You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2010.

Brain by dierk schaefer.

“Every man can, of he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain”
Santiago Ramon y Cajal

Santiago Ramon y Cajal was a nobel laureate and one of the greatest neurobiologists in history.  His assertion above has been proved more and more true as time has gone on and more elaborate science has been able to affirm the brain’s ability to change.  REMEMBER one of my favorite words for 2010 NEUROPLASTICITY?  I have been, as a trauma therapist, trauma survivor, and passionate advocate for people’s ability to find healing out of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, more invigorated by the day with the overwhelming new science proving that my experience and beliefs are more than just hypothesis in the mist.

I went to a lecture last Friday on “Neurobiology & Trauma” presented by the highly esteemed and eloquent Dr. Amanda Evans of Florida Gulf Coast University (and President of Florida’s National Association of Social Work).  I love a good neurobiology and trauma lecture as much as the next person–well, ok I guess I love it probably more than MOST of the people next to me–but I never know what to expect and get nervous for a 101 type generalist discussion.  I was blown away by Dr. Evans workshop–she affirmed all of what I have already learned and threw her own vantage point into the mix in a refreshing way.

One of the things she stressed, and I loved her description (I will paraphrase), was the difference between a traumatic experience, trauma survivor, and a person living with Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  I loved that she made this distinction because as a trauma therapist in a small field with this focus–most mental health professionals don’t specialize in this area–I have found there are so many perpetuated myths and misconceptions about PTSD that often get passed on as truths to clients and other professionals.  Some of the greatest myths I have heard perpetuated by other mental health professionals (well-intentioned but can be so damaging for clients and the perceptions of PTSD as a whole) are:

  • PTSD is a terminal diagnosis–You will have it forever.
  • PTSD is incurable, un-healable and can only be moderated with medication.
  • PTSD exists if you have even one or two of the symptoms and even if they go away if they return (even one symptom) then it means you have had it all along.
  • PTSD happens to anyone who has experienced trauma–if something traumatic happened you have PTSD.
  • PTSD is treated with talk therapy and medication–there are no other treatment approaches that do any good.
  • …I know there are more but these are the biggest.

Dr. Evans, in her eloquence, stated: (paraphrased)

“Having a symptom of PTSD does not make the diagnosis.  A person may have a flashback or intrusive thought at some point triggered by something that happens but that does not mean they have PTSD.  Post traumatic stress disorder is a persistent cluster of symptoms so great and overwhelming that they impact functioning and living life.  They affect a person’s ability to work, have personal relationships, and generally function in the world.  If you are not experiencing these elements in your daily life then you are having a normal response to a traumatic experience if you occasionally are reminded and it brings on a singular nightmare, thought, flashback–that is ok and does not mean that you have a disordered condition.  There is a misrepresentation of the difference between a normative response of a trauma survivor and a disordered way of being.”

Again, this is my paraphrasing of her words but the gist is what she stated.  It is always exciting for me to hear another professional, especially a well-versed specialist in the area of trauma, neurobiology, and diagnosis, describe what I know to be true as well.  Our brains can change.  The very nature of our own capacity for survival–mind,body, and spirit–that help us to SURVIVE are what can entrench that survival instinct and create a disordered response to the world–one that is all survival mode all the time.  This entrenched way of being that becomes a disordered response to the world in all aspects (mind,body, and spirit) are PTSD.  We can chip away at those responses and CHANGE our brain with the same resilience and survival capacity that brought us into a PTSD state in the first place.  The brain and our humanity are complex but also simple–we survive and hopefully through work we can do more than that and begin to THRIVE.  This is true for trauma survivors and everyone overcoming difficulties in life.

