Anyone can Experience PTSD

I have posted about this before. When we hear ‘PTSD’ (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), most of us think about military veterans. But in truth, trauma can happen to anyone in a multitude of day-to-day situations. This ‘Letter to the Editor’ published in Press Herald, tells of a young girl, daughter of a veteran, who struggled with her own traumatic experiences due to her father’s mental health issues.

Sadly, this woman’s experience is not uncommon. There are so many life experiences that can leave a person unable to cope in the way they had before. Accidents. Death of a loved one. Abuse. Neglect. Abandonment. Living/working in an environment that is highly stressful/dangerous, such as being Police Officer or Firefighter and even a Doctor who deals with life and death situations on a regular basis. Some people are more resilient, though many others will struggle to find their way after experiencing trauma. And trauma changes the brain. This means that the effects can be lifelong. First, we must recognize and acknowledge that harm has been done, so that we can move on to finding a path to healing.

Those struggling with PTSD may experience sleep issues. They may become hyper-vigilant in what appears to others as ‘normal’ situations. They may struggle to manage frustration and anger, but any strong emotion may cause difficulty. They may become depressed and withdrawn. And as in the story related by Zoe Gaston, the family and loved ones can suffer as well, developing their own PTSD.

There is growing research supporting the benefits of Equine Assisted interventions for those struggling with PTSD.  As stated in the sited research, work with horses can ‘address self-esteem and personal confidence, communication and interpersonal effectiveness, trust, boundaries and limit-setting’ (among other things!)

Nevada Equine Assisted Therapy works with children as young as 4, teens, adults and even seniors. Session are one-on-one, one client, one Qualified Mental Health Associate and one horse. Our sessions focus on each client’s individual goals and include learning about horse and herd behavior, relationship building, ground work and mounted work. Rather than having a set ‘timeline’ our program is more open-ended. We work at the pace required to serve the client. If there is a lot of anxiety, we may stay on the ground longer, but by the 4th session, most of our clients are ready to mount.  We have a large outdoor arena, as well as a covered arena, so our work continues year round.

If you, or someone you know, are struggling with PTSD, please seek help. We are here and would be happy to meet with you. We will show you around the ranch, introduce our incredible herd, learn more about what you are dealing with and share how we might be able to help. Call of email today to schedule a visit.

Posted in Addiction, Anxiety Disorders, Children's issues, Depression, Eating Disorders, Grief, Mental Health, PTSD, Seniors Program, Teens | Leave a comment

Equine Therapy Programs Struggle

It is a sad day when we learn that another Equine Therapy Program will be closing their doors. Wisconsin’s CHAP program has reached the sad conclusion that they can not continue to provide services.

We know the struggles of implementing and Equine Therapy Program.

A lot of people have a misconception that what we provide are riding lessons.

Yes, while working in our program our clients will probably learn at least the basics of riding a horse. But our work is so much deeper. Work with horses improves communication, builds self-confidence, helping those with anxiety and depression share how they feel and become more empowered in all areas of their lives. For those dealing with ADHD and again anxiety, we work on self-soothing and calming skills that allow clients to slow down and be present in the moment. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We focus on each client’s specific needs and issues, designing a program around work with horses that will help them reach their goals of a healthier and happier life.

Add to this the fact a program of this type deals with financial challenges (most insurance companies offer very few benefits for mental health coverage and those benefits are usually reserved for very specific ‘traditional’ types of services) that come along with caring for horses. Horses must be sheltered and fed no matter what. There is also a huge time and energy commitment to providing a the physical care that horses require. Horses are fed up to 3 times per day. Stalls are cleaned twice daily and each horse has a schedule of ‘down time’ as well as training to keep them healthy, happy and ready to do their work, And of course we are often at the mercy of ‘mother nature’ when weather can impact our program. Luckily, N.E.A.T. has a large covered arena that we can use when they weather gets challenging.

But, I’ll tell you what.  We know that the work we do is invaluable for the clients we serve. This is the work we are meant to do.We have seen the benefits and we will continue to fight the good fight to be here in Northern Nevada, providing vital services to children as young as 4, teens, adults and seniors. We invite you to call or email us if you would like to visit our ranch and meet our herd. We will be happy to learn more about what you are dealing with and share how we may be able to help, or share with you how you may be able to help us help others.

