Accredited Mental Health Social Worker
I'm an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker. I have approximately 20 year’s experience in working with children and young people from a variety of backgrounds, in particular children and young people living in Out Of Home Care, who have experiences of trauma, abuse and neglect. I also have extensive experience in working with children with special needs and both psychical and psychological disabilities. I have an interest in assisting children, young people and their families to find a way to grow by discovering new awareness, choice-fullness, emotional intelligence, embodiment and a connection with others, while respecting and celebrating uniqueness.
I am an accredited Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Practitioner with The Equine Psychotherapy Institute of Australia (EPI) and I have completed advanced training with the EPI in working with clients who have experienced Trauma. I have trained in Play Therapy and Creative Therapies for children and young people. I am a Registered Provider with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to provide Therapeutic Supports. I am also a registered provider with Medicare.
In addition to offering Psychological Therapy services as a Clinical Social Worker, I also offer Therapeutic experiences with horses (further details below). I also incorporate creative and play-based experiential learning experiences.
Sessions are always tailored to each individual's learning and therapeutic goals. Sessions may be room-based therapy or may be an Equine Assisted Therapy session, depending on the client’s needs and desires.
What might happen in an Equine Assisted Therapy session?
Sessions occur in a safe, natural and welcoming environment in the paddock or ménage. There’s no need for any prior horse or riding experience. Participants generally interact with the horses from the ground and are provided with advice and guidance for safety around horses.
Following an initial grounding, relaxation and awareness process, I will invite the participant to undertake an experience with the horse/s. These may involve observing the horses from afar, touching, grooming or leading the horse. These experiences are experiments; enacting and ‘doing’. Experiments are about trying something new, at an experiential level, which is a way of interrupting fixed patterns and beliefs.
EAP is trialling something different (rather than just talking about it) in relationship with another ‘being’ who is non-judgemental, authentic and supportive.
Ideas don’t lead to change, practice does.
These experiments will always take into consideration the clients therapeutic goals, abilities and their window of tolerance; what they are able to manage physically and emotionally. Participants are supported to discuss their experience in terms of what they felt, thought and saw. This will assist in increasing awareness of feelings, thoughts, observations, patterns or themes.
The Equine Psychotherapy Institute of Australia has developed its model of EAP/EAL on the following;
Common Factors Psychotherapy/ Counselling Research Outcomes on the Therapeutic Relationship that supports change
Psychotherapeutic Theory and Practices – Mindfulness Psychotherapy, Gestalt Psychotherapy, Trauma Therapy, Attachment and Developmental approach in Psychotherapy, and Relational Practice
Skilled Facilitation and Group Process
The Way of the Horse Psycho-education – where horses are modelling health and wellbeing
The Gift of Horses
" Horses are beautiful, strong and gentle animals. They are both prey animals and herd animals and offer an exquisite combination of sensory and feeling awareness, and fullness of contact. Horses can provoke strong images and feelings, deep yearnings, projections, transference, and profound embodied experiences in many people. As Freeman (2009) states “horses live the essence of Gestalt” in their natural capacity for awareness, contact, congruency and organismic self regulation. These capacities are incredibly potent for many people out of touch with their own sensitivity and immediacy of experience. People challenged by patterns of incongruence (for example, having an inner experience of hurt that is disconnected from, or covered by a bodily or behavioural pattern of holding/tensing and smiling), receive immediate non-judgemental feedback by the horses. Because horses are prey animals they are tuned to the inner experience of those around them so as to keep them safe from predators. If a lion, full in the belly and needing a drink from the water hole, approaches, the horses sense the lion’s intention, and continue grazing with awareness. If that same lion is hungry and stalking, the horses respond by fleeing to safety. Incongruent humans who approach are responded to by horses with either confusion or stress, or, they respond to the inner experience, rather than the behaviour that is presented. These are the gifts they bring to the therapy process.
Kohanov and McElroy (2007) in The Way of the Horse suggest that we can explore the wisdom of non-verbal, non-predatory, heightened sensory and extrasensory being that horses embody. Specifically Linda suggests that learning about a horse’s way of being honours and speaks to trauma survivors, people who feel powerless and sensitive people who feel betrayed by our aggressive, disconnected and mechanised culture. Linda describes how horses model strengths of cooperation over competition, relationship over territory, responsiveness over strategy, emotion and intuition over logic, process over goal, and the creative approach to life.
When we respectfully climb on their backs, walk beside them or sit in their presence, these animals interrupt the hypnotic effects of our own human conditioning giving people unusually efficient access to forms of healing, perceiving, and relating. (Kohanov & McElroy, 2007, 206)."
Reference: Journal Article by Meg Kirby 2010 on Gestalt based Equine Assisted Psychotherapy GANZ Jounal Vol6 No2 May 2010 – Gestalt Equine Psychotherapy.