Monday, February 2, 2009

Therapist using horses in treating PTSD

Therapist using horses in treating PTSD

They aren't just "horsing around" it works

Servicemen work in the arena with a horse during an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy session. (Submitted photo)
Staff writer

An individual may look healthy physically, but it's possible that, even without any physical manifestations, stress and traumatic experiences can take their toll on both humans and horses.

But, thanks to psychotherapy, horses and humans are interacting and bonding with one another to help each other heal.

This Sunday, soldiers who are stationed at Fort Gordon and have returned from their deployment in Iraq, and at risk members of the community, will have a chance to use a unique modality to help with their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Psychotherapist and horseman Suze Maze will be using Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) to help.

The therapy sessions will be conducted on Sundays at Equine Rescue of Aiken.

Maze learned about EAP while she was living in Kentucky through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning (EAGALA) model, and later became certified.

The name of Maze's business is Horse Empowerment.

The effects of long-term, recurring deployments can not only be seen in the workplace, but affect soldiers' family lives as well, said Maze, who previously worked with people who struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism.

"There is a need to accommodate the increasing demands of effective treatment modalities and diagnostics to help service members who've fallen through the cracks," said Maze. "Some are already plugged into the VAs and are getting adequate treatment, some are already plugged into Warrior Transition units and getting adequate treatment. It's the military personnel whose symptoms don't show up at first, and now, all of a sudden, they have PTSD, and they're not sure where to go. It's a needs-based program and as people come forth, we're here to help them."

The psychological health needs of military personnel, their families and their survivors pose a daunting and growing challenge, said Maze, who has ties to Aiken, as her husband was a soldier for 21 years and was stationed at Fort Gordon, for a time.

"I've always wanted to come back and work with the military," said Maze. "Equine Rescue of Aiken is a perfect match. We have horses who need healing and we have soldiers and people who need healing. I've noticed with my five horses that I've worked with, they all have their own style of therapy that they like to work with. One horse likes to work with people who have Attention Deficit Disorder, another works with those who have mental challenges; (the horses) migrate to people and people migrate toward them. I worked with civilians in Kentucky. We have a conscious mind, things that we're aware of, and we have sub-conscious and unconscious minds that come to life at night in our dreams and in our nightmares. The horses seem to be able to get at that innate sub-conscious and unconscious, and things the person being treated may not recognize. It makes people think outside of the box to come up with their own solutions."

EAP is an emerging psycho-educational treatment modality incorporating horses experientially for emotional growth and learning based on the EAGALA model. EAGALA is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, which provides educational information and support to professionals for providing services in equine assisted psychotherapy, said Maze. EAGALA offers certification in this treatment modality, providing a high standard of professional and ethical practice, she said.

"Thorough carefully chosen activities, participants gain insight into their behavior by learning through doing," said Maze. "Horses provide immediate feedback, and this type of therapy includes all of the senses."

The classical therapeutic office model is taken out of context and placed in the arena with horses, allowing the patient to interact with the horses and a professional team with at least one licensed mental health professional and at least one horse specialist, she said.

The focus of EAP isn't riding or horsemanship; in fact, nearly all of the therapy takes place on the ground. EAP is a powerful and therapeutic approach, said Maze, who also emphasized PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.

The objective of the program is to provide military personnel and those civilians undergoing treament with a preventative safety measure. The hope is that the treatment modality will help service personnel make an easier transition from combat to garrison life, and increase coping skills, said Maze. EAP as a modality has the potential to create change in the moment and reduce the time required to produce results, through its experiential and hands on training environment.

For more information about Horse Empowerment, call (859) 421-5831 or 643-1850.


Animals regardless of the type, horses, dogs and cats etc are able to show PTSD victims that they can be needed and loved just for being themselves. The animals obviously need humans to care for them, feed, opening doors to let them in or out, in horses case, they need to be groomed, ridden, the barn stalls need to be mucked out, new straw laid, new hay to shew on and feed placed.

Myself I have cats, I started out with one cat, but when we bought the home we live at now in June 2006 we were not told of the feral cats under our storage building and the storage building there were 9 cats between the 2 properties, I fed them the neighbors cats came over to eat also, but I hate to see any animal go hungry so it was no big deal, until he got mad and got traps from animal control, and he wanted them all gone, well he called me one afternoon and wated to know if the cat he had was one of mine, well I went over and it was one of the baby cats born that spring in the garage, I opened the cage door the entire time he is screaming "watch out that is a wild cat" well "red" ran home and dived under the work tables and would not come back out she would sneak out at night and eat and drink.

She gave birth to 3 kittens across the street under a storage building there, and she adopted an older kitten that the mother had disappeared (cat cage) in return for cat sitting she let the older cat nurse with her kittens, when they were about 6-8 weeks old she moved the entire brood to our enclosed back porch and put them under the hot tub, and over time the entire group became family pets all five of them, even Red now comes in the house top eat, and sleeps on the couch. She does not know how much joy she has brought to my life with her kittens, and her decision to trust us with her babies.

They work wonders on my mental health but my wife claims that no one cares more about the cats than she does rofl. Garfield is her favorite and he sleeps in bed with her, and he lets her know about midnite hey lady hit the sack I am tired he rules the roost.

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