 

Posted in Addiction, ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Asperger's, Autism, Bipolar, Children's issues, Depression, Eating Disorders, FAS, Grief, Mental Health, OCD, ODD, Other challenges, Other programs, PTSD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Schizophrenia, Seniors Program, Sensory processing issues, Team Building, Teens | Leave a comment

Why an Increase in Mental Health Issues for Millennials?

Millennials are typically described as those born in the 1980s through the early 2ooo’s.  That make them in their late-teens through their early 30’s today. And yes, we are seeing a rise in reports of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts in this age group. There has been a lot of speculation as to why this may be the case. Everything from increased technology/social media use (mentioned in the article below) to just more frequent reporting, but a new study looks at another possible cause.

This article, in bigthink, talks about a study done in the UK, with results published in Psychological Bulletin, which point to an increased personal demand for perfectionism, which leads to elevated expectations, as part of the problem. They looked at how this ’emphasis on individual achievement’ has led to ‘young adults feel(ing) pressure to measure up to an ever-growing number of criteria. Striving to reach impossible standards increases the risk of anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, and even suicidal ideation.’

One of the conclusions they reach is that young people need to learn to be more comfortable with what can be learned from ‘failure’ (I don’t like that word!) “Truth is, there is no such thing as perfection. And we learn far more from our failures than we ever do our successes. So instead of trying to be perfect, it might be best to perfect how to learn from the times we come up short.”

Ok, so here is where work with horses comes in! On any given day, we may have a ‘plan’ in place for what we want to accomplish while working with our horse. However, it is not unusual to discover that your horse is not on the same page. Things that worked last time may not be working today. The horse may be distracted or even agitated over things that are going on around them. Our clients have to learn to meet the horse where they are. The horse may need us to stand quietly and reassure them or they may need us to be a little more firm in our communications so that we are able to get their attention. Often work with horses is 3 steps forward and two steps back. Instead of striving for ‘perfection’ we are working on ‘improvement’ in our communication and in our understanding of our horse. This shift in focus from ‘me’ to ‘us’ is a first step in becoming aware that we are never in this world alone. What’s more work with horses can help reduce anxiety, increase self-confidence, build leadership (partnership!) skills and just plan make us feel better!

If you or someone you know is struggling, we are here to help. Work with horses can be a powerful way to find a path to a healthier and happier life. Call or email us and we will schedule a time for you to visit the ranch. We will show you around, introduce our wonderful herd, learn more about what you are dealing with and share how we may be able to help.

 

 

 

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How Lack of Sleep Impacts Mental Health

We all know that we can become irritable and don’t function as well if we do not get enough sleep. But for some people dealing with chronic sleep issues, it is much more serious. It may be that they struggle to fall asleep, have troubling dreams or can not stay asleep/fall back to sleep, but they are just not getting enough sleep and the research shows that this can be a significant contributing factor in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

And, the evidence is mounting that lack of sleep and these particular mental health issues are intimately connected. Forbes Magazine is sharing the results of a new study, conducted at Binghamton University which explores “a phenomenon called repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a hallmark of both mood and anxiety disorders”.

The study finds that those struggling with a lack of sleep had a harder time not focusing on negative thoughts. This “inability to suppress negative stimuli, which again is a key element of mood and anxiety disorders” appears to be tied to a lack of sleep. And, “The authors of that study suggest that lack of sleep in adolescence may predispose teens to both depression and addiction later on”.

So what can we do to change this dynamic? There is mounting evidence that technology ‘hi-jacks’ the brain and can contribute to sleep issues. It is important to monitor and manage your/your child’s/teen’s technology use. And then of course there are the old basics, eat right, get enough exercise, both of which can be challenging in our world today. We also want to be sure that we have strong positive experiences that we can call on when we find ourselves getting stuck in a negative mindset.

