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Mica's Blog

Why I Am a Therapist

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When I was younger I traveled every chance I got. But I didn’t just travel to places. I lived in them. I had a supportive family and few commitments back home, so I could commit to spending months or even years in different places traveling, studying or working. I loved talking to people. Going to the market. Walking the streets, riding a train. I enjoyed hearing what people thought of their lives, how they viewed their problems, how they saw their place in the world.

While traveling I picked up chunks of the newly fallen Berlin Wall and watched Eastern Europeans as they tasted a new kind of life. I biked across Northern Ireland and talked to Protestants and Catholics and found their views weren’t that different one from another. Knowing no Spanish, I lived with a family in Ecuador. Like a child, I found my understanding growing as language took shape in my head. From Senegalese people I learned how to say hello (it involves a lot of extended handshaking and questions!). I walked and rollerbladed across Paris until its historic streets held my stories, too.

What is Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy?

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Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) is an effective form of therapy that helps people quickly identify and replace dysfunctional patterns. Through exchanges with horses, nature, and the therapist, individuals gain an understanding of how to engage the cognitive, emotional, sensorial, and spiritual aspects of themselves in order to move towards greater health.

In the herd, people find recognition of their deepest emotions, honest reflection of their actions, a mutual desire for connection, open-hearted love and acceptance, and the freedom to experiment with new ways of being.

Strength and Vulnerability: Horses' Super-Power Moves

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“Would you like the horses to come closer?” I asked.

One little boy who had been with us all week at camp reminded us about a story I had told on Monday. He thought it might help the newcomers have a sense of how to get the horses to walk toward us. In the story, I spoke of how an 8-year old girl had been very excited to make her first visit to the ranch.

When she arrived on an afternoon in late spring, the clouds were gathering dark and heavy over the Flatirons and heading East toward the ranch. At the first flash of lightning, we haltered the animals to take them inside. Once safely inside the arena, our doe-eyed pony Chloe and her faithful friend Tommy turned their hindquarters to us and moved away in opposite directions. A nearby horse kicked at the wooden sides of his stall, hard.

“Mom,” she said. “I need to go home right now. I don’t like this storm.”

The girl had been so excited to be with the horses that it had taken a lot of effort to muster those words. Her mother and I huddled, making plans for a rain date. As we talked, we watched out of the corner of our eyes as Chloe and Tommy each did a 180 and moved closer to the girl. The horse in the stall stopped banging and a sense of calm settled over the barn, even as the rain began to fall on the metal roof.

“Wait!” the girl laughed, “I don’t need to go home anymore!” Chloe and Tommy followed her to the round pen, seemingly at ease now that she had spoken her truth.

Horses, you see, are masters of perception.

Ever wondered what an equine facilitated group is like?

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This description provides a feel for what a therapeutic group with horses is like:

At the close of a group that met several times over the summer, one of the participants said that our final meeting felt like just the beginning. It was a beautiful late summer evening and even though horses moved restlessly in the pastures around us, the three geldings we had chosen to work with gathered in close. The horses knew each other well and they also felt comfortable with the participants whom they had gradually been getting to know over the summer. We had become a herd.

Welcome, Norma Jean and Madison!

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The 2014 crop of foals has arrived!

Congratulations to mother Polly on her fourth baby and first filly - Norma Jean (Memorialyzed).

A big pat on the neck to Maggie for giving birth to her filly Madison. She is dubbed the Miracle by her owner Rebecca Pachello because, despite arriving several weeks early, she was born healthy--small but sturdy.

Of course, we should also send our regards to the proud father Vito (Vitalyzed) who also lives at Good Reception Ranch.

Unconditional love from and for a special horse

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Over the last few weeks, a horse very dear to my heart has struggled with a major bout of colic. Goose is recovering well now, thanks to care from the CSU emergency hospital as well as several sessions of more holistic care from a dedicated crew of healers.

Faced with the fear of losing someone I love and the anxiety of not knowing what the next day would bring, I’ve been repeatedly reminded of my love for this horse who has shared so generously with me and with others.

Stretching beyond the comfort zone

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In our culture today anxiety impacts everyone. The threats of the modern world send many post-Columbine and post-911 kids into a state of fear, especially when it comes to trying new things or even going to school in the morning. Left unchecked, anxiety can cause an individual's world to become smaller and smaller.

In my work as a therapist, I see parents struggling to know how to respond to their children with a balance of empathy and compassionate fierceness. When should you let a child refrain from going to school or an activity, especially if anxiety leads them to want to stay home at the last minute? How do you help guide a child to see the greater benefit of perseverance in the face of fear? CSU professor and best-selling author Temple Grandin is a highly gifted woman with autism who offers insight into how caregivers can support those suffering from debilitating anxiety stretch beyond the comfort zone to a place of possibility.

What's better than chocolate?

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When a bite of chocolate hits my taste buds, it brings me immediately into the present moment. I'm especially alive in that instant, focused on the taste as it unfolds layer after layer. It doesn't matter how many times I've eaten chocolate before, it still feels good to have it again.

In a similar way, horses help enliven me and bring me into the present moment. They do this through their own presence and awareness. Not unlike our taste buds, horses are fine tuned to experience and respond to what is happening right now. And the way I see it, being present and fully experiencing (seeing, hearing, feeling) another is a form of love. That love can transform an ordinary moment into a special one.

Warming thoughts - summer camps announced!

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Here in Colorado in February it may be cold outside, but we are of course warming up with thoughts of summer camp. For years, adults have been asking me when they'd get to join in the fun. If you are interested in attending an adult summer camp, please email me to be put on the list to receive updates!

For youth we have 7 week-long camps geared toward different abilities and interests: leadership, beginning (green) riding skills, intermediate/advanced riding skills, half-day camp, a therapeutic camp for riders needing extra support, and a project-focused camp. We serve a range of ages (from four to teens) and riders of all abilities. We also offer educational opportunities for tweens and teens wishing to partner with us for one or more weeks this summer. Please visit our current events page for more info. Email Mica@BigHorseTLC.com to receive our registration packet.

Expanding the therapy hour

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Bucking a modern trend, equine facilitated psychotherapy sessions tend to be longer and to involve a variety of different activities when compared to traditional therapy.

In a recent edition of the New York Times, Richard Friedman writes about the shrinking therapy hour. "ONCE," he writes, "an hour with your therapist ran for about 60 minutes. But there’s been a steady time deflation: first there was the 50-minute hour and now we have 45-minute 'hours.'” Outside pressures may be forcing some to shorten the therapy hour, but my experience working with people and horses shows that there is something to be said for slowing down and expanding both the time and focus of therapeutic work.

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