Laurie Counihan-Childs is a Doctor of Homeopathy and Oriental Medicine and has lived in Santa Barbara for over 30 years. She considers herself more of a detective than a doctor, and uses many tools such as acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, and flower essences in her practice. I snuck in an interview with Laurie before work, and was welcomed with tea in front of the fireplace. Here, Laurie shares insights gleaned form three decades as a health care practitioner.
What does the art of healing mean to you?
The art of healing revolves around the idea of “wholeness.” I think “health care” is both an art and a science. It is different from “disease care,” which is the fundamental problem with the so-called “health care system” in our country. With the intention of encouraging wholeness, it’s imperative to address each level of being human. If I only move in on one plane with my client or just try to “stop” a symptom, I feel I’m often missing the complexities of living in a body as a human being with emotions, a mind, and a soul. As a practitioner, it’s important to try to interpret symptoms, as this is the only language the body has to tell us what’s going on. The next step is then to figure out which tools are most appropriate in the situation to help re-align or re-integrate my client. I look through about 100 different tools — some of which I can offer, some another practitioner has available, and some the client can do for themselves. I’m trying to find the right tool for the job, following Hippocrates’ guiding principle: “First do no harm.” I feel like I’m helping people navigate their path.
How would you describe homeopathy to someone who isn’t familiar with it?
Homeopathy was developed in the 1700s by the German doctor Samuel Hahnemann. It is the most scientific system of medicine I’ve come across, consistently following the laws of physics. Dr. Hahnemann discovered that quinine, which was used to treat malaria, induced malaria-like symptoms in himself when he took it, causing him to come up with the “law of similars.” An example that I’ll often use with clients is coffee: if somebody comes into my office acting like they’ve consumed a pot of coffee, Western medicine would treat with opposites: they would give them a Xanax or Valium to stop the symptoms. Homeopathy is going to look at them and say, “Isn’t this interesting what their body has created to try to maintain homeostasis,” believing that the body’s symptoms are there for a reason, and to simply “stop” the symptoms is not only dishonoring to the body, but confusing it as well. Homeopathy then asks, “How can we help the body finish what it started, rather than just suppress the symptoms?” In the case of coffee symptoms, I may prescribe “homeopathic coffee.” A homeopathic remedy is made by serially diluting the substance over and over, thereby releasing the energy of the substance.
What are some personal struggles or beliefs that have led you to this path?
As I was growing up, I wanted to be a priest. I would play the organ, sneak into the sacristy, and put on the priest’s vestments. I would take out the chalice and the host and say mass. I would lock the door and my heart would be pounding because I thought if somebody walked in, they would witness my “mortal sin,” but I couldn’t stop. I had altars to the Virgin Mary in my room, and I would weep at the stations to the cross. I was this very, very devoted Catholic girl who at some point started asking too many questions. I had a father that choked when I was 17 and lived like a vegetable for five years and my first boyfriend broke my heart when he told me he was gay and then my husband died from melanoma. I’ve been through some extremely tight passages and I’ve come to call on these many tools I’ve discovered and studied over the years to help me integrate these challenges and become a better person for having gone through them. I have been questing for the truth and the meaning of life forever, and that’s what led me to my work.
What would you say to an apprentice starting out along a similar path?
Work on yourself. Make self-loving choices. Try different tools and see what they feel like — be your own experiment. Make sure that you spend time being still. We don’t value stillness enough in our culture. We ask “How are you doing?” but not “How are you being?” That’s the first thing I would say: learn to be still in order to be present with someone else. Learn to be comfortable in the “in-between” space.
To contact Laurie Counihan-Childs, call 682-0123 or email email@example.com.