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THE FOLLOWING IS AN INTERVIEW WITH NANCY COYNE, MD. She is a trauma therapist, psychiatrist, yoga practitioner, horse lover, and artist who has taken all her passions and made the best use of them to assist traumatized persons in healing.  She uses a combination of mind/body, creative arts, and animal-bond approaches in her therapy and has collaborated with horse professional Shelley Rosenberg at the Epona Center in Arizona to create a therapeutic program for trauma survivors incorporating all her practices and passions entitled “Horses as Healers”.

I was blown away by both Nancy and Shelly in their stories, their passion for their work, and (for my own self) having found other people out there motivated in the same direction and integrating a mix of creative arts, yoga, and equine facilitated psychotherapy for healing from trauma.  I hope you all will find as much joy, passion, and inspiration in the following interview with Nancy Coyne, MD.  I am excited to bring Shelley Rosenberg’s interview in an upcoming post–equally as passionate and poignant as the one to follow.  Enjoy.  Be inspired.  Be moved to action.

Q:  How long have your worked in the field of trauma and PTSD?  Is this your primary population in your practice?  What led you to work with this population of people?

30 plus years.  Don’t know why but people just found me.

Q:  What is your psychotherapy background?  What led you to work in Equine Facilitated Psychotherapyand train with the Epona Center apprenticeship program?

I have always studied and practiced psychotherapy-learning whatever has been current dynamic, interactive, Reichian (where I started ) CBT, DBT, somatic , and in the past 5 years equine facilitated.  Horses came back into the forefront of my life by chance- a friend who ran a therapeutic riding program wanted me to help start a program to treat trauma survivors.  Then I came out west to learn what other people were doing.

Q:  You use yoga, breathing exercises, EMDR, and creative arts as well as EFP in your therapy practice.  What led you to incorporate mind/body, creative and complementary therapies into your practice?

I started out interested in mind-body- as a Reichian therapist, and I have been a longtime yoga student and practitioner.  Also I have always been an artist so incorporating art into psychotherapy seemed natural.

Q:  What is effective about using yoga in mental health work?  Creative arts? Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy?  What have you learned about yourself, healing, and mental health practice in the process of applying the above techniques in your work as a mental health practitioner?

Effective- yoga re focusses on the body where experience lives.  Art-to right or old brain image making-by passing defenses and pointing right to the authentic self’s truth.  As for what have i learned- that I best practice what I preach and that teaching or healing is the best way to learn something.  That I best take very good compassionate care of my self and that life is brief and precious and that we can alleviate lots of suffering by meditating and accepting what is with compassion.

Q:  What has been most rewarding about this creative approach to mental health?  What has been most surprising?

I can be fully authentic and speak in my own languages .  Surprising – that the rest of the world seems to be getting interested recently (holistic healing is going mainstream)

Q:  When and why did you become involved in the Epona Center’s programming?  What drew you to this work?  Did you have any hesitations about moving into the world of EFP?  What have you learned from the horses and the work with horses about yourself, your clients, and your work as a whole?

2006-came to Epona center for experience and training.  Horses are natural yogis-slow down, stay present, breath, connect with soul, nature, one another.  No hesitations.  Horses teach me about my fears, my difficulty setting boundaries, my spaciness, my ability to have fun and just play.  Clients have life changing moments with horses much more rapidly and deeply than in the office.  We all love being outdoors, in nature, being authentic and we all meet as equal partners (horses don’t care who has the diploma)

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 Shelley Rosenberg?  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?

About 70% of the people who came to all the programs seemed to be trauma survivors- so we crafted the program to fit their issues.

Q:  How is it working in a mental health capacity with a trained equine professional?  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?

It is challenging and also wonderful.  We work as equals, and each do what we do best.  There is lots of crossover.

Q:  What would you like to tell other mental health professionals looking into complementary therapies for mental health?  What suggestions do you have for integrating a variety of holistic approaches in treatment for mental health?

90 % of all experience and communication is non verbal.  So complementary (non verbal) approaches are very important.  Each of us needs to utilize whatever gifts and talents we have.

Q:  Have you encountered any issues of boundaries using these versatile approaches?  How do you believe a mental health professional can implement a variety of approaches (creative, mind/body, animal-human bond) while maintaining their role as a therapist?

