Proving procedures and guidelines for provers and supervisors

Copyright The School of Homeopathy August 2004

On these experiments depends the exactitude of the whole medical art and the welfare of all future generations of mankind. Organon §122

Introductory comments

The group proving

Your role as a prover

Requirements to be a prover

The role of the supervisor

Instructions for provers

The pre-proving diary

Notes on how to type up your report

Instructions for supervisors

 

Introductory comments

The purpose of a proving is to ascertain the exact pathogenic effects of a remedy and so to learn the nature of its healing power. In the School setting it also allows us to better understand the homeopathic process and to find out more about ourselves.

The procedures for conducting a proving were laid out by Hahnemann in § 105-145 of the Organon and on the whole there has been little need to change them. They have been commented on and clarified by:

1 JT Kent Lectures on Homœopathic Philosophy Lecture XXVIII
2 Jeremy Sherr Dynamics and Methodology of Provings
3 Paul Herscu Provings.

The Protocols used by the School are based on the Organon. The main differences have arisen from our observation of the particular dynamics of the group proving.

The group proving

Having conducted annual provings at the School since 1993 certain particular features of a group proving have been noticed. These observations have caused us to modify the methodology to take account of them.

The proving of a remedy by members of a coherent group appears to cause an amplification of the effect of that remedy. There appears to be a teletherapeutic effect produced by the field generated by the assembled provers, their experiences being in resonance. The whole group is involved and those members who have not taken the remedy may be as affected as those that have.

This means that the use of control provers who are given placebo is not possible as they are also likely to prove the remedy. Because of the group's field effect It also means there is no need to repeat the dose if symptoms do not occur immediately.

Kent states that one or two members of a class of forty will make a proving from a 30th potency. Our experience has been that substantially more than half of the class will experience significant symptoms. Provers therefore take a single 30c dose. In recent years we have run up the proving potency in class immediately prior to taking it. So as to conceal the substance, we carry out potentisation in liquid dilutions.

The unit dose also ensures that primary and secondary proving effects do not get muddled up and confuse or worse still antidote each other, thus nullifying the proving.

Your role as a prover

Your role as a prover is to allow your vital force to be affected by the remedy and to carefully observe the direction and extent of that effect through recording changes and symptoms with diligence and in detail. Hahnemann says that a prover should be a lover of truth, temperate in all respects, of delicate feelings and one who can direct the most minute attention to his/her sensations. Naturally, you will wish to give of your best. For this reason it is important that you stay in regular communication with your supervisor as many details and subtelties may otherwise be lost.

Requirements to be a prover

You should be healthy. In other words, your spirit, emotions, mind and body must be in what is for you a good enough and stable state of health.

You should not be currently liable to severe acute episodes or suffering from severe degenerative chronic states. Only when there is a degree of flexibility in your vital force (health) will you experience worthwhile symptoms.

The use of substances (foods, drugs, etc.) which can have a medicinal effect may cause symptoms which might be mistaken for proving symptoms. They should therefore be avoided, especially if you are unfamiliar with their effects.

You must be in the process of homeopathic treatment with an experienced prescriber. "A proving properly conducted will improve the health of anybody; it will help turn things into order." (Kent) The proving will often bring to the surface, and leave behind, issues that are of the prover rather than the proving. These need to be responded to by your prescriber in the context of your ongoing treatment.

The proving will provide insights and might provoke questions about the process of case taking and treatment. It is therefore appropriate that you have an experienced practitioner in place to whom such questions can be taken. In the event of proving related queries being unanswered, the proving coordinators are there to offer advice and guidance for you, your practitioner and your supervisor.

The role of the supervisor

The role of the supervisor is to assist you in examining the symptoms you experience and to make sure that every useful detail is recorded.

The supervisor makes sure that you are clear about the exact nature of your symptoms. This is done without making conjectures or asking leading questions.

The process involved in proving supervision is a mirror of the process involved in therapeutic case taking. Furthermore, the supervisor will have a clinical supervisor with whom questions and insights about the process can be discussed. The clinical supervisor may, in turn seek council with the proving co-ordinators.

Instructions for provers

You should study the proving process and notice how provings look in their finished state. An understanding of the proving process can be found in § 105 - 145 of the Organon and Kent's 28th Lecture on Philosophy. Examples of classic provings are best looked at in T.H.Allen's Encyclopedia of Pure Materia Medica. This is the largest collection of symptoms all of which are proving symptoms (hence the Pure). It and many other classic texts can be seen on line at Homeopathy International www.homeoint.org. Many modern provings have been published. Some are available on line. The best index of them is at the Homeopathy Home Page www.homeopathyhome.com. Click on Reference and then on Provings.

In the period leading up to the proving you should visit your regular homeopathic prescriber. It is not necessary or even desirable that you receive a remedy at this time. Rather, the function of this consultation is to establish your 'base-line state' as a reference point from which changing symptoms may be understood.