This also relates so much to MIND, BODY, and SPIRIT WELLNESS in that it gives hope and the potential for hope and change in ourselves and our lives grounding in reality and science!  Whether you are dealing with traumatic issues, stress, anxiety, or any emotionally distressing experience you can know that there is hope in our world and in our own BRAINS for CHANGE.  Neuroscientists are saying it, therapists are saying it, and the illusions and myths are being dispelled to make way for the truths of hard science and soft science.  I have known my own truth in my life, PTSD, and recovery journey in a visceral way…these new facts only help me to depict this truth concretely for others and be able to be an instiller of hope in my clients lives rather than handing out terminal diagnosis of disorder with no end.

APRIL is the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness month and in the honor of that I wanted to discuss the exciting world of hope in recovery and healing from traumatic experience.  I hope more people can believe in themselves, their brains, their spirits, their bodies and the ability to find healing from a variety of sources!  I discovered yoga as an avenue to my own wellness and found, through neurobiology and the roots of trauma and trouble with speech in trauma, that movement can often be a great outlet for emotional pain when talk cannot.  I hope everyone, trauma survivor, and just those surviving their own issues of life, takes the time to search for their own avenues to wellness!  What do you love? What brings you comfort? Start there and reach out for professional help if you need it–there are ways to healing and there are people who can help!

All my thoughts and blessings to those suffering from emotional pains today and every day.


NOW ADDED to my WEBSITE at www.embodymentalhealth.com and it’s own BLOG PAGE at http://pranaequus.blogspot.com is my newly launching program called PRANA EQUUS!  I am super excited about this as I have been working towards it since I began integrating yoga and creative arts into Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy programming!

I will be working in collaboration with Therapeutic Riding Instructor Maurette Hanson of ANGEL SMILE FARM, LLC.  Check out the blog for more information and new posts here and on that blog upcoming!

YAY–exciting things on the horizon!

ALSO: I made the logo myself on my software I have been fiddling around with–thought it was worth a shot to try on a Sunday afternoon :).  It may not be the permanent solution to a logo but it encompasses the essence of what I want to convey so it is a beginning!  Feel free to weigh in on your thoughts about the look or ideas–I would love to hear!  My initial thought was to have the horse breathing colorful (pink, purple,or  grey) smoke but I lack the skills for that so perhaps another draft might integrate that piece.  Again, let me know your thoughts–on the program, the logo, and my phrase–which, yes, is an equine play on “off the mat” philosophy in a psychotherapy context!

Namaste and hope you all had a great weekend!

Beware _ Manure happens by ktylerconk.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

Charles R Swindoll

Today I went to 6 a.m. morning meditation–yes, I went even though as of Sunday I am a Yoga Teacher NOT a trainee and it is NOT mandatory.  My yoga teacher discussed with great enthusiasm the manure that had been delivered in his driveway this week; leaving him plenty of rich and vitamin-dense poops (for lack of a better term) with which to create fertile soil and grow his garden to a lush jungle paradise.  It got me thinking about “crap” and growth.  Yes, I can find a metaphor anywhere!

This week has been one of the most professionally surreal and personally taxing week of my life in ways I could never have anticipated.  I thought, quite mistakenly, that the conclusion of yoga school would leave ample room to breathe, family time, and some reprieve before the next journey.  Apparently, God, the universe, and karma thought I needed a slap in the face and a real test of my dedication to my path towards complementary therapies, integrative mental health, and bringing education on the matter wherever I can.  I came to a professional crossroads of sorts.  I am having one of those life ultimatums that everyone would be propelled to say (and they have been saying), “Looks like someone is sending you a sign.”  Hmmm.

Everything happens for a reason?  I am still conflicted on this point, but there is something inside of me that tells me what everyone else has been, there is a decision I am being forced to make to follow what I believe in or let it die.   I am not willing to let it die.  So, I find myself on the precipice of a journey, jump started by life and circumstances, into something unknown, wonderful, and frightening.

With that I reveal the newest addition (upcoming) to my website which will be my “PRIVATE PRACTICE” section with all of the treatment modalities I focus on and the unique, creative, and eclectic approach to finding healing and wellness in issues of trauma and emotional distress in others.  I am launching my private practice this month and beginning to work towards what I know to be the path I was intended to be on.

