of healing. “By the 1990s I was a single parent and juggling childcare and the demands of full-time nursing wasn’t easy. So I looked for ways where I could work around life with a young child. That’s how my journey into complementary therapy started.” After first studying aromatherapy, Karen went on to qualify in reflexology, reiki, and nutrition before becoming fascinated by homeopathy.

“It felt like a natural progression for me. Homeopathy is an art as much as a science. As I began to immerse myself it in, I realised that it required all of my skills. I was using intuition and empathy as much as my medical experience. Plus I never thought my chemistry would come in useful!”

Karen graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2002 and was one of the first NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) registered nurses to qualify as a Specialist Nurse Practitioner in Homeopathy. From 2003 to 2016 she worked as a complementary therapist, and the Healthy Living Coordinator, for Midlothian Sure Start. “I was involved in so many different projects. Although, as you might expect, I continued my interest in children and families. I’m proud to have delveloped the award winning ‘A Good Start’ baby massage programme. I was also part of strategic groups for mental health awareness”.

When the opportunity to run our Edinburgh clinic arrived, Karen was keen to embrace it. “Homeopathy had become such a key part of what I do. I’ve been using homeopathy in clinical practice for more than 15 years and it’s proved to be effective for a wide range of acute and chronic conditions. As someone who works with a number of different therapies, I can’t have favourites! But, one of the wonderful things about homeopathy is that it goes full circle. Everything I know goes into homeopathy and homeopathy feeds back into my other therapies. I tend to delve in deeper. So, I really value the time I spend with homeopathy. Plus, the clinic is part of Mulberry House which is the Edinburgh’s largest complementary and alternative health centre. It’s great to be part of that community”.

While Karen admits that juggling her clinic responsibilities alongside her other commitments isn’t always easy, she clearly enjoys the variety it brings. “No two consultations are the same. Which is always true of homeopathy of course. Our youngest patient is 5 months old and the oldest is 85. I treat conditions across the board from asthma and anxiety through to post-traumatic stress and the peri-menopause. Remedy-wise I prescribe everything from your simple aconite right through to rare metals like technetium or yttrium”. Spending time with Karen, it’s clear that her own learning and professional development is an important part of her practice. “Homeopathy has changed a lot since I trained. I work hard to keep up to date with any new developments or approaches. For example, when I was at University, we were taught repertorisation – treating the patient based on their description of what the symptoms feel like. Which I still do. But I also use the sensation method which is relatively new and involves listening to how people are talking as much as what they’re saying. That’s just one example. I earmark around 100 hours every year for extra learning across each area of my practice. It’s so important that I feel equipped to provide the best possible care for my clients”.

Asked about the challenges that come with running a busy clinic, she’s quick to accentuate the positive. “Finding the right remedy can drive you nuts! You can spend hours and hours looking for the right remedy. Then again, you can really lose yourself in the process which is wonderful. Sometimes the remedy will jump out and sometimes it won’t. Above all it’s about listening to what each patient says and how they say it. You’re always looking for clues”. Pushed to find an aspect of the work without a silver lining she concedes that being in demand comes with its downside. “Now that we’re so booked up, I’ve got people ringing up saying ‘can I come and see you I’ve heard you’re good?’ And I’m actually having to say no to people. Which isn’t a word I Iike to use”.

And the best bit about her work? “That’s easy“ laughs Karen “When there’s an improvement. When the symptoms get better or disappear. When someone comes back with a big smile on their face and says ‘Thank you it worked’. That’s why you do it”.