Practitioner Bulletin no. 50 July/August 2003

Bach Foundation International Register
The Bach Centre
Mount Vernon
Bakers Lane
Oxon OX10 0PZ
Telephone +44 (0)1491 834678
Fax +44 (0)1491 825022


Combination Remedies

Every so often somebody has the idea of bottling combinations of remedies for specific everyday situations. After all, one of the biggest problems people face when they come to the system of 38 flower remedies is knowing what each one is for. Having a set formula for people taking exams, another for bereavement and so on, would make taking the remedies – and selling them! – much easier. Dr Bach’s ‘rescue’ formula is successful, and that’s a combination, so why not make up some more?

The latest attempt to do this is a range of pre-mixed remedies that has been produced for sale in a well-known UK retailer. The recipes include:

  • “Courage”: Honeysuckle, Cherry Plum, Mimulus, Red Chestnut, Rock Rose, Aspen, Agrimony
  • “Direction”: Scleranthus, Wild Oat, Cerato, Walnut, Mimulus, Wild Rose
  • “Focus”: Larch, Elm, White Chestnut, Hornbeam, Gentian, Clematis
  • “Letting Go”: Holly, Willow, Vine, Beech, Chicory, Water Violet
  • “Optimism”: Gorse, Gentian, Mustard, Sweet Chestnut, Cherry Plum, Heather

At first sight these combinations might seem plausible. It’s easy to see how somebody who lacked courage might need Mimulus and Rock Rose and Aspen, and Agrimony could indeed apply if the kind of courage lacking was the courage to face up to the dark side of life. But what about Honeysuckle? It can’t be courage to face the past because a Honeysuckle person is in the past already – that’s the whole of her problem. Courage to face the present, then? Maybe – but if so why not include Clematis as well, in case refuge was being sought in the future?

This question points to the first major problem with creating pre-mixed combinations: that remedies somebody needs may not be present. Look at the indications for the “Letting Go” formula. These include resentment, intolerance, co-dependence, neediness, unhappiness, relationship problems, attention-seeking, blaming, indifference, lack of caring, distancing, controlling and an inability to change. There is no Walnut in the formula (co-dependence and inability to change could both indicate this); there is no Impatiens (an Impatiens state can be described as indifference and as intolerance), there is no Heather (neediness, attention-seeking), and as for ‘unhappiness’ and ‘relationship problems’ – they could be rooted in any of the 38.

The “Optimism” formula contains, predictably enough, Gentian, Gorse, Mustard and Sweet Chestnut, and so falls into the classic mistake of thinking that at least one of these must be needed by anybody who feels despondency or despair. A quick look at the other remedies that Dr Bach put into the ‘Despondency or Despair’ category should be enough to point out the error.

So the first problem is that a formula may miss out the essential remedies that one particular purchaser needs. The second is that another person might find way too many remedies in the bottle. We know from experience that giving people too many remedies tends to slow down the work of the ones they actually need. That’s why we take so much trouble as practitioners to select exactly the right remedies. Somebody who only needs Mimulus will receive little benefit from a “Courage” mix that includes six other remedies. The Mimulus will have to work hard to be heard above the cacophony of mixed messages in that bottle.

And of course, if the recipe doesn’t work people might blame the ingredients rather than the chef!

The formulaic approach bases itself on the ‘rescue’ combination without understanding what the crisis mix is for: an emotional first-aid kit, something ready-to-hand that can be used in a crisis when there is no time to make a proper selection. As soon as there is time – as soon as the immediate crisis is over – the idea is to put away the crisis mix and look for the things we actually need. When we do this we find that no group of people need exactly the same mix, and that the most effective help is always to select remedies for the individual rather than generalising.

We can’t pile people together and treat them as if they were all the same. It may make marketing more difficult, but it’s the truth.

Practitioner Bulletin Online

One of the most common requests from new practitioners is for back issues of the Bulletin.

To resolve the problem, we are going to put each new issue of the Bulletin onto our web site. The address to go to is:

Over the next few months we will add to the site any back issues that we have as computer files, so that this will build into a useful library that you can access and print off to help you with your work.

Your letters

We want you to use this Bulletin to keep in touch with each other. If anything wonderful, funny, interesting or just plain typical has happened to you in your work with the remedies, or if there are any questions that have been nagging away at you, or if you simply want to say hello, please write to us at the Bach Centre, marking your letter clearly as being ‘FOR PUBLICATION’.

