'There really is something very special in forming a non-verbal bond with a horse'

27 Feb 2020 - news

Philippa Williams, Equine Facilitated Psychotherapist, visited Yes We Can Youth Clinics last week. Philippa and her colleagues offer facilitated psychotherapy interventions with horses. ‘When we experience high levels of stress and trauma, part of our brain, called Broca’s area, responsible for accessing verbal memories, shuts down. The horses help to access the issue of the clients bottom-up; in a gentle yet powerful way.’

Hi Philippa, thank you for visiting Yes We Can Youth Clinics. What is the main reason for your visit?

We are looking at opportunities for Equine Enlightenment to offer aftercare to the international clients once they have completed their residential stay at Yes We Can Clinics.  

Your expertise is equine assisted psychotherapy. What is the meaning of the therapy and how does it help people?

We offer psychotherapy interventions with horses in nature, along with room based psychological assessment and therapies. The equine therapy offers a unique platform for people who struggle to engage in traditional clinical settings that rely solely upon verbal processing. This is particularly helpful for young people who struggle to engage in talking therapies due to trust, attachment, inability or desire to articulate, trauma and verbal processing disorders in general. It is non-confrontational, and it is gentle and effective, offering a multi-dimensional body-mind approach in comparison to cognitive talking therapies. Horses live in similar social groups to humans and they are very good at teaching self-awareness of behaviors and feelings. They are therefore very good at teaching us to have a relationship with ourselves and others. Emotion regulation and stabilisation from trauma can be achieved gently and effectively, as well as having capabilities similar to EMDR.

What kind of problems do the people have who visit Equine Enlightenment?

Just like Yes We Can Clinics, Equine Enlightenment offers a comprehensive service to young people, adults, families and couples for a broad range of issues. Our specialist areas are trauma/ PTSD, personality disorders and addiction/ self-harm.  I am also a published author in the area of trauma; specifically, how equine facilitated psychotherapy can re-wire the brain following relational trauma. (See Williams, P. (2018). Working with relational trauma: limbic restructuring through equine facilitated psychotherapy. In K. Trotter and J. Baggerly (Eds.), Equine-Assisted Mental Health for Healing Trauma. New York, NY: Routledge).

 Which additional techniques/therapies do you use to help people finding themselves again?

My practitioner training was carried out at Regent’s University London where I studied post-graduate Counselling and Psychotherapy, followed by a professional doctorate in Counselling Psychology. I am therefore trained and practice in a broad range of evidence based therapeutic interventions including but not limited to: Existential Phenomenological; CBT including second & third wave and Psychodynamic therapies. Due to the broad range of psychological therapies we offer in combination with unique equine and nature therapies, we more often than not receive people into the service who have already seen 7+ psychologist/ mental health teams with no luck. Horses are often seen as the ‘last hope’. 

What is your impression of the treatment at Yes We Can Youth Clinics?

I am really impressed by the comprehensive program. There is nothing that hasn’t been thought of. Every single person has an individual role that uniquely supports the individual and or family throughout the entre process. There obviously a lot of job satisfaction in that, and I can really see the power behind it that radiates amongst the team, obviously having a significantly positive domino effect on the fellows. I am also really impressed by the variation of therapeutic support and the cohesion within the multidisciplinary team, which, in my experience is rare.

How can you learn from Yes We Can Youth Clinics?

For me, Yes We Can is an example to be held in high esteem to the mental health and addiction industries in general. I have been most struck by the attention to detail in the organisational structure and job descriptions for each individual member. I see it as being like a food recipe: you mustn’t leave any ingredients out... and YWC certainly have not. To achieve this balance is absolutely incredible, and I’d love to be able to learn more from this.

And how could we learn from your therapy/expertise?

I think, sometimes both professionals and public can be afraid of believing in or trying therapies that are not well known in main-stream treatment circles. What people don’t know, is that equine facilitated psychotherapy is one of the fastest growing literature bases for evidencing the efficacy for treatment of all major psychological presentations (Go to Google Scholar and search for yourself!). There really is something very special in forming a non- verbal bond with a horse. That in itself is immensely healing. 

I have designed a new therapeutic model for Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy as an alternative intervention for working with challenging behavior.  It has just been accepted for publication, and I will be completing the manuscript for the book this year: I’ve no doubt that this model would be of great use for your team to explore.

You’ve seen a lot of people struggling with themselves. What is a big life lesson you tell them, which you want to tell to other youths now struggling with themselves?

Like most young people, I had my ups and downs growing up. When I had the downs, there were times I often wished someone could understand.… Today, I often use psycho-education translated into simple language to explain psychological and physiological symptoms and processes. This helps the client gain insight and shared understanding into what is going on, whilst also providing a sense of empowerment and validation that they’re not the only ones/ going mad. In turn, the psycho-education provides a set of resources/ tools to be able to start to manage and regulate the severe symptoms.

Do you want to know more? Please visit their website:http://www.equineenlightenment.co.uk/