Horses and people are both social by nature. Horses will react to a person’s behavior in much the same way another person will. Whereas, human interactions can include responses to others based on something that happened in the past or something that may happen in the future, horses live in the moment and respond only to what is happening in that moment.
For someone who has been traumatized, it can be very difficult to trust themselves and other people. Horses provide a foundation for healing to begin, because clients can relate to and interact with horses in ways that often prove difficult for them when it comes to people. A horse’s reaction offers honest and accurate feedback. Through building a relationship with horses, clients gain insight into their own verbal and nonverbal behaviors, as well as behavioral and relational patterns. Horses will not demonstrate acceptance, trust and respect in a relationship until the client learns to build a relationship based on acceptance, mutual trust and respect. This allows the client to take responsibility and choose the kind of relationships they build with the horses and, ultimately, in their life.
eQUINE ASSISTED THERAPY SERVICES
Byrdhouse Ministries offers a unique counseling experience referred to as Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP). EAP is based on experiential work which uses horses in the counseling session to increase clients’ awareness of their thoughts, words, and actions. EAP can be a life-giving form of therapy for those dealing with various struggles. EAP helps the individual address areas of concern in a non-threatening approach where they are able to identify problematic thoughts or behaviors. We use the Natural Lifemanship TF-EAP model, incorporating two approaches which involve mounted and unmounted work, to best address the specific needs of the client. We currently offer sessions to adolescents and adults. Sessions typically last 50-60 minutes.
Link to Natural Lifemanship site – https://naturallifemanship.com/
Relationship Logic facilitates a process whereby clients are able to address and move through past or present damaging life circumstances, understand how those circumstances affect their current interactions, and make the personal changes necessary for healthy, fulfilling relationships in the present and future. An individual’s reaction to life experiences gives shape to how they move forward in relationships. The impacts of trauma can set in motion ways of coping and interacting in relationships that frequently form patterns specific to each individual. Even after trauma has been processed cognitively, relationship patterns based on coping mechanisms are often still in place. These coping mechanisms, while once necessary for survival and safety, become detrimental in situations where survival is no longer the overriding concern.
Relationship Logic consists primarily of groundwork, or unmounted work, in which each client chooses the horse they will build a relationship with. Building a relationship with a horse is not a metaphor for other relationships. It is a real relationship based on a partnership, free of intimidation, appeasement, and submission. When building a relationship with a horse, clients naturally repeat their own relationship patterns learned through trauma. The horse’s honest response to the client’s behaviors and internal state, makes it easier for clients to recognize their own problematic patterns. As the client and the horse continue to engage in building a relationship, relationship patterns are allowed to surface and be transformed. Every principle that applies to building a relationship with their horse can then be transferred for building healthy relationships in their lives.
Horseback riding is incorporated into the therapy process in order to address very specific therapeutic goals related to the client’s ability to regulate his or her responses to stress and its accompanying emotional states. Studies show that brain functionality in people who have experienced trauma is often impacted by an accompanying disorganization and/or lack of neurological connections in the brain. Because of the body’s physiological response to trauma, trauma victims often struggle with emotion and impulse control, which results in the inability to appropriately handle even minimal stress. Trauma Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (TF-EAP) utilizes the rhythmic, patterned, repetitive, bilateral movement inherent in riding a horse to increase and reorganize the connections in the brain. The horse is able to provide the rhythm required to effectively heal the traumatized brain, increasing the brain’s ability for emotion and impulse control. In effect, clients passively learn to self-regulate through the use of the rhythmic, patterned, repetitive movement of the horse, until they are able to independently provide that rhythm and emotional regulation for themselves.
In office-based counseling sessions, the therapist may discuss with the client how to use newly learned skills in more stressful situations within the client’s life. Whereas, Rhythmic Riding actually provides a mildly stressful, yet safe and predictable, environment through which clients can begin to practice the skills of emotional regulation within the counseling session. For the horse to have appropriate control, the client must first exercise control of his/her own thoughts, emotions, and actions. Rhythmic Riding affords clients the opportunity to practice and integrate the skills that help them control the chaos inside of them when they cannot control the chaos around them. This level of inner regulation is most profoundly experienced and learned on the back of a horse.