We can’t promise to print every letter in the Bulletin, but even if we don’t use your contribution we always love to hear from you.

In reply to Lynn’s article (“A Case for Supervision?” in the May Bulletin – Ed.), I have an annual classroom observation by my local adult college, which is both helpful and useful in an educational environment. But I think the most valuable thing of all for BFRP’s is to compare notes and share experiences with each other.

A practitioner support group in my area did not materialise due to busy lives, but I do think we should all feel comfortable with occasionally making and receiving contact from any BFRP. This is especially important for those who are geographically isolated. From a practical point of view, perhaps active sharing, rather than supervision, is the way to go?

Jill Woods BFRP, UK

I am disturbed by the account from an anonymous practitioner on the subject of potential suicide (“Confidentiality” in the May Bulletin – Ed.). As one who has spent many years in the Samaritans, I know that the subject has to be handled with the utmost tact and discretion.

Why then did the writer feel she needed to contact the GP? One cannot force a person not to take their own life, one cannot prevent a person taking their own life, but one can work with a person, go into their feelings and reasons and then, only then, can one stand a chance of persuading the person not to take the final step.

Of all disciplines, surely Bach is the one that best teaches us to work with feelings and reasons. The average GP is not trained in deciding suicide risk, and the risk of involving one is to risk having the person committed to hospital.

I am not aware of any legal reasons for doing what your anonymous correspondent felt obliged to do, and it could have caused untold harm. A responsible person, in this case the parent, had been involved, and the matter should have rested there.

Les Bremner BFRP, UK

The account in the May Bulletin was published anonymously at the practitioner’s request, in order to safeguard the privacy of her client. The practitioner established confidentiality criteria and boundaries of professional competence with her 13-year-old client at the outset, and specifically explained the circumstances under which confidentiality would be broken.

The article itself was to our minds a good example of a practitioner having to deal – and in fact, dealing successfully – with a difficult situation that was outside her professional competence. Clearly a practitioner who is trained to help potential suicides may have other options available, but practitioners not so trained can’t be expected to treat the matter in the same way. Contacting the GP – which was done with the full knowledge of the client and her mother – was we felt an understandable response.

Les’s letter usefully questions again the limits of confidentiality and responsibility, just as the original article did. We would welcome further contributions to this debate, for we all acknowledge I’m sure the need for self-reflection and sharing as part of the drawing and re-drawing of these difficult boundaries.

– Ed.

Welcome to…

Since the last (June 2003) issue was prepared, 57 new practitioners have joined the Register:

  • in Australia, Sharon Leigh, Ian Jaeschke, Lynden Boehm, Diana Tollis, Brenda Simpson, Karyn Provis and Aíne Greene;
  • in Belgium, Alison McDonagh;
  • in Brazil, Cecilia Sampaio Trinxet, Angela Cristina Cordeiro de Abuquerque, Gracia Valéria Vieira de Lima, Salete Ribeiro de Almeida Silveira, Cibele Bizarro Costa and Mariza Helena Ribeiro Facci Ruiz;
  • in Canada, Carole Huston, Stacey McFarlane, Susan Poluyko and Linda Rankin;
  • in Denmark, Birthe Witt;
  • in England, Jenni Gordon, Bridget Macklin, Sandra Scott Palmer, Cynthia Griffiths, Sue Owen, Carole West and Lyn Danbrook;
  • in France, Marianne Marcuse, Pascale Maasdam, Genevieve Enggasser, Jean-Francois Mazouaud, Riou, Veronique Duthoit and Soraya Villain;
  • in Ireland, Caroline Kenny, Lorraine Sheridan O’Boyle and Mary Queeney;
  • in Israel, Susana Krimerman;
  • in Italy, Elisabetta Simeone;
  • in Japan, Hideaki Ryu, Junko Ishida, Mika Honda, Valéria Tanaka, Mami Kubota, Ayako Taketani and Yoko Sekino;
  • in New Zealand, Diane Chaney;
  • in Spain, Ana Isabel Muro Campo, Elena Correa Gonzalez, Olga Fargas Obiols, Nerea Domenech Rodriguez, Maria Asuncion Berbegal Romeo, Manuel Fernandez Santoyo, Antonio Javier Aguilar Laguna, Maria Carmen Lozano Casado and Montserrat Masdeu Bonet;
  • and in the U.S.A., Patricia Mattera and Julie McKay.

There are now 1,315 practitioners on the register.

This archive material has been edited to remove some out-of-date advice and information.