Humility, honesty and being willing to stay with uncomfortable conflicts, talk, work them through and move on. Compassion and humor help.

Q:  What are your hopes for the future of mental health care and integrative/complementary therapies for mental health?  What would you like to see happen in the field in the next 5 years?

I hope we continue to experiment to find ways to alleviate suffering

Q: What would you hope to accomplish in your work in the next 5 years?  What project do you want to do that you haven’t done yet?

I want to finish a book I began 15 years ago about my experiences with abandonment – It is a picture book with some text for adults.

Learn more about Nancy Coyne, MD at http://web.mac.com/coynecreations/iWeb/Site/Welcome.html

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

Each one of us has the capacity to help and heal our own and each others’ wounds.  The horses and yoga remind us not to get too serious or arrogant.

underwater yoga by megan is me on flickrLearning to Swim

 

My lovely grandparents-in-law (is that a possible moniker?) allowed me to come over to their lovely backyard pool today, dogs in tow.  I was in desperate need of a geographic change after a week spent organizing, unboxing, and lugging everything and anything I own around the new house.  I was exhausted and testy; the dogs were spastic and antsy.  We needed a day of rest.  It was lovely.  Truly.

 

My husband’s grandparents are sweet, endearing people; his grandmother made me a plate of cheese, grapes, and crackers and his grandfather gave me dog care advice then they quickly retreated indoors to escape the heat and, I am certain, my over energized pups. 

 

The change of scenery was a starting point, a was finally absorbing some of the rich Florida sun and imbibing vibrant blue skies speckled with tufts of white but what really took me to another realm was the pool.  I have been what my mother lovingly titled “a fish” since I was old enough to walk and paddle through the shallow end of one public pool or another. 

 

I love the water.  I love to swim.  More than anything I adore the feeling of rocketing through deep waters, completely submerged, reaching for the rough cement floor, hearing nothing but the sound of limbs pushing through chlorine aqua and my own heartbeat.  It dives me into a silent internal peace that is akin to what I feel in the practice of yoga.  I feel in tune and rhythm with my body; swimming is like an aquatic dance of the body working in synchronicity with itself to create powerful motion.  Swimming to me is like flying; it makes me feel like I am transformed into something beyond human, something greater than myself. 

 

Yoga gives me a sense similar to that.  I feel in tune and a part of my surroundings in the water; the water and I are part of a large collective organism, working together.  With yoga I feel the fluidity of myself and the air around me, the ground below me; it holds me up and propels me from one pose to the next.  The two practices to me are moving arts and they take me to somewhere beyond me as an independent being. 

 

But I digress.  The day was just what was prescribed for all.  It was a feast for my senses and sun therapy to boot.  I read Julie & Julia (still avoiding reading my required texts for yoga school and beginning to feel the anxiety of a procrastinating delinquent) as I waded in the shallow end, putting it down every so often to swim laps back and forth from shallow to deep water. 

 

My big dog, Guinness, stalked  my every move like he was a hungry lion and I aquatic prey.  He followed every stroke and stared at me intently as I dove under and emerged again half way down the pool, longing to jump in but fearful to dive as he is still learning to swim.  The little one, Gaia, splashed and jumped in, swimming for her toy and then paddling frantically to the pool stairs.  She is definitely the bolder of the two of them, although their appearances deceptively mislead everyone into assuming the reverse. 

 

Completion of the day leaves me sufficiently tanned and satiated by the natural gifts of Florida life; the dogs are sufficiently exhausted and collapsed on their respective doggie beds.  I am also feeling acclimated and rejuvenated enough to brave my first Floridian yoga class tomorrow.  I am going to pick one of the few local studios and just dive in, having no option as of yet for home yoga as my husband, I have discovered, is holding my mat hostage in the great chilly north. 

 

So I revel in the new aquatic opportunities, both oceanic and chlorine-full, of this great warm state.  I am adjusting to the idea of year round warmth, year round sun, and year round access to cool waters to both lose and find myself in, in the best way: mind, body, soul.  Yoga & swimming–I could get used to this place.

 

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.

 

e.e. cummings

 

*Found this program Yoga Afloat online that is a certification to become a teacher of water yoga; specifically created by the inventor for her chronic pain illness, something I know well and a lovely concept.  I believe I am going to explore this aquatic yoga hybrid some more.*

July 2020
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