So sometimes we walk out our door to find a pile o’ “crap” has been delivered at our doorstep and realize that much grows in manure–often richer and more lush than it would have in simple dirt.  Hence my metaphor-ing on the matter.  This week I was given some “crap” and found some inspiration for growth.

I have also been given a blessing far beyond anything I could have imagined.  In a moment of flux and uncertainty I found the beauty of being surrounded by caring, self-less souls, who are impassioned about my passion, supportive of my journey and believe strongly in this path I am on.  I have been rewarded with the riches of love beyond my imagining; in finding conflict I also found that in my brief time in Florida I have been given so many kindred spirits who are giving me their ears, their resources, their ideas, and their comfort–what more riches could anyone ask for.

So what began as a somewhat traumatic Monday morning has, with time and perspective, become a rich opportunity for growth in even the most stinky of piles.  As my yoga teacher stated when I told him of my turn of life events, “How lucky you are! What a blessing! God must really love you!”  I am going to try to continue on a path of enthusiasm and optimism and put everything I have into working towards bringing wellness–mind, body, and spirit–to as large a community of persons as possible!

CHECK OUT MY NEW PROFILE ON THE PSYCHOLOGY TODAY WEBSITE!

Om & Blessings!

“The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.”

Maya Angelou

This week has brought a plethora of wonderful blessings and magical gifts my way!  Let me list the three prominent highlights:

  1. New Partnership with Lisa Kelly & THE RED TENT : A Healing Arts Center for Women in Delray Beach, Florida.
  2. PASSED my Yoga Teacher Training Final Exam last night–85% thank you very much.  And I thought NYU Graduate School was hard.
  3. Article on “COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES FOR TRAUMA” was posted at Michele’s HEAL MY PTSD “Professional Perspectives” section of her website today.

Every time I wonder how I am going to take the next step forward into the wild blue yonder of my life and then something beautiful and wonderful happens.  I would say, without hesitation, this was the case in meeting with Lisa Kelly, owner of The Red Tent, trained Doula, massage therapist, and passionate advocate of the ability to heal oneself by accessing the body to get to the emotional content inside.  In our discussion of our mutual passions for healing and wellness and vision for a community of holistic healthcare I realized I had stumbled upon–in one short email, a Facebook connection, and 48 hours–one of those kindred spirits that I thought were so rare.  What I have realized is that the more you shout into the abyss your passion, the more kindred souls you find echoing back.

I have begun the embryonic phases of a partnership with Lisa and her wonderful center THE RED TENT whose name is meant to symbolize (as the book by the same name does) a community of women joining together for healing.  I will begin practicing at her oasis of a location (complete with outdoor foot bath/ jacuzzi!) providing services such as: individual, couples & mother/baby therapy, individual, couples & group yoga for mental health/wellness, and a mosaic of creative workshops.  My practice in this soothing environment will be given the freedom to apply the tools I find so healing including: breathing exercises, guided visualization, yoga techniques, mind/body and somatic attunement, creative arts, and imagination.  I believe this new venture is going to be the beginning of a wonderful journey towards cultivating a healing community and bringing the intention of “embodying mental health” to life in full 3 dimensional form.

I titled this post “New Horizons: Watching Life Unfold From the Driver’s Seat” because that is how it feels as I begin this process of rebirth, as it were.  The horizon shifts and the sun peaks out from the landscape without any help from us, we only direct the path of where we drive, towards it, away from it, or meandering slowly in it’s direction.  There are times in my life were I definitely went in the opposite direction of light and other times where I took the winding hard way to get to the sun on the horizon.  But today, in this moment, in this breath, it feels like I am full of intention and on a steady path towards the sun rising ahead.

The sun rises and sets in our life and we either go with it or steer away–I am ready to gaze into the sun and drive right into the warmth and brightness of its glow.

