Can horses make us better therapists?
Yes! Of course! I always knew this to be true for me, but recently I was able to connect many of the dots as to the “why” and “how”.
In cruising through my social media accounts one click led to another, and I stumbled across a video “The Path of the Horse” a full length documentary on YouTube. I watched the story of a hugely successful horse trainer let go of all that she knew and set out on a quest to rediscover what she had lost from her childhood relationship with these beautiful creatures. A major theme between the speakers, who included horse trainers and people doing healing work, was a proposed shift from “what can I teach the horse” to “what can this horse teach me?”
Now, I am NOT a horse trainer, nor is this post about training. However, in the healing work that I partner with horses to facilitate, this is huge! I knew this within myself, but in a way I couldn’t quite put into words to communicate with others. I have witnessed horses (given the free choice whether to engage or not) completely ignore the most successful, brilliant, and “have it all together” of people, only to turn, walk over and offer their heart when the tears begin to flow in a place of true self compassion and congruence. I experienced this time and time again, to the point of it being undeniable during my certification as an Equine Gestalt Coach with Melisa Pearce of Touched by a Horse.
It has been well researched and known in the world of therapy that the most important piece of a helping relationship for change, is just that… the relationship! If there is no rapport between therapist and client, the chance of a successful outcome is greatly decreased no matter what type of intervention or level of training by the professional.
The Path of The Horse highlights a different kind of relationship with horses that can be achieved through the wisdom of the equine family and the value and beauty of a relationship void of fear and power over… a true partnership. This includes things like authenticity and being present within the moment, along with curiosity and play, allowing space and safety for the horse to express itself, and the list goes on.
I have heard these things before… In listening to Linda Kohanav speak in the video, it all connected… These are pieces that I had worked to bring into the counselling office, initially in what I strived to provide my clients, and ultimately, what I had hoped for them to gain through our interactions… Authenticity in terms of body-mind-spirit coming into alignment and personal truth, mindfulness in the present moment, a curiosity about one’s own wisdom and reactions, and developing safety to first feel and acknowledge emotions, then express them!
Is it possible that a big piece of being a good therapist (or a helper of any kind for that matter) cannot be taught in a classroom or book? Of course the theory on which we practice is incredibly important in terms of ethics and having a theoretical understanding (the science of helping), but that the relationship (or bedside manner) is rather an art? Perhaps one that starts with examining oneself and how they show up in the world? And how can one “teach” this in therapy if they do not practice it themselves?
Perhaps, turning to those who live in this state every day is the greatest source of wisdom.