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In the following, the special German situation is described:
In everyday language, the terms “homeopath” and “alternative practitioner” (here meant: the German “Heilpraktiker”) are often confused. First of all, a “homeopath” is simply someone who is practising homeopathy. But there are two completely different ways to get there (1):
As a doctor: You study medicine for at least 6 years, usually completed by a specialist training course (i.e. a specialisation in a medical field) for a further five years, pass three state examinations and at least one specialist examination during this time. Then you complete at least 100 further hours (before 2004 even 300 hours) of homeopathy further education as additional training for the protected “additional designation homeopathy” (3), which one receives after a further examination (by the medical association) and may call yourself from now a homeopath.
As a Heilpraktiker (Alternative practitioner – a German “speciality” according to the “Heilpraktikergesetz” of 1939): One prepares oneself on one’s own initiative or at training schools for an examination (by a public health officer) in which the applicant, who is usually not otherwise medically trained, has to prove that he has so much medical knowledge that he “does not pose a danger to public health”. (2) This examination is merely a so-called “security examination” which is not aimed at demonstrating comprehensive medical and curative knowledge and skills.
“For the Heilpraktiker training itself, no further conditions must be fulfilled. The question of pre-qualification must be answered by each student. The amount of time required depends on the technical background. Pupils without previous medical knowledge have a higher learning effort” (4). Further training as a homeopath is freely definable, but no duty at all. There is the possibility of examinations by alternative practitioner schools, but they are voluntary. (5) There is no order or regulation for any training or education – one can try it also in the self-study or also rely on his luck if the examination as a Heilpraktiker has occurred.
The difference in medical education, which is independent of homeopathy, is immense between a doctor and a non-medical practitioner (Heilpraktiker). That is why it is a gross misjudgement to confuse these two professions with each other or to summarise them undifferentiated under the term homeopath.
Sources / literature (in German):
(1) For further reading: http://www.beweisaufnahme-homoeopathie.de/?p=2417