One exhausting and wonderful adventure, yoga school, is coming to a close.  And so it seems an apt time for the newly donned subtitle of the “MY EMBODIMENT” blog: “…exploring mind, body, and spirit wellness.” That is where I think I am headed, on an exploration and continued journey into self, wellness, and continued healing paths of myself and others.  I am leaving yoga school having learned much and knowing that I have much to learn–the best educational experiences provide more questions than answers, more quests into the unknown and momentum forward.  I have stretched in every meaning of the word: mind, body, and spirit.  I have met wonderful people and found some kindred spirits along the way.  And I am grateful for every moment spent struggling towards balance and head stands along the way!  I am proud to say I can finally balance on my head, even if momentarily, and I think this progress is literal and metaphoric as my life propels forward into the upside downs and unknowns.

Whatever tomorrow brings I want to stare into the sun and drive straight towards the horizon of my life!  Sometimes life reminds you that you are on the right path.  I imagine a road sign on my metaphoric highway towards the sun with a sign reading “Next Destination Just Ahead: Beware of Speed Bumps”.  Reminding me that I have the potential to enact all the things I want to, I just need to make sure I keep myself in check in the process.  In yoga and in life, our human flaws and egos are the enemy of all good works.  I want to be on the side of Karmic Service & try to leave as much of my human flaws at the last rest stop before I reach my next destination.  I hope yoga gave me some of those tools.  I hope my passion for this work has given me the energy and stamina for the trek.  And I hope my car’s tires have warranties–because there are always bumps along the way.

**ALSO my “Yoga for Trauma Survivors” at Yoga & Inner Peace in Lake Worth, FL continues tomorrow 1:00-2:30pm: visit http://www.yogapeace.com for more information!**

CHECK OUT…

The Red Tent: A Healing Arts Center for Women at www.redtentwellness.com

Heal My PTSD: Conquer the Past. Create the Future at www.healmyptsd.com

The old glass half empty versus glass half full is an overused phrase but most overused phrases become so because they are both succinct and apt–as is this particular tome of truth.  So often we look at life, emotional distress, and healing from a glass half empty vantage point and in doing so we short change ourselves and our own capacity to find healing and wellness in our minds, hearts, and spirits.

I spoke in my 10 Words of Inspiration for 2010 post about the word “neuroplasticity” which is defined as the brain’s ability to CHANGE.  What a fascinating and optimistic truism of neurobiology that we, as humans, have been privileged to discover.  And what wonderful hope this truth can bring in life and healing if we choose to see it.

I was made privy on Sunday, via a facebook link, about a post from May 2009 by Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s “Paging Dr. Gupta” blog, medical correspondent for CNN.  He was asked whether there is healing from PTSD and his opinion, I believe more personal than medical, dictated that there was no full healing from PTSD and that it was a constant, lifelong struggle just to manage.  I felt provoked, by the certitude of his assertion to leave the following comment on this post  that I think describes in full my vantage point on the matter (as old as the post was it was just too in my core to say something):

Hello,

It is always a difficult thing as a survivor of trauma and sufferer from PTSD to tell your story. Thank you Dr. Gupta for doing that–it takes much bravery and internal strength. I think, also, that it is hard when you are in the immediate throes of traumatic experience and the aftermath of PTSD to see outside of it–very understandably so. I remember sitting on the side of traumatic experience where I thought there could be no relief or release and unable to find anyone that would insinuate otherwise. It is, again, so understandable to be so deep inside the pain of trauma and not yet in on a path of reprieve and healing that it is hard to imagine real healing or reprieve is possible.

I am a trauma therapist who has worked extensively with combat veterans, survivors of sexual trauma, sufferers of domestic violence, war torture and a variety of other traumatic issues to include chronic illness, eating disorders, and addictions. I have also integrated an extensive amount of mindfulness practices, mind/body techniques, yoga methods, animal-bond therapies and creative arts to facilitate healing in my own recovery as a trauma survivor over the years and in present-day in the lives of my clients. I have found that a multitude of approaches can facilitate a great amount of healing even to the point of being curative in most respects.