Work with horses can be of help. First off, our clients are outdoors (no technology!) They are leading, grooming, tacking up and riding, all of this is gentle exercise (walking, bending, reaching, turning). They are building a relationship with another living, breathing being. They are being encouraged to be present and in the moment. To communicate. To be honest (horses know if we are not being authentic). We often encourage our clients to practice visualizations (how does it feel when you are brushing your horse? How does your horse smell? How does it feel when the sunshine is warm on your back?) that they can call upon when feeling anxious or depressed. These are just a few of the many, many benefits that work with horses offer.

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, depression or any other mental health issues, we are here to help. Work with horses can be a powerful part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Call of email us and we will schedule a visit to the ranch. You’ll get a tour and meet our incredible herd. We will listen and learn more about what you are dealing with and share how we may be able to help.

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Medication Alone May Not be Enough

Today there are a myriad of different medications available to treat most medical conditions including mental health issues. But time after time we hear clients and their caregivers lament that the medication they/their child/teen are taking does not seem to be making a difference.

This article in Medical News Today takes a look specifically at medications for the treatment of depression, but I think that it is far assessment of medications used in the treatment of most mental health conditions. Most interesting to me is the finding that “environmental factors such as childhood maltreatment, disease episodes, previous life events, and different treatment schedules” are likely to impact any specific medications effectiveness. the article goes on to say that in many cases finding the right medications is going to be an ongoing process where you try something, assess how well it is working and consider other options if it is not doing the job. This can take time and really highlights why it is important to get some good therapeutic interventions in place to help hold you up while you are finding the medication(s) that will be most helpful.

Of course, this is where Equine Assisted Therapy can be very helpful! Work with horses can offer many benefits for those living with depression, including being having a empathetic and non-judgemental team to listen to what you are dealing with. You will be outdoors (or in the covered arena if the weather is challenging) and this ‘nature connection’ can be very healing. Biorhythms change, breathing slows down and there is space to calm down and re-gain perspective. Working with horses requires that we be ‘present and in the moment’ leaving little room for contemplate ‘failures’ of the past or be worrying about the future. Additionally, horses respond to our body language and to our feelings. They know when we are trying to pretend that ‘everything is ok’ (when it is not!) and this makes uncomfortable. They want us to be real and they feel safe when we are expressing what is really going on for us. And besides, just being around a horse tends to help us to feel good- the smell, the feeling, their warmth and empathy all can have a very positive impact on how we feel.

At Nevada Equine Assisted Therapy you will work one-on-one with a Qualified Mental Health Associate and the horse you choose to partner with. While learning about horses, how to be safe while working around them, why they do what they do, and how to ‘tack up’ and ride, your team will be addressing your specific issues and goals.

We invite you to call or email us to schedule a visit. We will show you around the ranch, introduce our wonderful herd, learn more about what you are dealing with and share how we might be able to help. Through work with horses may you find a path to better health and happiness.

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PTSD Not Just a Veterans’ Issue

Yes, it is not surprising that many Veterans return home with PTSD. They have often lived through and witnessed terrible situations. However, many of us have had traumatic things happen in our lives. From the sudden loss of a parent (through death, divorce, abandonment, etc) to being the victim of or witnessing violence against a loved one, and even living through an accident or natural disaster. Sometimes it seems amazing that we don’t all struggle with PTSD. Research is showing that some people are more resilient and are able to survive trauma with less impact, but the truth is that many people do struggle, but do not realize that what they are dealing with is PTSD.

Trouble sleeping, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, inability to stay focused, impulsive behavior, depression, sudden mood swings…there are a long list of symptoms and many of them are often attributed to other conditions. But when we look closely at what someone has experienced it becomes easier to put the pieces together and come up with a more valid diagnosis. NPR’s Weekend Edition, provides a look into the lives of people struggling with PTSD, with the goal in mind of encouraging people to seek help AND there is mounting evidence that Equine Assisted can be VERY beneficial in helping those struggle with PTSD to find a path to health and healing.

Work with horses provides a wide range of benefits. It boosts confidence, improves communication, builds trust, promotes self-awareness, provides perspective, reduces anxiety, decreases feelings of isolation and improves impulse control, just to name a few!

