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{Guest Post} Equine-Assisted Therapy

October 12, 2017

I think this is the first time I’ve had a guest-blogger 🙂  Everyone- meet Jason Ledlie.  Jason- meet everyone.  Jason is a good friend, an amazing colleague, a super dad, and all-around pretty fantastic guy.  Keep your eye on him- he’s got powerful work ahead of him in the area of families and complex trauma.  Jason has considerable training and experience with horses and equine therapy, and I asked him for some assistance in helping my readers sort out the different options with regard to equine-assisted therapy.  Read on, faithful readers.

From the keyboard of Jason Ledlie, LPC-Intern

[If you read no further, please note that equine-assisted psychotherapy is undertaken by a licensed mental health professional who has undergone additional training and supervision in how to adapt their therapeutic orientation to include equines in their clinical work. And ideally, such clinicians are dually competent in both the practice of psychotherapy and their understanding of equines and equine behavior.]

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy

Okay, y’all…

It’s been a year and a day since my last blog post (and what a year it’s been. If y’all only knew.), but I’m back in the saddle again.

Some readers may be aware that I enjoy including equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) in my clinical work when I can. Recently, I was contacted by a colleague wanting more information on EAP as she was working on a referral.

In the course of that conversation, it became evident to me that many clinicians do not necessarily have accurate information regarding EAP. As a result, I decided to draft this blog post. I’ll outline some clear information I hope will be helpful, and I’ll opine in the process.  If need be, please remember these wise words from Jeffrey Lebowski regarding statements made herein, “Yeah, well, you know…that’s just like…your opinion, man” (Coen & Coen, 1998). Standby, heresy follows.

So…what is equine-assisted therapy?

Equine-assisted therapy” is a really good umbrella term under which any therapy incorporating equines falls. This term can also be a bit misleading, however, in that anyone, in the absence of any formal and/or professional training in a type of therapy (psycho-, OT, PT, etc…), can claim to operate an equine-assisted therapy program. Many persons that fall into this category might argue, “but wait a minute, I have X number of certifications through the _____ training model.” Yes, it is true. There exist training models in equine-assisted [this-training-or-that] for which there are no prerequisites for certification. And, some of the folks developing these models have no formal training in any therapy discipline, themselves.

While I’m potentially ruffling feathers, though, I would like to note that many such individuals are very well meaning people whose net outcome is largely positive. The ethical exception I take here is that such persons have no training, and give no training, in what I’ll simply refer to as “do no harm.” I will forego further discussion on this topic for another blog post, however, as it deserves its own treatise.

With all of that out of the way…

There are many ­equine-assisted therapy programs that are more aptly referred to as therapeutic horsemanship (or therapeutic riding) programs. These programs simply suggest that there is something therapeutic about learning horsemanship, and they’re right! That said, what takes place within these programs is not therapy in any traditional sense of the word. The therapeutic value inherent in recreating through horsemanship could be likened to the therapeutic value realized in recreating via routine hiking, taking up jogging, or acquiring a new and enjoyable skill. Ideally, persons involved in running such programs have participated in training in best safety practices for operating horsemanship programs.

There are many types of equine-assisted therapy that are, in fact, legitimate forms of therapy that also incorporate equines. These are not psychotherapies, however. In these programs, work is undertaken by a licensed professional from any number of disciplines. Examples include, but are not necessarily limited to: equine-assisted occupational therapy, equine-assisted physical therapy, and/or equine-assisted speech therapy. Equine-assisted work being undertaken to address physical needs generally falls under the term hippotherapy.

Finally, we move into a discussion of EAP. As mentioned at the top of this post, I argue in the strongest of terms that EAP is undertaken by a licensed mental health professional who has undergone additional training and supervision in how to adapt their therapeutic orientation to include equines in their clinical work.

Many licensed mental health professionals who offer EAP received additional training through the same aforementioned [this-training-or-that] models that train people foremost in their model and do not necessarily train clinicians in how they can adapt the therapeutic work they’re already doing to include equines. While I’d posit that the latter approach is more ideal (and I’m biased, admittedly), there is value in some of the models in existence. At minimum, some of the practitioners are at least licensed mental health professionals! The drawback is that some such programs end-up being shortsightedly rigid. Bear in mind, such programs have a vested interest in continuing to legitimize the commerce of their respective model, and so there is often posturing to substantiate* a given model over others.