Can things be triggering to a person with traumatic history? Yes. But that does not PTSD make. PTSD is misunderstood so often and in that there are a lot of professionals and survivors alike giving themselves or their clients these, as I call them, “terminal PTSD diagnosis”. Telling people with PTSD that they have it forever, there is no way out, is beyond demoralizing it is minimizing a human’s ability to heal or (as we have learned from the study of neuroplasticity in the brain) the brain’s capacity, neurologically, to CHANGE ITSELF.

We learn survival response in overload during traumatic experience and when it gets “stuck” PTSD ensues. PTSD is a cluster of sever symptoms that equal up to a disorder by definition. We are all effected by the things that happen in our lives and painful experience leaves a mark. We cannot erase the existence of traumatic experience from our memories but there is possibility to heal the traumatic response and that stuckness of the survival mechanism so that one is not diagnostically, by definition, a sufferer of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Are there moments we are reminded of painful experience? Yes. Are there moments that might trigger that memory? Yes. But we also have a way to pull ourselves out–body, mind, and spirit–of the PTSD of trauma and live a healthful life. I have done this and I work to help others do the same daily as a trauma therapist. I believe in neuroplasticity, the brain’s capacity to change and essentially heal itself back to repair. I believe in all of our abilities to find our own resilience and wellness. These things are not easy and there is a process but I will not tell my clients that their PTSD is terminal–this was not true for me and I don’t believe it has to be true for others.

All my best wishes, prayers, and hopes for healing to all those suffering from PTSD and to yourself Dr. Gupta–I believe in your potential to heal and find wellness!

Teresa Bennett Pasquale, LCSW
http://www.embodymentalhealth.com

I figured that my comment would go into the blogosphere oblivion and then today I received the following email from Emily Van Horn, a somatic and energy bodywork professional from Santa Monica, California:

SUBJECT: thank you!

FROM: Emily Van Horn

Hello Teresa,
I just wanted to say thank you so much for your comment to Dr. Gupta.  As a trauma healing practitioner myself, I was appalled when reading that post that someone in such a position of “authority” would promote the mis conception that people can only manage their symptoms but can’t ever heal from PTSD.  I see the opposite of that on a daily basis in my own healing practice.

I wrote a comment that was never posted so it’s a relief to see that your was.  Again, thank you for taking the time to share your truth and help dispel the misinformation that is being promoted about the human capacity to heal from traumatic experiences.

many blessings,
Emily

I had been discussing earlier that day with my friend and co-professional Michele Rosenthal over at Heal My PTSD.com the impact a survivor and trauma professional’s voice can have when leant to the prospects and hopes for a healing journey.  That is why I started all the work I have, am trying (slowly) to write the memoir of my trauma experience and healing journey and created my website to expand people’s vantage points of potential angles and paths to healing.  Then there are the days I wonder if I am shouting into an abyss with only my own echo.  I know we all have those days.  Yesterday, on all fronts was not one of those days.  From the wonderful comments I got from people on my Karma-Infuse Your Life post to the wonderful surprise of an email from Emily  (LOOK FOR UPCOMING INTERVIEW WITH EMILY) I really felt as though my dreams, hopes, and personal journey of healing had some purpose and place as I shout into the void with my voice and my story.

My hope for everyone is HOPE.  A hope for healing.  A hope for peace.  A hope for a CHANGE OF MIND–as neuroplasticity tells us is possible for all of us with the right amount of effort.  See what we can do when we just try.  I tell my clients that all the time and they surprise themselves with proving that truism for themselves.  I hope for the hope of healing for Dr. Sanjay Gupta and all of the readers of his writing about trauma and all those who have not found the own healing properties and resources in their own minds, hearts, and spirits.  IT is there.  I believe in that.

