“I arrived with a closed mind and left with an open heart.” — Participant, Equine Support for Post-Trauma Growth
Do you celebrate your success? Early in my career when my drive to reach organizational heights was much higher and my need for professional validation much greater, I received some helpful advice from a ‘more experienced’ colleague. “Slow down and celebrate your success,” he said. At the time, I didn’t listen – too young perhaps and ego-driven. Now I understand and appreciate the value of his words.
Earlier this summer, we took a moment to recognize a milestone at The Mane Intent. We also took a closer look at some important feedback we’ve received to date on one of our offerings. In July, we welcomed our 100th participant in our Equine Support for Post-Trauma Growth workshop. This is a one-day equine experiential learning workshop tailored for Toronto-based Bellwood Health Services Addiction and Post-Traumatic Stress/Occupational Stress Injury Treatment Program clients. We welcomed our first group from Bellwood almost two years ago in October, 2015.
Bellwood is part of the Edgewood Health Network , the largest network of adult in-patient and out-patient treatment services in Canada. It is an international leader in addiction treatment with over 30 years of experience and is the preferred provider of the Canadian Forces and Veteran’s Affairs Canada for the concurrent treatment of Addiction and PTSD since 2005.
The Bellwood Program is designed specifically for the treatment of PTSD and/or Occupational Stress Injury. Their program recognizes that the dual diagnosis of PTSD and substance abuse requires a specialized and concurrent treatment approach to maximize the potential for a successful recovery. Their program addresses the trauma and addiction at the same time – an integrated approach recommended as a best practice by Health Canada. Participants typically include individuals seeking to recover from these dual challenges and reclaim their life.
The Mane Intent is grateful for the opportunity to support Bellwood’s clients with a day of experiential learning with our herd as natural coaches. By engaging in ground work with our horses, participants have an opportunity to learn to:
- Increase self-awareness, becoming aware of the subtleties of body language, non-verbal communication and energy
- Strengthen their awareness of personal self-regulation, becoming more aware of their feelings, emotions and the healing benefits of mindfulness
- Recognize the value of self-care and being in the moment, while enjoying the calming presence of our herd
- Improve connection with themselves and with others, identifying and responding to boundaries within ourselves and with others
- Identify opportunities and supports required to achieve a shared vision for recovery and post-trauma growth.
Our programming is guided by core trauma-informed principles including: Acknowledgement that trauma is pervasive, safety, trust, choice and control, compassion, collaboration and strength-based.
At the conclusion of each session, we invite participants, mostly men, to share their thoughts and feedback including identifying on a scale of 1-5 if the experience was a value to them. We’re pleased to share that of the 100 participants to date: 96% of participants indicated the experience was mostly (4/5) or very useful (5/5) – 78% of participants gave the experience a 5/5.
Comments shared by participants also provide some insight on the experiential value inherent in working with horses as natural coaches:
- “Provided excellent insight and a new look at trauma and feelings.”
- “The horses made me realize that the feelings and emotion that I would ‘like’ to experience and portray are not in fact my ‘actual’ and ‘real’ emotions
- “This experience showed me how to trust, set healthy boundaries and find peace and serenity.”
- “I felt moments of joy like a kid again. It has been a very long time since I’ve felt this.”
You can find more comments on our client testimonials page here.
We also invite participants to summarize their experience in one word, writing the word on a river stone that can be placed on the property’s labyrinth or taken away as a touchstone for the experience. The words that come up the most are peace, hope and joy.
I think this is a milestone worth recognizing and a success worth sharing. This is a shout out to the team at Bellwood Health Services for believing in possibility and giving us an opportunity to provide equine support for post-trauma growth. We are grateful for this experience. When the opportunity presents itself, I encourage you also to celebrate your success.
And…if you find yourself seeking a little more ‘peace’, ‘hope’ and ‘joy’ – you might just find it here in the presence of a horse.
About The Author: Jennifer Garland is the Owner/Program Director of The Mane Intent, offering Health and Wellness Workshops and Individual and Team Effectiveness Coaching. Jennifer’s intent is to bring horses and humans together to explore new possibilities, getting you out of your comfort zone and giving clarity of voice to your leader within. She has over 25 years of leadership experience in communications, cause-related marketing and change management. As a strategist, facilitator and effectiveness coach, Jennifer has provided counsel and support to senior leaders from all walks of life to build productive relationships, facilitate learning and to embrace change. She is a ‘socialpreneur’ who values the art of living life fully with intent. Support Trauma-Informed Equine Experiential Learning here.