As a final point of interest, some of these current leading models adhere strictly to an approach to EAP wherein there is 1) a licensed mental health professional and 2) an equine-specialist who, while having no mental health training, possesses an understanding of equines. In these models, the therapist and the equine-specialist work in concert, always, and without exception. My fear is that this, too, is done in an attempt to make these models more accessible by not making dual competency requisite. In any other specialty, dual competency would be the expectation.

Regarding my bias, and in the interest of transparency, after receiving training in some of the [this-training-or-that] models, I was very pleased to see training in EAP move into academia. While EAP has taken a foothold, to varying degrees, in a few academic institutions throughout the United States, as a graduate of the post-masters Equine-Assisted Mental Health Practitioner certificate program at the University of Denver, I am admittedly a proponent of that program.

So, if you’re looking to make a referral to equine-assisted therapy, you may do best to ensure the program you’re referring to has a licensed mental health professional on staff (who will be doing the therapeutic work). The same is true if you’re a consumer looking for equine-assisted therapy. In either case, it would also be appropriate to inquire about the training practitioners have received, and I would encourage you to lean towards referring to clinicians who are dually competent and practice autonomously**.

In summary, there is:

  1. Therapeutic Horsemanship (Therapeutic Riding)
    – therapeutic value is inherent in recreating through horsemanship
  2. Hippotherapy
    – a term used to refer to therapies, undertaken by licensed professionals from a range of disciplines (PT, OT, ST), incorporating equines in the treatment of physical needs
  3. Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy
    – psychotherapy undertaken by a licensed mental health professional trained in incorporating equines in their clinical work


*  –  Seldom does this substantiation come in the form of empirical scientific evidence. But, many in the field, even many within some of the [this-training-or-that] models, are working to change this.
** – I believe it is perfectly acceptable for a clinician running EAP in a group setting to have extra hands (equine knowledgeable assistants) to help  facilitate the logistics of managing many people and equines.

RESOURCES:

Coen, E. & Coen, J. (Producers), and Coen, E. & Coen, J. (Directors). (1998). The Big Lebowski [Motion Picture]. USA: Polygram Filmed Entertainment and Working Title Films.

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Robyn again….Head over to Jason’s blog and leave him some thoughts.  

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to check out my upcoming training for therapists and helpers on how to incorporate Movement & Music into work with children with complex trauma- encouraging healing from the bottom up.  

~

Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my newsletter! I try to send it out monthly. Sometimes I succeed. Mostly I don’t 🙂

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

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Creating Felt Safety

October 4, 2017

***This webinar aired live on October 10, but the audio and video recordings are now available if you missed it!  https://www.gobbelcounseling.com/pastwebinars***

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Have you ever been dumbfounded at why your child is dysregulated? Completed flabbergasted as to what on earth could be triggering them?  Feeling POSITIVE that there is absolutely no reason for your child to feel dysregulated??

I get it.  We’ve all been there!  Frustrated, dumbfounded, and overwhelmed.

The truth is, there is always a reason.  The reason might be hard to see.  But there is always a reason.  I can guarantee it!

Ready to register?? CLICK HERE!

The brain is scanning for danger- both inside and outside the body- four times EVERY SECOND.

WHAT?!?!?!?!

Seriously.  Every 1/4 of a second, the brain is asking “Safe???  Not safe???” and the reacting accordingly.

Obviously this happens outside our consciousness.  We can’t even SAY “Safe? Not safe?!” in under a second, let alone four times in one second.

You put it this way, and it starts to make a little more sense why it might be hard for our children to feel safe even when they are safe.  We can harness the power of science and use neurobiology to help create felt safety for our children, leading to improved regulation and ultimately better behavior (remember….regulated, connected children who feel safe behave well.)

Ready to register for the webinar?!  CLICK HERE.

This two-part webinar airs next Tuesday evening.  Can’t make it?!  No problem at all because everyone who registers will receive LIFETIME and UNLIMITED access to the webinar recordings.

You can access the webinar anywhere you have an internet connection.  Phone, laptop, tablet.  Library.  Office.  Bathroom.  Heck, even the back of your closet.

Head on over to the registration page for all the details.  For $19 and unlimited access to the recordings, I can’t think of a reason NOT to sign up!

Want more details or ready to register?? CLICK HERE!

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Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my newsletter! I try to send it out monthly. Sometimes I succeed. Mostly I don’t 🙂

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Relationship Builds Resilience

October 2, 2017

I’ve been mulling around the concept of resilience lately.  Why are some children more profoundly impacted by their experiences than others?  Why are some children seemingly able to pull up and out of their trauma, get back on the proverbial horse and power through?

Resilience

Are we born this way?  Is resilience in inborn temperament trait that some of us have and some of us don’t?