At Nevada Equine Assisted therapy we embrace a Trauma Informed Practices model of care for those dealing with those living with PTSD. Our clients work one-on-one with a Qualified Mental Health Associate and the horse they choose to help them on their journey. Our clients learn about horse and herd behavior. While building a relationship with their treatment team, horse and human, they learn to take care of the horses grooming and, through activities, such as the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Games, develop skills for communication with horses. AND they ride. Though all our work begins on the ground, we have found that their are phenomenal things to be learned once a client is actually up on their horse. From problem solving to frustration tolerance, things do look different from the back of a horse.

If you or someone you know is struggle with PTSD, seek help. We are here to be part of a comprehensive treatment team. We invite you to come out to the ranch, meet the herd, share what you are dealing with and learn how we may be able to help. Call of email today to schedule a visit.

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College Offers Many Challenges

Winter break will be finishing up soon and college kids around the country will be going back to campus. They have enjoyed a respite with friends and family and at this point know how they are doing academically. Perhaps all their hard work has paid off and their grades are good, or perhaps they find that they are struggling.  In either case, they can be experiencing a lot of anxiety.

Mickey Sharma, director of counseling and consultation service at Ohio State’s Office of Student Life, states that this is a growing concern. According to an article in the Columbus Dispatch, “anxiety has replaced depression as the top mental health concern among students seeking counseling”.  However, anxiety and depression remain major concerns in the college mental health realm today, said Dr. Ben Locke, executive director for the Center of Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University.

These increases are a result of several factors. Social media has created a huge awareness of what is happening all around the world. We know in a heartbeat about a tragedy has occurred, even when it is far away and may have little to do with us.

Conversely, the ‘connectedness’ of social media has actually caused us to be less connected on a truly personal and meaningful way. These connections are vitally important to our ability to bounce back and deal with challenges. Without them people often feel that they are ‘on their own’ when things are not going well.

The article offers several other reasons for this increase, one of which is actually good news.

But there is some good news. Part of increase in reported cases of anxiety and depression are due to a decrease in the stigma of seeking help for these issues. Talking to someone about what they are feeling can be a first step to working through the problem, but sometimes ‘talking’ can be difficult. That’s where other interventions, such as Equine Assisted Therapies can be very helpful.

Horses are non-judgemental. They meet us where we are. They allow us to just be. They offer a low-key, non-confrontational opportunity to connect. They can help us find our inner leader, build confidence and self-esteem. They can help us see that there is often more than one way to accomplish a goal. All of these things can resonate with someone feeling overwhelmed or not up to the daily challenges they are facing.

We are here to help. If you or someone you know is struggling, give us a call or send us an email. We will schedule a time for you to visit the ranch and meet our incredible horses. We will learn more about what you are dealing with and share how we might be able to help.

 

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Anxiety Does Not Get Better

Sometimes we are able to ‘out grow’ fears, such as a childhood fear of the dark. Unfortunately, that is not always the case and when anxiety goes untreated, little by little, it can narrow a persons life down till they really aren’t living at all.

Social anxiety is often a ‘self fulfilling’ issue. A person feels anxious about a given situation and due to many things, including chemical changes in the body that take place when we feel anxious, they become awkward. They have trouble with simple conversations and may withdraw into their own negative perceptions of what is going on, which of course makes them feel more anxious.  This Quartz Media piece is author Helena Bala‘s report of an interview she had with ‘Frank’. It is a story of how social anxiety challenges children, teens and adults. Without treatment this issue becomes a life-defining story.

It might surprise you to know that work with horses can help! First off, horses are non-judgmental. They accept us for who we are in the moment. They come with no expectations. They certainly don’t care what we look like and are not impressed by our conversational skills (or lack there of). All we have to do is just be kind and be present. As we begin to work with them we learn about boundaries, how to set them and maintain them without being pushy or aggressive, but keeping ourselves safe in the relationship. We learn about all the things we can’t imagine ourselves doing (such as picking up a horses hoof to check it for rocks), only to discover that, if we are patient with ourselves, we can do amazing things. We learn to look for non-verbal cues as to how our horse is feeling/responding to a situation. This skill transfers to other situations where we now may be better able to read non-verbal cues in humans. I could go on, but I bet you get the picture.

