The integration of equine-facilitated and somatic therapies for the treatment of complex trauma

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Meikle, Jennifer
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Current research on early trauma is uncovering the staggering toll it takes on physical, psychological, social, and emotional health. Neurobiology and trauma research also suggests that accessing the portion of the brain and nervous system that humans have in common with animals is the key to healing. In order to access these lower regions of the brain which are outside of conscious awareness and control, a bottom-up approach is recommended. A focus on interpersonal neurobiology, somatic psychology, attachment theory, and self-regulation with the goal to create neural pathways of safety and connection are all well-suited to the experiential work of equine-facilitated psychotherapy. This thesis seeks to explore the nature of equine-facilitated psychotherapy in the context of its potential to be a useful adjunct intervention to somatic therapy in the treatment of complex trauma. This is done by examining some of the core concepts in somatic therapy such as hierarchical levels of information processing, attending to the internal senses, and present moment focus as they may be utilized in work with equines. An introduction to the concept of the window of tolerance and polyvagal theory provide a structure and language useful for expressing the range in the autonomic nervous system that is correlated to well-being and an experience of safety. Through the lens of somatic therapy, this thesis then expands to describe the use of equine-facilitated practices aimed to enhance the felt sense of increased capacity for self-regulation, one of the primary tenets of treatment for complex trauma.
complex trauma , developmental trauma , polyvagal theory , window of tolerance , somatic therapy , equine-facilitated psychotherapy
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States , openAccess