I thought I would share a little bit about the model of equine-assisted therapy I choose to use in my practice and my own experience of it working for me. It is called Trauma-Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy from the Natural Lifemanship Institute. It’s hands on, attachment-based, and powerful!
I discovered Natural Lifemanship (NL) through a search of a different horse therapy models. The ones I knew about were based on metaphor work and little contact with the horses. I myself struggle with understanding abstract things sometimes and I know kids need more playing and doing than talking... so, I was looking for something different. I was already doing in-home family therapy and NL seemed to be the TBRI (Trust-Based relational Intervention) of horse therapies. It is about relationships, attachment, and trauma where you actually get to be with the horses. I jumped right in and signed up for a training! I wanted to see if this was something I could see myself doing and if one day I could meld my passions of therapy and horses as my own business.
First off, the training host site at Soulful Prairies in Woodstock IL was an absolute dream (see the included pictures). I was drooling and daring to let myself dream of my own business plans. This made me even more excited to see what this work was about and how it would fit in my dreams.
As I sat in sessions learning at the training, I was slightly skeptical of how all this would come together working with the horses. The model is building real relationships with horses and thus rewiring the brain impacted by trauma and attachment wounds. It sounded too fun to get at the deep emotional stuff a client has. It was then our turn in the training to get a taste of the work and do it with the horses. I stepped into the round pen very nervous but I was thrilled that the horse I picked connected with me and even followed me right away! After the first day I went back to my hotel and told my husband that I was really good at this! (I did say that much to my embarrassment now). Little did I know the next day I would learn just how this model get at your own “stuff.” I walked into the round pen the next day and nothing was working. Every attempt to get the horse to come to me was ignored or resisted. I felt tears well up in my eyes as I thought that I was not in fact cut out for this. The trainer caught scent of my near-tears, as any therapist has a sixth sense for (see the top photo for proof). I was trying to hide my emotional "issue" and much to my annoyance she asked me what was going on in my relationship with the horse. I said “he isn’t letting me be good at this!” Then it dawned on me that I wasn’t in the round pen working on the relationship with the horse as I was supposed to, I was trying to be perfect so I could prove to myself I was good enough to do this as my career. Well then the tears came more... the trainers were amazing and helped me though this. When I turned around after wiping my tears to try again to actually connect with the horse... he was already there!
I went to the training wondering if I would be “good” enough to do this. Should I start this business? Am I good enough for this dream? Perfectionism and the quest of being “good enough” has been a life long struggle for me and the horses brought that out! It was the exact thing I needed to deal with in order to feel confident that no matter what difficulty comes my way I can rest in the fact that this isn’t about me being “good enough.” Relationships are work and hard. If I show up, be myself, do the work I am good enough. I also had the realization that whatever I am lacking Jesus promises to be there with me to use my weaknesses to make things perfect. I can’t be perfect on my own.
Hopefully you can understand a little glimpse of how this kind of therapy can work. Maybe you just needed to hear that you are good enough too. This parenting journey of foster care and adoption is no easy task. There is surely no perfect way to do it besides showing up, being yourself, and doing the work. If you don’t know where to start, the horses and I are waiting to help!
Call or email me to set up an appointment! 715-200-3838 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Wholehearted Herd Counseling, LLC provides trauma therapy for children and teens and family therapy focused on attachment for adoptive and foster families with the help of horses. Wholehearted Herd Counseling, LLC is an equine-assisted therapy service in the central Wisconsin, Wausau, and Antigo areas.