The pre-proving diary

Start keeping a diary a month before the proving begins. Keep this up for at least two weeks. This establishes the habit and gives you a chance to note your base-line state. You should go through this with your supervisor at least once before the proving starts. We suggest that you purchase a wallet sized book for this specific purpose.

Note down carefully any symptoms that arise on a daily basis, starting with the date and at what time of the day or night they occurred and whether they are old or new. (See next page for notes on how to type up your report). This should be done as carefully as possible while the symptoms are still fresh in your mind. On a daily basis run a check through your body zones to ensure that you have observed and recorded all your symptoms. Write about what you have thought and how you have felt.

It is a good idea to keep your diary, pencil and a torch by your bedside in order to note down dreams as and when they arise.

Also keep a record of occurrences; anything which is out of the ordinary is a symptom. Your partner, family and friends can also inform and elucidate.

Be as precise as possible, writing your symptoms in your own language (not repertory language of rubrics, please) in an accurate, detailed and concise manner. Use general terms such as, 'partner', 'daughter', 'son', 'town' rather than proper names. You might find it useful to use opposing pages in your diary, noting symptom specifics on one page and 'event' texts on the opposite page. Do write on alternate lines, as this allows space to add further comments, such as for instance, arising from discussions with your supervisor.

As we have written, you should go through this diary with your supervisor at least once before the proving starts. This is to begin to establish you in the dialogue and to ensure that you are following the protocols.

Notes on how to type up your report

If you have easy access to a computer you should type up your proving notes on a daily basis. If you do not have ready access to a computer, try and type them up or have them typed up as regularly as possible.

The symptoms should be typed up in the following form exactly. This will allow for the easy and accurate processing of the information.

Day, (01 is the day you took the remedy; 02 is the second day etc). Time (24 hour clock; if not specific an X). NS or OS, etc. (see next page for details of these abbreviations). The symptom written out as you would describe it (not in rubric speak).

Examples:

01, X, NS, Woke three times in the night to pee. Felt frightened of the dark. There was an unspecific threat out there. Solar plexus felt tight, like a hand grasping and twisting.

03,13.30, NS, I had a terrible headache, it started after lunch and got worse when I went out. The pain was hot and throbbing, was in the right temple and extended into the right ear. My husband commented that the pupil of my right eye was dilated.

The layout (eg. 03,13.30, NS,) with the commas is important and you should try to follow it exactly, but the most important thing is that you are completely consistent.

Do not use any other abbreviations or symbols (use worse or better not < or >, etc.)

Do not use proper names, people should be referred to in generic terms: my husband, my mother, a friend, my dog, the cat, etc.

Do avoid mixing up symptoms which can be separated unless they link together, for instance, as concomitants do. If you can break symptom blocks up into discrete parts, this is helpful. Do discuss any queries with your supervisor.

Symptoms can be found in four areas. Sensations that are experienced by the senses, this includes pains, stiffness, etc. Feelings that are experienced by the emotions: fear, isolation, joy, etc. Thoughts that are experienced by the intellect: confusion, industriousness, etc. Images that are found most clearly in dreams, fears and delusions but are also found in the way that we describe the other three areas.

When noting a proving symptom it should be examined and expanded upon in the same way as a patient's symptom would be. CLAMS is a useful mnemonic.

Concomitants Any other symptoms that accompany the main symptom and have a relationship to it because: they appear together; they affect or worsen each other; or they have a common quality.
Location The place that the symptom occurs. This includes the centre of the symptom's effect as well as extensions, where else it affects, and sidedness.
Aetiology The things that cause the symptom to appear or the things that reignite a symptom after it has been lying relatively dormant.
Modalities The things that make the symptoms better or worse. These can include weather, food and eating, exercise, rest, emotions, concentration, etc.
Sensation The nature of the symptom, what it feels like, any metaphors that make its nature clearer, anything that would help a reader understand the precise nature of the symptom.

Another way of considering the symptom is to ask: What? Where? When? How? Why?

Each symptom should be classified using one of these codes:

NS New Symptom. One that you have never experienced before.
OS Old Symptom. A symptom you have experienced before but not for at least a year.
RS Recent Symptom. One you have experienced within the last year.
AS Altered Symptom. One you have experienced before but which is slightly different. i.e one or more of the above CLAMS is changed.
IOS Intensified Old Symptom. An Old Symptom but one which you have never before experienced with the same degree of intensity.
CS Cured symptom. A very clear, usually physical, symptom that you had at the start of the proving and which has completely disappeared. A symptom, particularly an emotional one that constitutes a change of state, even if the change might be seen as healthy, does not necessarily constitute a cured symptom.

The symptom is the change from your normal state. Your base state is assumed to be healthy and the change is away from the healthy norm and so morbid. When a timid prover becomes less so the symptom being expressed should be seen as something like 'boldness' rather than cured timidity.

