Many of the cases that homeopaths see today include a strong psychological component. In the last 20 years, Homeopathy has advanced largely through developing and refining our understanding of the mental images of remedies. This development has expanded the number of remedies used and allowed us to interpret cases more precisely.

However, as a result of this development we find many prescribers looking almost exclusively at mental and emotional symptoms, to the exclusion of physicals or generals. One hopes always to get to the "essence," the "core delusion," the "center of the case," even if the patient does not present with any particularly strong mental symptoms.

I have particularly seen this with students, who have the idea they must always dig into the patient's psyche to find some nugget of emotional discord. They feel that unless they get to the core of the person's state, the remedy will not be found, and that the core has to be in the mental domain. They may dismiss the symptoms that most concern the patient as relatively insignificant compensations of the vital force.

However, as we know, all symptoms represent the center of the person. Nothing is separate, all is connected, and physical symptoms can express as much of the "essence" of the person as mental symptoms. The key is in seeing what is unique in each case, assessing the value of every symptom as it relates to the totality of the patient's symptoms.

The difficulty of distinguishing between our observations of the person's basic nature, and mental symptoms reflecting an imbalance or a compensated state, can lead to great confusion. As their connection is obviously an intimate one and we use both aspects to find a remedy, it is a subtle process to evaluate what is useful. The lack of clarity, however, often results in a degree of projection and interpretation of the individual's words or behavior that can easily lead us astray.

It is also easy to prescribe polycrest remedies based on a loose archetypal image of the remedy's psychology, without any confirming keynotes or general characteristics. Remedies such as Pulsatilla, Lycopodium, Sepia, etc. can easily be justified for many people, based on common personal traits, but is this method precise enough? Conversely, we may only find less common remedies by focusing on a simplistic "essence" image, hampered by the lack of confirmatory keynotes for the remedy.

The following article, based on a lecture given to homeopathic students, explores some issues related to our use of mental and emotional symptoms in prescribing. Practical aspects of how to use mental symptoms are discussed, as well as the potential pitfalls of overemphasizing them. We'll begin with a summary of the process of casetaking, and consider at which point one should explore the patient's psychological condition.