Yoga can be a wonderful personal practice–body, mind, and spirit.  Through asanas we can bend our body, stretch our muscles, and flex our physicality.  Internally we can learn to quiet the mind, decrease anxiety, and find inner calm and centeredness.  In the intangibles of spiritual connection we can find through space to breathe we find connection to something larger than the self, something part of a collective whole and a union that persists inside ourselves and out.  From this we can, if we choose, extend that unity further.  If we choose.

I am coming to the close of my teacher training, beginning my “Yoga for Trauma Survivors” class and planning forward working and preparing for a variety of upcoming talks on mind/body wellness, yoga for mental health, and complementary therapies at the NASW Conference in Florida, at hOMe yoga in Mahwah, New Jersey, and in a graduate elective at a university here in Southern Florida.  As I prepare to move out of this phase of my life, an intensive training phase, and into an intensive action phase I think of the extension and arms of yoga.  How far can yoga reach?  As far as your mind and metaphors can reach–and much further forward than I can stretch in forward bend.

Karma yoga, selfless service, and yoga as action is becoming more and more synonymous as yoga communities are taking the internal calm of mind that comes from meditation and a quiet graceful posture and using that clarity to effect change in the world around them.  Such figures as Seane Corn and her “Off the Mat and Into the World” campaign highlight the ways in which yoga and a well-known voice can be channeled to create change both on the mat and in the world at large.  But we also don’t need to have a voice that is known to say something of value.  Yoga can imbue us with a sense of strength, empowerment, grounding, and centering and these essential tools of being can be taken by any yogi or yogini and be tailored for wherever your heart and passions might lead you.

I wrote earlier this month about Swami Padma, of the Sivananda Center in San Francisco, and his work to bring yoga to inmates in the California Prison System.  This is just another example of one person’s passion creating a ripple effect, a focus on a cause that might otherwise be ignored, and monies and services put in place as a result.  Imagine what you could do taking a combination of your passions, creativity, yogic centeredness, and spirit for action and creating change in the world.  Whatever your passion is, wherever your voice takes you, you have the potential to effect change for a population or a cause that otherwise could have been ignored.  What you believe in matters.  What you fight for can make a difference.  Lending your voice, even if it is just the voice of one, can change the hearts and minds of many.  We all have the potential to create ripples of change in this world; even ripples that could extend farther and wider than your imagination can imagine.

Lately, as I extend and deepen my own yoga practice, center inward more in meditative moments, follow my passion and lend my voice to what I believe in the more it seems that voice and these words of mine seem to blossom and grow branches upon branches.  I am still not sure how far this will take me or how much I will be able to do but I am setting my sights on infinity and anything along the way, on my pursuit, amazing and beautiful things are happening.  Connections are being made, changes are happening almost organically, and the contagion that is my own passion seems to spread as I open my mouth, write my words, and purvey my dreams for what could be.

My aspirations reach as far as creating a nonprofit and learning institute that could bring complementary therapies and yoga for mental health to a variety of populations at low to no cost as well as train persons in the field of yoga, mental health, and complementary therapies how to integrate the two and be sensitive to the needs and issues of mental health populations.  I believe healing and the capacity to heal can emanate from all manner of creative and holistic approaches and in my own trauma healing yoga, contemplative practices, and animal-bond/relational experiences have been profound.  I want to extend these tools to anyone I can.  So for now I will speak anywhere I can on the matter, create programs wherever I have the option to, and hope for a future where I can reach past the branches of my own dreams into something even more profound than I could imagine.

What do you dream about?  What do your passions lie?  What would you do to effect change in the world you are in, the life you have, and using whatever skills or knowledge you have at your disposal?  It is amazing the well of talent and internal resources we all have.  Every person is the authority on something or passionate for something that might be ignored by everyone else.  Every voice matters!  How are you going to use yours?

“Taking one breath after another with my horses–and you must breathe with them if you want to understand their rhythms and emotions–I can settle myself, become calm, take stock of my surroundings.”