You should contact your supervisor on a daily basis for the first two weeks. This can be gradually reduced as fewer new symptoms arise. The supervisor will help you make sure that you have noted all your symptoms and help you to check and expand the details.

A monthly meeting with the proving coordinator will be convened (on the occasion of School weekends) in order to amplify and comment upon the presented written material from your proving diary. These proceedings will be recorded on tape and may be used for teaching purposes.

It is important for the quality and credibility of the proving that you do not discuss the nature of your symptoms with other provers outside of School weekends.

You should make sure that your proving diary is complete and typed up once you feel the proving has run its course and is no longer producing useful symptoms. Your supervisor should then look over it and make sure that there is nothing missing from it. You should add in anything that the supervisor noticed as long as you agree with it.

Towards the end of the proving you should write up an overview of your experience during the proving.

The proving diary and overview should be saved as an rtf file (rich text format which is a 'save as' option in all word processor programs) and sent by email or disk to the proving co-ordinator.

You should consult your homeopathic prescriber who will be able to make use of the insights you have gained during the proving and can prescribe an antidote for any remaining symptoms.

Instructions for supervisors

You are given the job of supervising the third year provers not because it is a chore that needs doing but because it is an unparalleled opportunity to work with and develop your case taking skills.

In working with a prover you are working with someone who is experiencing what are for him or her new and different symptoms. They are also symptoms that he or she wants to experience (within reason) and which he or she would like to describe and explain. The prover is also familiar with the homœopathic process and happy to work with you in that process. Case taking is therefore placed in an almost ideal context and you can explore and understand the process in a safe and exciting way. It is also fairly concentrated and you can gain a lot of solid experience in a fairly short time. Issues, questions and understandings about case taking are likely to emerge and they should be discussed with your clinical supervisor.

Before the proving starts you should be in touch with your homeopathic prescriber. This will help them respond to issues that could come up for you during the proving.

You should be in contact with your prover at least twice before the proving starts. You will need to look at their pre-proving diary to run through their use of the typing lay-out. See back to, notes on how to type up your report. You should assist them with this if necessary as some provers may have difficulty following the protocols. This will also allow you to gain an insight into the prover's base-line state.

During the first two weeks of the proving you should talk with your prover on a daily basis. After that you can reduce contact gradually as symptoms decrease and you both become more aware of the nature of them. Contact that is at least weekly should be maintained until the proving ends.

The supervisor is there to elucidate what is characteristic about the symptoms as proving symptoms. This is a twofold process. We must have as much information as possible about the symptom and we must be able to tell what is common and what is characteristic.

You should allow the prover to describe their symptoms and keep notes of what you are told. This is done without making conjectures or asking leading questions. You should then assist them so that they Clarify, Verify and Enlarge upon the details of their symptoms. Make sure that what the prover has written clearly and accurately reflects what has happened. Make sure that all the details of the symptoms have been examined and expanded upon in the same way as a patient's symptom would be. Remember to ask for: Concomitants, Location, Aetiology, Modalities, Sensations. Another way of considering the symptom is to ask: What? Where? When? How? Why?

Symptoms can be found in four areas: Sensations, Feelings, Thoughts, Images. You should run through each of these areas and run through the body from head to toe to make sure that the prover has not missed anything.

A symptom can be common to the Prover, or to the Disease they are expressing and your role is to help determine how characteristic the symptom is. If something is common for the Prover they may have experienced it before or it might be similar in nature to their experience. Characteristic symptoms or characteristic aspects of symptoms should stand out in some way and the Supervisor can help the Prover perceive this. A symptom can also be more generally common and the Supervisor can help the Prover describe what is unusual about it.

Dreams are a particularly difficult feature, both of case taking and provings. A proving dream will contain aspects of the Prover's personality, their current life and issues and aspects of the proving remedy. It is often very difficult to see this easily from the written diaries and so it is helpful to make sure that the prover is clear about what relates to their circumstances or personal issues and what relates to the proving. Important dreams are likely to be recurrent, vivid and or contain a strong symbolic element. If a recurrent dream occurs make note of any changes or variations. The context of the dream should also be recorded because a dream may be specific to ongoing events. It is of special importance to note this should these events predate the proving.

When the proving has ended you should check the prover's diary and point out anything that you have noted which is not in the diary. You should write an overview of how you thought and felt the prover was during the proving – how it affected them. You should also note how it affected you.

It is quite possible that you will 'catch' some of the symptoms of the proving. If you are very strongly affected, to the extent that you become an important prover, then you should contact the proving co-ordinators. You should also take these symptoms to your prescriber for whom they will be useful in gaining a deeper understanding of your case. Your prescriber, with reference to the proving co-ordinators, can nullify residual and unwanted proving symptoms.

Copyright The School of Homeopathy August 2004