Please don’t let life pass you by. If you or someone you know struggles with social interactions, seek help. We are here to be part of the team! Call or email us and we will schedule a visit to the ranch. We will show you around, introduce our wonderful horses, learn more about what you are dealing with and share how we may be able to help…

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The Many Faces of ADHD

Oh I know, when we hear the word ADHD we see in our minds-eye that little boy fidgeting and fussing and getting into everything. In some cases that is a very accurate picture, but you may not notice the same symptoms in girls. This is due in part to different gender expectations. We may be more tolerant for the girl who is a ‘social butterfly,’ chattering all the time with her friends. Whereas we may judge the boy who just can’t stay in his seat as a problem.

It is important that we see all kids as individuals and judge what is going on with them in fair and unbiased way. It is only in this way that we can help ALL children reach their full potential. In this interesting CNN piece, they talk about how damaging it can be to not see and seek help for the girls that struggle, offering tips on what to look for when assessing girls for ADHD.

Work with horses is a particularly powerful intervention for those struggling with ADHD. In order to build a safe and trusting relationship with their horse, clients must bring their energy down. They must manage impulsive tendencies. They must learn and practice the simple skills needed to groom and tack-up their horse and they must work on multi-tasking (legs long, hands low, turn and look where you are going) while still being focused when riding. Additionally, it is not uncommon for those dealing with ADHD to have low self-esteem/self-confidence. Work with horses can show our clients that they can do things they set their minds to. Through work with horses they can learn to be happy, healthy kids, teens and adults.

I know life can be chaotic and it may be hard to find time to question if that little girl who seems to be doing it all is really managing as well as she seems, but be sure to check in and let her know that ‘perfect’ is not expected!

If someone you know is living with ADHD, we are here to help. We work with children as young as 4 years of age, teens and even adults. Give us a call of send us an email and we will schedule a visit. We will show you around the ranch (including our covered arena!), introduce our incredible horses, learn more about what you are dealing with and share how we may be able to help.

Posted in ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Asperger's, Autism, Children's issues, Depression, Eating Disorders, Mental Health, OCD, Teens | Leave a comment

What is Psychosocial Rehabilitation???

Through work with horses, Nevada Equine Assisted Therapy provides social, emotional and behavioral growth and learning as well as a mental health intervention called Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR), but what the heck is that?!

I found this really good explanation and wanted to share it with you.

‘PSR is an interactive, skills-driven service that assists children (as well as teens and adults) to be successful at home, school and in the community. The parent/caregiver can also expect to participate as a full partner in this treatment. PSR services may focus on:

  • Behavior Management Skills
  • Positive Behavior Approaches
  • Problem Identification and Problem Solving Skills
  • Effective Communication Skills
  • Self-Sufficiency/Daily Living Skills
  • Life Goals
  • Identifying Right From Wrong
  • Sense of Humor
  • Developing Skills to Become Emotionally Connected to Themselves and Others

PSR can be a very powerful addition to an ongoing treatment plan, but you may ask, ‘how do you do that through work with horses?’ Let me give you a couple of examples. From haltering to leading and grooming, clients are learning how to do simple tasks, in a specific order, to achieve a goal – getting there horse ready to ride. By encouraging them to stay focused and complete each task before moving on to the next we are helping them learn to become self sufficient and in the case of a client struggling with ADHD of OCD, they are managing the impulsive and disruptive behaviors so that they can accomplish the task at hand.

While leading, doing ground work or riding, client face choices and challenges. They must learn to communicate clearly with their horse and, through this experiential process, they develop problem solving skills. “You want to go left and your horse wants to go right. What can you do to fix this?”

These are just a few examples of how we are able to meet the goals of PSR through work with horse. We feel that it is a unique and profound way to reach kids, teens and even adults who may struggle in a more traditional therapeutic environment. If you or someone you know is living with social, emotional, behavior or mental health issues, we are here to help. Call or email us and we will schedule a visit for you. We will show you around the ranch, introduce our wonderful horses, learn more about what you are dealing with and share how we may be able to help.

 

Posted in Addiction, ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Asperger's, Autism, Bipolar, Children's issues, Depression, Eating Disorders, FAS, Grief, Mental Health, OCD, ODD, Other challenges, PTSD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Schizophrenia, Seniors Program, Sensory processing issues, Teens | Leave a comment