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Posted: Oct 28, 2010 07:52

RECOVERY SIMPLIFIED:
EQUINE-ASSISTED WORK IS THE BASICS

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by Greg Kersten

Recovery is flooding the airwaves, television, newspapers, and even conversations. Recovery covers economic, emotional, environmental, and so on. Simply put, there are basics to recovery, whether one is dealing with economic recovery (like much of the nation and world), or that of mental or emotional health, such as addiction, traumatization, or illness.

Equine-Assisted Philosophy meshes with and enhances any and all treatment modalities for recovery and helps keep the process basic enough for lay clients and practitioners to understand, envision, and accomplish. Why make recovery more difficult and complicated? Why not rediscover our own competence and confidence in our programs? What would happen if we were to step back, regroup, and reevaluate our programs and services?

Strangely enough, recovery is recovery, and is more effective when we resist complicating the process. Humans are a complicated species; we are prone to add variables, conditions, and exceptions to situations, structures, events, and even inherently basic processes. We seem reassured when we complicate things to the point of incomprehension.

The slogan "KISS" (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) gains popularity every decade or so. This healthy expression addresses much of what we find frustrating in our lives. The recent past has seen a significant focus on the concept of simplification. True recovery is as basic as "KISS."

The founding principles of the equine-assisted philosophy that underlie EAP are based upon the responses, movements and thoughts of the equine and the human counterpart at the most basic level. Authentic Equine Assisted Psychotherapy involves the translation of what horses do and don't do to relate it to the human condition. Horses and humans share many attributes, socially and psychologically speaking. Horse herds, bloodlines, and development of skills can be likened to human families, ancestries, and learning.

A significant difference between horses and humans is strength, certainly physical, but also emotional and mental. Horses are masters of handling crisis and recovery because they have a mastery of the basics in dealing with crisis and recovery situations. Not just the horse's mouth, but straight from the horse's body can we experience the horse's basic recovery process: Retreat + Reevaluate + Respond = Recovery

Many mental health professionals espouse similar recovery treatments for their clients. We all recognize some form of retreat - removing one's self from a problem, event, or pattern. Once extracted from the original situation we may regroup or reevaluate issues in a more objective fashion. We observe and gather information that may be helpful in forming a plan of action for our next step. (In the event that our knowledge has not been sufficient to create an action plan - further retreat may be warranted.) Using this perspective and the formulated plan we may then take action and respond to an issue or problem.

Horses have been implementing this basic recovery plan for centuries and it still works for them. They tend to recover more quickly and with more strength than humans - and they seem to move on with their lives more quickly and with even more strength.

Humans, and so by extension, treatment professionals may complicate this simple process by adding to the three steps in ways that range from superfluous to distracting to extravagant.

Starting with the retreat, humans may fight against moving away, perhaps for fear of appearing weak or because they have difficulty with the natural Pressure/Pain Principle. The flipside to this is humans who retreat too far or too long to be able to efficiently reevaluate. In order to reevaluate, one must be able to observe, process, and plan. Reevaluation is not a static process, or a hiatus in limbo while avoiding an issue. Reevaluation is no vacation - it is the preparation to respond.

The response is also an opportunity for humans to complicate recovery. Horses know that sooner or later, bad and wrong things have to be confronted. They exhibit appropriate responses to pressure and pain. Humans often express that confronting or addressing a problem will only make it worse, whether this is due to weakness, lack of confidence, or "political correctness."

Humans love to convince themselves that because the challenge of recovery is difficult, that the treatment to recovery must be complex. Treatment professionals may buy into a complicated theory of recovery, or some may even complicate recovery to justify higher prices for services. Regardless of the reason, even this "complication disorder" may be treated by implementing the 3 R's!

Practitioners should therefore question their own motivation for offering equine-assisted services. Too many will find their main purpose lies in offering something new and edgy to compete with other service-providers. Following a trend or offering "flavor of the month" services may not be an indication of quality. It is "eyebrow-raising" rather than reassuring when an advertisement for services gives a laundry list of modalities ("We offer therapy to individuals and groups, art therapy, ropes courses, primal scream therapy, equine-assisted psychotherapy, electroshock therapy, Jungian, Freudian, and therapeutic massage!") in an attempt to attract every client. The expression, "Jack of all trades and master of none" comes to mind. Equine-assisted services and interventions make sense only when the practitioner's philosophies of treatment and recovery coincide with the basic equine-assisted philosophies.

About The Author: Greg Kersten is the founder of EAP and President of the O.K. Corral Series. For more information visit www.okcorralseries.com or contact Greg via phone at 866-391-6565 or email at admin@okcorralseries.com.


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