JULY 2017 THE RIDER /31 Equine Assisted Psychotherapy: Treating PTSD

By Lesley Hannell Equine Assisted Psychotherapy has been

found to be very helpful in treating PTSD, stress, anxiety, trauma, bullying, depression, low self es- teem and low confidence. It is also a useful way to explore and build healthy relationships within a couple, a family or a group that interacts together. This type of therapy is very different than tra-

ditional “talk therapy” and involves a client inter- acting one on one with a horse or several horses. The horse becomes part of the therapy. The focus is on developing a bond and trust in order that the client can begin to feel safe and explore their emo- tions better with the end result being that of inte- grating aspects of self and of past or present life experiences in a new healthier way. The role of the therapist is to be present and to assist the client in their experience with the horse or horses. Horses are very intuitive animals and as such

they sense the emotions of the person working with them. They will react from a place of honesty and will often cause emotions that have been blocked from conscious awareness to arise in a person. With the help of the therapist these emotions are explored and the client is encouraged to begin to relate to the horse from their true “authentic self”. This experience of developing trust and a feeling of honest and safe interaction with another living being can be healing and can help the client to de- velop a new view of self and the world they live in.

In a recent experience of EAP a client ex-

pressed the following: “I can’t recommend this work highly enough

and want to help spread the word to fellow PTSD survivors and or their families who may be strug- gling with this often very challenging mental health affliction. The impact of PSTD can be so far reaching to both friends, colleagues and of-course family and loved ones. It has inspired me to feel as if I’ve finally found a way to turn a corner in a pre- viously pervasive dark alley towards a new found

source of hopeful light.” This client has struggled with complex PTSD

for the last 8 years and is also a survivor of child- hood sexual abuse. This was her first experience of EAP, but the bonding with the horse was appar- ent from the start. While she did have some expe- rience riding horses as a child and adolescent, she stated that: “The subtle nuance of this emotional inter-

play is very different from previous experiences of more intense horse back riding. It seems more about developing a grounded core relationship be-

tween the human and horse above all else. It is also about gaining crucial enlightened insights into per- sonal barriers and issues. It allows one to get back in touch with parts of self that have often been very damaged in survivors of traumatic abuse. The pure emotions of the horses helps to free us from the limitations of disconnecting from our most au- thentic selves. It can be tremendously healing and is a most enjoyable experience” For more information on this type of work or

to arrange for a session contact:

Lesley Hannell, M.A., C.Psych. 905-518-8283 (phone or text)

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