 

Can we cultivate resilience?  Intentionally grow and nurture resilience- in ourselves and in our children?

From everything I can find, it appears the answer to both of those questions is “yes.”

Yes.  Resilience is likely an intersection of our temperament and the way our environment provides nurturing care.  As we grow, we can even take matters into our own hands and deliberately grown our own resilience.

What the heck does resilience even mean?

Well, like so many things there are so many definitions.  Resilience, to me, is our “OKness” in the face of stress or even devastation.  I recently had the privilege of spending nine months with six women who  deep-dived into exploring our ability to be OK even when things around us AREN’T OK.  These amazingly resilient women used the word “buoyant” a lot.  To be able to ride the waves without falling overboard.  Even really really rough waves.  The kinds in a hurricane or tsunami.

Buoyant.

It’s not surprising at all that in this 14 item questionnaire about resilience that 12 of the questions are directly related to relationship.

  1.  I believe that my mother loved me when I was little.
  2.  I believe that my father loved me when I was little.
  3.  When I was little, other people helped my mother and father take care of me and they seemed to love me.
  4. I’ve heard that when I was an infant someone in my family enjoyed playing with me, and I enjoyed it, too.
  5.  When I was a child, there were relatives in my family who made me feel better if I was sad or worried.
  6. When I was a child, neighbors or my friends’ parents seemed to like me.
  7.  When I was a child, teachers, coaches, youth leaders or ministers were there to help me.
  8.  Someone in my family cared about how I was doing in school.
  9.  My family, neighbors and friends talked often about making our lives better.
  10. We had rules in our house and were expected to keep them.
  11. When I felt really bad, I could almost always find someone I trusted to talk to.
  12. As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.
  13.  I was independent and a go-getter.
  14. I believed that life is what you make it.

(taken from https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/)

1-12 are literally about relationships we had as a child.  The strength of those relationships.  Having someone to turn to when things were hard.  Having someone who helped us see the truth about ourselves- that we are good and loveable.

Resilience is cultivated inside relationship.

When we think about our children’s earliest experiences inside relationship, this is overwhelming sad.  Children come into foster care or need to be adopted because their families didn’t have relatives, neighbors, or coaches available to help.  They didn’t know their parents loved them.  They never felt as though someone enjoyed being with them.  They had no one to turn to when they felt really bad…and they felt really bad a LOT of them time because loneliness feels realllllly bad.

Oh how I love being a therapist in the time of neuroscience because we have so much clarity around the truth that the brain is amazing and ALWAYS forming new connections.  ALWAYS.

We can cultivate resilience in our children NOW by surrounding them with relationship.  People who love and care about them.  People who enjoy being with them.  People who will be with them when they feel bad.

It’s simple but hard.

Relationship builds resilience.

PS- Faithful blog readers- are you sensing a theme here?  Relationship and connection is everything.

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A new webinar is happening on October 10!!!  Come learn all about Creating Felt Safety (this will shock you- there is a heavy focus on relationship!!!).  Learn all about it by CLICKING HERE.  

Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my newsletter! I try to send it out monthly. Sometimes I succeed. Mostly I don’t 🙂

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Connection is a Beacon

September 5, 2017

Advances in the relational neurosciences are making many things so much more clear.  But my favorite thing that has emerged as a truth is that our systems are always driven toward coherence.  Always driven toward healing.  Always driven toward relationship.  Always.  The drive is innate.  The drive cannot be taken away.  It can certainly be covered up.  It can be buried for 60, 70, 90 years.  It can be buried beneath what feels like an infinite amount of protectors.  But it’s there.

beacon

Photo by matthaeus on Unsplash

In fact we can be sure that the intensity of a person’s protectors- the parts of themselves that keep everyone else from seeing that true part of them that is seeking connection- is directly proportionate to the intensity of their pain.  To the intensity of the hurt they experienced inside relationship- or the intensity of the hurt they experienced without a relationship to organize and buffer the pain.

The work of Jaak Panksepp shows us how humans react when our seeking system (innate) isn’t met.  We first experience separation panic and grief.  If we still aren’t met it moves to fear.  If we STILL aren’t met we move into rage.

It’s reallllly hard to meet someone who is moving toward us in rage.  In fact, it’s scary.

Our raging little people (and big people too) need connection.  Boundaries, of course.  But ultimately what they need is connection.  I promise you they are longing for it.  Desperate for it.  And they struggle to receive it.  When connection seems like it might be available, they could have another protector come up to reject it.  Because receiving connection NOW reminds them of the unendurable deep grief that arose when they longed for connection before and it never came.

