Step 3: Help Your Patients Learn to Express Their Inner Experience
This is the third step in trauma treatment from Bessel van der Kolk’s Four Concrete Steps for Working with Trauma. “Help your patients learn to express their inner experience”.
This is where treatment starts to come together in my opinion. The first two steps are vital for this to happen; having experienced self-regulation and exploring self-empowerment. Without these tools, your inner world could be frightening and sometimes impossible to touch. It is our jobs as professionals to be aware of where are client are at and their ability to manage what comes up. Without the first two parts, it is easy to retraumatize and cause harm. If your client begins to experience his trauma, it is imperative that you help him stay in contact with you. No closing their eyes or turning away, make them stay with you. Have them touch their horse, feel warmth, or something similar.
The relationship with their equine partner is a great place to begin to connect with their inner experience and express what they feel. At the Institute we practice Gestalt EAP, which means we work in the present moment and create experiments to assist our client in experiencing themselves in relationship to another. For example, if you have a victim of sexual abuse, and you notice that his horse partner is constantly in his bubble, you could do an experiment instructing him to stand very close to his horse, taking a breath and becoming aware of what he is feeling in his body. Then taking a few steps back and noticing if anything changed. It is important that your client is in relationship with her horse as this unfolds, otherwise, the horse becomes an “it” or as some people say “a tool”.
Please note, this is vastly different from having your client do an exercise and then speaking about it afterwards. Our goals at the Institute is to assist our clients in being in their bodies, feeling their emotions and being able to experience security as the stay in consistent relationship with others and their environment.
Advice: If your client is having a difficult time connecting to his horse, it is helpful to do some exercises with him, focused on connecting with you, the facilitator.
For support or questions, contact The Institute for EAP. We offer mentorship, supervision, web based and on location trainings.