Equine Assisted EMDR
EMDR is shorthand for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing; this treatment targets the emotions, images, sensations and cognitive beliefs that typically result from having experienced trauma. EMDR is an evidence-based therapy that has been shown to be effective in resolving trauma, and has been thoroughly studied in treating PTSD. The basic definition of trauma is an experience that overwhelms your ability to cope and changes how your nervous system responds when you are stressed. EMDR, with or without horses, helps to reset the nervous system so that it is more balanced. This allows you to choose your responses to stresses rather than reacting with agitation or shutting down. EMDR helps to restore your ability to return to a more balanced emotional state and to be fully present to yourself, others and the world around you.
Dr. Goggin is a certified EMDR practitioner and has employed EMDR in her practice for over fifteen years. Dr. Goggin has also completed specialized training in EQUINE-ASSISTED EMDR, where the healing presence of horses is incorporated into the standard EMDR protocol. EA-EMDR is recognized by the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA.)
What a Session Might Look Like
After an initial interview session determines that Equine-Assisted EMDR (EA-EMDR) seems an appropriate therapy, an EMDR session with the horses will be scheduled. An EMDR session begins with you identifying a target for that day’s work. This target might be an intense emotion, an image that keeps troubling you, a thought that creates distress, or a memory that you relive. After gathering a bit more information about the target, you will be asked to pay attention to visual or auditory stimuli or prompts which help to reset your nervous system so that the disturbing feelings, thoughts/memories or sensations become less triggering to you. Often the target you are working on is not resolved in a single session If the target is not resolved, in the next session you return to the target until work on that issue feels complete. You will always have the right to pace a session to your own level of comfort. The therapist will also be watching your breathing and other responses, to assist you in understanding what your immediate needs might be in regards to the target of the session.
Time will be included at the end of the session to discuss the experience and for doing relaxation and grounding activities so you can feel calm and centered as you return to your day.
Horses as Partners in EMDR
The horses are great partners in doing this work because horses are prey animals.. As prey animals, they evolved to be very sensitive and alert to potential threats or dangers, which is also true of humans who have experienced trauma. Once the threat is over, horses easily return to a state of balance, they return to ‘now’ and do not get stuck in ‘trauma time.’ Just the presence of the horses is one way they help your nervous system to re-tune — they help you return to the here and now. The therapist may also turn your attention to the horses and their behavior, or invite you to engage with them depending on your individual needs and your individual responses in a session. Horses are completely accepting and non-judgmental of others and their emotions. Particularly when the trauma someone experienced was interpersonal in nature — being harmed or betrayed or humiliated by someone — horses provide an avenue to relearn trust in others and themselves. Dr. Goggin will be happy to answer any questions about EA-EMDR and Equine Assisted Therapy.
Contact Dr. Goggin for additional information about the use of EMDR and Equine Assisted EMDR.
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