But rest assured then even if 10000000000 protectors come up to push away the connection, there is still a part of their system that is yearning for, seeking, and believing that the connection is there.  It’s possible.

Being met with the thing you’ve been longing for your whole life is filled with tremendous grief.  A grief that the system cannot take all at once.  Our bodies are so smart to titrate the amount of connection we can take so that it titrates the amount of grief we can manage.

Hang in there.  Believe in the inevitability of connection.  It is an absolute truth.  It’s a beacon in the dark distance that we are inherently driven to move toward.

~

Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my newsletter! I try to send it out monthly. Sometimes I succeed. Mostly I don’t 🙂

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

My child sets me up to say “NO”

August 15, 2017

WHY oh WHY does your child ask questions that they absolutely know will be answered with a big fat “NO.”

“Mom, can I ride my bike to the gas station so I can get a candy bar?” (Your child is 8 and it’s across a busy highway).

“Dad, can you bring me to the library right now?” (It’s 9pm and you are already in your PJs).

“Mom can we have grilled cheese for dinner?” (After you’ve just announced you are out of bread).

Why does your child seem to delight in causing a fight?  In asking an impossible question and then blowing up over your “no”?

Why does my child set me up to say -NO---Disorganized attachment.

80% of children with a history of trauma, abuse, or neglect meet criteria for disorganized attachment.  So it’s likely that your child has pockets of disorganized attachment.

This means that when your child was first experiencing relationship, their need for attachment and connection was paired with terror and fear.

That the very person who they were supposed to turn to when feeling afraid was the person actually causing the fear.

I explain disorganized attachment much more thoroughly in my blog article “The Tragedy of Disorganized Attachment” as well as the webinar “Untangling Disorganized Attachment.”

Disorganized attachment is one of the reasons your child is setting you up to say “no.”

Your child has learned that when they go to an attachment figure with a need, they are met with rejection.  These earlier experiences have laid the foundation for all future relationship, especially their relationship with you.  Humans are both always driven toward healing and yet always driven to do more of the same.  Your child is unconsciously and not purposefully recreating the pattern of disorganized attachment.  I have a need.  You reject me.

So, what can you do about it?

The best thing you can do that will impact long-term healing and not just short-term behavior change is to surprise your child’s nervous system whenever possible.  Your child is expecting a no??  Find a way to say yes.  Your child is expecting a rejection? Find a way to bring them closer.

Maybe one evening when you are feeling particularly regulated and your child asks you to bring him to the store at 10pm, say yes.  Happily.  Or she asks you to bring her to the library (which is closed).  Say yes.  Drive there, even though you know it’s closed.  Offer to run to the grocery store to get bread for that grilled cheese you’re pretty sure your child doesn’t even really want and only asked for because he knows you are out of bread.  Tell your child they can ride their bike to the convenience store across the busy highway because you’ll go with them.  Say YES when your child expects you to say no.  This surprise in their nervous system will actually lay one brick in repairing the foundation of their belief that attachment figures are rejecting.  Eventually those bricks add up and the foundation becomes stronger and stronger.

Obviously, you can’t do this all the time.  You don’t need to.  But be on the look-out when times your child is expecting a no, is actually setting you up to say no, and you could give a yes (even if it’s ridiculous or inconvenient- as long as it’s not unsafe, give it a whirl).

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PS- Don’t forget to check out my upcoming webinar on Wednesday August 16, just in time for back-to-school…A Trauma Informed Approach to Behaviors in the Classroom.

Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my newsletter! I try to send it out monthly. Sometimes I succeed. Mostly I don’t 🙂

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

{WEBINAR} A Trauma Informed Approach to Behaviors in the Classroom

August 11, 2017

This webinar was LIVE on August 19th.  If you missed it, it is now available for purchase on my website!  You receive all the same benefits, including lifetime and unlimited access to the webinar AND permission to share it with your child’s education team- from now until forever!!  https://www.gobbelcounseling.com/pastwebinars

Sending our children with a history of trauma back-to-school comes with a huge mix of emotions.  Excitement, relief, anticipation, dread.  Hands-down the most common school-related challenge facing the families I work with is the behavior management tools used by teachers in traditional classrooms.  Levels, color-charts, stop-lights….each is the same approach packaged a little bit differently.  These approaches- with their focus on behaviors, rewards, and consequences- usually INCREASES stress in our children, causing even more difficult behaviors.  At the very least, they aren’t helping us work toward our goals of increased regulation, connection, and felt-safety for our children (which ultimately will result in improved behavior).