“I have spent my life with horses, eventually becoming a horse trainer and riding instructor.  Horses were my true teachers so I tell my story through them.  They are why I stand and speak.  They are my touchstone and bridge to my own kind.  They help me heal myself and go into human relationships a little stronger. “

Excerpted from MY HORSES, MY HEALERS by Shelley Rosenberg

Shelley Rosenberg is a courageous and impassioned woman.  Wounded by the trauma of childhood abuses she was not broken.  Her relationship with horses over the course of her life helped her to bolster her own inner strength and eventually write her memoir, My Horses, My Healers, which explores horse-human bond, her personal intimate experience with horses, and how the bond between horse and human can create healing out of traumatic experience.  She has collaborated with Dr. Nancy Coyne, MD (whose interview was posted earlier this week) to create a workshop entitled “Horses as Healers” which incorporates mind/body techniques, yoga, guided visualization, and horse-human relational experiences to facilitate healing experiences in trauma survivors.

Shelley is an Epona Advanced Approved Instructor working out of Arizona ( at the Epona Center) and Maine in facilitating growth, healing, and wellness through the horse-human relationship.  I am always profoundly impacted by the universal elements of traumatic experience and healing catharsis.  Shelley references multiple times in the interview below the process of going from “surviving to thriving” which I also discuss in my website http://www.embodymentalhealth.com as my credo: “Life: Don’t just survive, thrive.”  I think it shows a like ambition in those who have healed from trauma and search for ways to help others find healing and wellness from their traumatic experience.  Shelley’s book is a story of strength, courage, and discovery through intimate experience and exploration of horses as healers.

I hope you take the time to look into her work with Nancy Coyne and her memoir which is beautifully written.  I am in admiration of her voice as a survivor of traumatic experience.  I believe strongly that the more survivors who have learned to thrive can speak out the more they can inspire others to work towards their own recovery and healing–and give courage to people who need it.  I thank Shelley, as a fellow survivor, for her courage in telling her story and taking the time to do so again on this blog.

Q:  Why did you decide to write out your traumatic experience and healing journey in your book “My Horses, My Healers”?  Did you have any trepidations or concerns about opening up so much of your inner journey in writing for others to see?  What did you hope would come out of telling your story?

I truly had only one reason to write my story, to help others use there voice. to give words to there story, and be deeply heard.

Q:  What do you think, at the root, is so healing about horses and the horse human relationship?  What for you was the cathartic element of your experience with horses?

Horses were my ears  to the little girl who heard “if you tell you will die”. They can listen, react, and go back to grazing. Something I was not able to do. How the horse knows by nature after a trauma peace move on, life is no longer in danger.

My cathartic experience as you ask was breaking my arm so I did not have to go to Grandpa’s house. My learning to use my voice was what set me free to move through the past and like the horses go back to a full life.

Q:  You describe your experience with horses as “self-healing”; what do you mean by that?  Do you feel “healed” from you traumatic experience?  What were the essential elements of your healing process?  What do you think got you to the place, emotionally, that you are today?

Horses mirror the authentic self, I was living a life from horses accident to horse accident. Each fall was a way to get out of the inner pain I was in. Each injury was worse then the next, until I got that I was the cause of these falls. I found one therapist after another until I found someone who deeply listened to the pain in my soul. I still am doing my own work I believe we are never done learning. It is my job as a healer to keep up on my own personal work.

Q:  What attracted you to horses as a child?  Why did you follow the equestrian path professionally?

My very best friend had horses, I have Joanne Clark to be thankful for leading me to them. As I started to learn more and more about horses, spending every minute I could with them.   I knew I wanted to be a horse professional at a very young age.

Q:  When did you begin to explore using your professional horsemanship capacities to help others heal from their emotional issues of trauma and the traumatic experience?

I think as a riding instructor we all listen to stories of the clients’ accidents. If we ask questions and offer our own truth we can help anyone. I am more careful now and work on deep issues with Dr. Nancy Coyne a trauma specialist. We work directly with the horses as co-facilitators.  Riding and ground work are incorporated in all of our workshops.