Two years ago I published my 10-page letter to teachers which outlined a Trauma Informed Approach to Behaviors in the Classroom.  You can read and download that letter by clicking HERE.  The letter is succinct (only 10 pages- doesn’t take too much time to read) yet long enough to be helpful (a blog article just doesn’t cut it).  It’s steeped in science with scholarly citations, yet written in a language that is clear, down-to-earth, and easy to understand.  The letter helps teachers understand WHY these traditional behavioral modification techniques don’t work for children with a history of trauma, and then provides an excellent alternative that is easy to implement and integrate with the level system they are already using.

Moving into a new school year, I’ve updated the letter and turned it into a webinar!!!

Ready to register?!  CLICK HERE!!!

The webinar is next Wednesday, August 16th and everyone who registers will receive LIFETIME and UNLIMITED access to the recording.  This means you do NOT have to attend live!!

BUT WAIT!  This webinar is a little unique.  The information in the webinar will help you advocate for your child in school, but really the people who need to watch the webinar are everyone on your child’s education team!!

SO. Everyone who purchases the webinar receives permission to share the webinar with their child’s teacher and education team! And remember- access to the webinar is LIFETIME and UNLIMITED.  This means you can show the webinar to your child’s teachers from now until they go to college (or at least through elementary school, as this webinar does focus on behavior techniques used most commonly in elementary school settings).

AND.  I’ve updated my original letter-to-the-teacher, which will also be provided to each and every person who registers.

Basically, by registering for this webinar you are arming yourself with information, AND getting access to resources that you can give to your child’s teacher.  Resources that are short enough (10 page letter and one-hour webinar) that the teacher won’t feel overwhelmed, yet long enough to actually be helpful and practical.

AND THESE RESOURCES WILL NEVER GO AWAY.  You will receive lifetime and unlimited access.

All for only $25.  It’s important to me that these resources are available to everyone who needs them.

Ready for more details or to register?

CLICK HERE!!!

Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Jump OUT of the Trauma Tornado- LYING {webinar}

June 18, 2017

***Did you miss this webinar?  It’s now available for instant access on my website!  https://www.gobbelcounseling.com/pastwebinars***

I remember driving into work a few years ago, really mulling around and trying to embody the level of chaos that so many of my clients were dealing with in their day to day life.  It felt swirling, cyclical and self-sustaining – I can feel into it even now as I sit and write this.  Behavior, reaction, repeat.  Behavior, reaction, repeat.  Over and over again.  Like a funnel cloud.  An actual tornado- with that swirling intensity that has the capacity to destroy anything in it’s path.

The trauma tornado.

(Want to read the original blog post?  CLICK HERE.)

To be honest, I feel a bit awkward now about that metaphor.  It feels a little trite, a little catchy, a little silly.  But I keep hearing from families that the metaphor is anything but trite or silly.  It’s unfortunately extremely accurate.

There are so many different ways to help a child who has experienced complex trauma.  It’s what I find most exciting and most overwhelming about my work- the level of complexity.  The trauma tornado is just one metaphorical piece of the puzzle, but I have repeatedly found it to be a helpful metaphor – not only for understanding the WHY behind the behavior (critically important) but also because it gives us some clues about what to do about.

 

I’m kicking off a summer series of webinars in which we’ll look at several challenging behaviors through the lens of the trauma tornado.

Ready to register?  Interested in more details?  CLICK HERE.

In the first webinar on June 23, we’ll go in depth into the cycle of the trauma tornado, and then focus on LYING.  I’ll help you determine where and how you’re getting sucked into the tornado, which should then open up some ideas on how you can begin to jump out.  Because unfortunately, we can’t ask our children to be the ones who jump out; it must start with us- the parents.

Sound interesting?  Here’s the details.

WHAT:                Jump OUT of the Trauma Tornado- LYING (webinar)

WHEN:                June 23, 2017.  2pm eastern, 1pm central, 12pm mountain, 11am pacific.

But really, WHENEVER because everyone who registers will receive the recording.  You absolutely do NOT have to attend live.  The recording will be yours forever, to listen to as often as you like. 

WHERE:              Webinar!!!  Your home, or office, or the library, or your back porch.  With coffee, lemonade, or wine.  You decide!!!

FEE:                     $14!!!  Really.  Only $14.

 

There’s nothing to lose here!

Lying is probably the most COMMON frustration facing the families I work with, so I figured it was the perfect behavior to tackle first.

Ready to register?  Interested in more details?  CLICK HERE.

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Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

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