Q:  You have created a program called “Horses as Healers” at the Epona Center in Arizona.  What led to the creation of this program with your co-facilitator Nancy Coyne, MD?  What led you to create the program in the format you did–with the incorporation of creative arts, yoga, and other methods of complementary therapies?

We started this work first in a Horses As Healers workshop in Bath, Maine. I was working for the Epona Center so our next full workshop was at Apache Springs ranch. The creations propose was to give a safe space for the participants to be deeply heard. and given tools to help change the patterns they are in. To go from surviving to thriving, the arts and yoga and body work are all incorporated to move the process along in a new pathway for radical self care.

Q:  What kind of riding and horsemanship techniques have you implimented to facilitate a psychotherapeutic experience for participants in your group?

We do so many different mind body connections, like feeling the movement of the horse while mounted, reflective grooming, and connected round pen where four people go into the round pen with one horse. They must speak to each other before any movement takes place. Like asking the horse to walk they need to all agree to do this action before the person who they decide will ask the horse to move. So they ask if everything they do is okay before they move ahead. If someone’s arousal level goes up the group stops or time out, and they come together in the pen to speak the fear. Most of the time the horse will come in and listen to what is going on. Then they go back to what ever goal they set for themselves. The object is communication, and being heard.

Q:  How is it, as a dressage trained professional, to work in a mental health capacity with a psychiatrist?  How do you both balance your professional backgrounds and goals for clients (re: learning horsemanship skills and creating therapeutic experiences) to create a cohesive psychotherapeutic experience for your clients?

Dr. Nancy Coyne is the mental health professional, I am the trained horse professional, we must be open to what ever takes place with the clients. We have now been doing this work for four years and are very good at speaking our own truth in the moment. We respect each others decisions and always have the clients best interest and safety first.

Q: On your Epona website biographic information it discusses your work with “reflective riding”?  What is this technique and how is it therapeutically effective for clients?  What is “passive roundpenning” and how is that different from “active roundpenning”?  What are “Journey Rides”?

The reflective ride has evolved in many ways it can and usually is a profound experience. The rider reflects what is going while they are lead by a trained staff employee. If they are having an issue with a fall or a body sensation we can ask all kinds of questions to have them reflect on what happened frame by frame.

Passive round pen is a more private time the client has with the horse they choose alone in the pen. Active round pen is where we teach the client how to move the horse safely. The journey ride is a guided meditation on horseback. With a story I have created to fit the group.

Q:  What have you discovered in creating and implementing this program?  What did you expect?  What were the results?  What has surprised you?

I have discovered the voice is one of the tools to set us free from our well used pathways that have not been helping us move on. I have learned I have great joy in helping others. I wanted to help others speak and we have done this many, many times. The results  truly  take my breath away. People come now ready to do the work they came for. I am not surprised I am truly grateful for the gifts i have been given.

Q:  What do you envision in the future of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy and other Equine Assisted Activities?  What do you hope to see moving forward in your own practice and programming in the field?

I see the future being more guided by rules from EFFMA or NARAH. I hope people take this work as serious as it is. I am writing another book accessing your intuition I will be telling the stories of what has evolved in my own work with others.

Q:  What would you like to say to other trauma survivors struggling on their own journey of healing?  What would you like to say to other professionals looking to explore alternative ways to trauma and mental health treatment outside of traditional talk therapy?

To trauma survivors I hope they find someone to listen to them in a way they have there process deeply heard. Do not stop looking until you find this human. If you can find a therapist who has access and has worked with horses as healers.

To traditional talk therapists please take a step out of the office with a horse professional and try this very powerful work for yourself.

Q:  Any words of inspiration, wisdom, or anything else you would like to leave the readers with.

This is the way to help the clients move from surviving to thriving, the way of the horse.

Thank you for letting me speak.

March 2010
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