A Reluctant Equine Participant – Guest Post by Lindsay Williams

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For quite some months, Tiffany Ashenfelter invited, encouraged and nearly insisted I come to the ranch and learn more about her work doing equine therapy. Though I love animals, and have two cats and a dog at home, I had never been around horses and my eagerness to take her up on this offer was minimal. I kept finding excuses, primarily that I was in my mid-30s and since I hadn’t been near a horse yet, I thought I was past my prime. Simply put, I wasn’t too interested. Even amid hearing the amazing work our shared clients were achieving in equine therapy, I was just fine supporting without first hand experience.

After delaying the inevitable and turning down my talented colleague in the past, my husband and I finally agreed to help Tiffany and her husband Michael with some equine therapy promo material. We arrived on a lovely Saturday evening. I was fully intending on being the helpful coworker who would lend a hand for some photos, but not really engaging in any sort of “real” equine therapy. As we greeted others and began to discuss the evening plans, the idea of having the Ashenfelter’s and their equine team walk us through the typical therapeutic activities was brought up. Everyone agreed this was a grand idea.

I wasn’t so sure because I didn’t really want to do equine therapy.

I didn’t need to build a relationship with my horse. All I was aiming for was keeping my boots clean, my arms looking slender, and my hair photo-worthy amid the Texas humidity. But, approach and bridle a horse. Walk with him or her. Get the horse to trust you. This all sounded a little intimidating and not quite what I had agreed to.

After acknowledging I was a bit anxious and discussing with the other attendees my lack of any sort of history with horses, I was attended to by the team. I was reassured and immediately felt at ease that they were for me and my success and ready to help empower me in the equine therapy work. Soon, we were assigned a horse to approach and connect with. I was given the smallest little guy, Jessie, and I was perfectly happy with it. “It’s just a big dog,” I repeatedly told myself.

I entered Jessie’s space and he allowed me to bridle him before I led him as directed by the therapy team. I spent time petting his mane and back, learning about how his response to me was reflective of my own experience. Jessie and I worked together, alongside my husband and his horse in an easy and comfortable manner. We bonded more than I ever imagined I could with an animal in such a short time. I was surprised at how I felt connected to and protective of “my” horse when we were asked to change horses and work with a new therapeutic equine partner.

As I reflected on why equine therapy went from something I was uninterested in to something I found calming, connecting and insightful, I thought of the relationship with the horse. I went into the experience somewhat anxious and hesitant, and yet while acknowledging those feelings, I acted on my value for relationship. I recognized that amid my uncomfortable feelings, I calmly welcomed the relationship, because it was just that, a relationship.

And relationships are where we learn about ourselves.

My equine therapy experience reminded me I could connect based on the way that I chose to show up, not how my fears enticed me to avoid. The horses were open to me if I was willing to approach them in a safe and unassuming manner. The work provided insights into my personal agency in interactions, awareness of how my feelings sometimes lie to me, and personal satisfaction from acting on my values. And the best is that I was with my husband and all this could easily translate into our marriage relationship.

I would have never guessed all this could come from a few hours with a horse and team of wonderful folks guiding our work together. Equine therapy and working with the Ashenfelter’s was a gift to me as both a colleague and clinician. If you are at all interested in how this work might help you or a client you have, especially if you work with couples, I can’t recommend it enough.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

Lindsay Williams is an individual therapist for adolescents and adults at Restoration Counseling in Dallas. By encouraging value driven actions within a safe and confidential relationship, her clients gain self worth and personal empowerment.

Lindsay uses DBT skills and practices alongside professional experience with complex family systems, substance use, depression, anxiety, and divorce.

WHAT Did You Just Say? Communication Differences of Men and Women

off-the-mark-on-men-vs_-women“He should just KNOW what I want if he loves me,” she exclaims.

“I TRY to solve her problems, but she gets mad when she’s upset and I give her advice,” he declares.

And both of them think they are right. And both of them have a right to see it that way.

And both of them would be wise to learn to see it from another point of view.

Individuality notwithstanding, the stereotypes are somewhat borne out by research: men are generally problem solvers and women generally want intuitive, compassionate responses. To put it another way, when we approach our partner with a problem, we Continue reading

Setting Goals, Sex & Living to 100-Interesting Articles from the Interwebs

For You – 

Most of us know that goal setting is essential to achievements and healthy living.  But goal setting is not always so easy or so black and white.  This article, 4 Ugly Facts About Setting Goals, is a great read on some of the challenges one will likely face when goal setting.  “Enter your goal-setting process with these evils in mind and you’ll knock ‘em dead.”

For Your Relationships – 

Can you be happily married and be in a sexless marriage? This is the question up for discussion in Psychology Today’s article, Can Couple’s Be Sexless & Happy?  One researcher  named in the article identifies 2 primary reasons for sex to disappear in marriage, childbirth and extra-marital affairs.  In our experience there are other reasons as well but that’s another post for another day.  This article also looks at options available to couples that find themselves in a sexless marriage.  If this is you and your spouse, you are not alone and we’d love to help you explore those areas that interfere with healthy living and a healthy sex life.  You can also find helpful tips on our series – Creating & Maintaining Intimacy

For Your Health – 

Eating a high fiber breakfast can help you live to 100

Want to live to 100?  A U.S. News Health article says if you incorporate these 11 healthy living tips, you just might live for a whole century.  “Researchers have discovered that centenarians tend to share certain traits in how they eat, move about, and deal with stress—the sorts of things we can emulate to improve our own aging process.”  As expected appropriate amounts of sleep and exercise as well as healthy diet recommendations are on the list.  But there are other more surprising factors too such as staying connected to friends and family, being conscientious, being less neurotic & never retiring.  Check it out to find out what you can do to live to 100!

 

Living A Masquerade – Hiding Your True Self

Scarecrows

Michael & I dressed as scarecrows last year

Here is a blog I wrote for Polish: Refining the Details, a summary of my presentation on living a Masquerade…

Growing up I always loved Halloween, I loved scary movies, haunted houses, trick or treating and especially dressing up. I would agonize over my costume every year wanting to have a great one. I still love Halloween and dressing up to go to a costume or masquerade party. There is something very liberating about hiding your true self & pretending to be someone else, rather than who you or who others believe you “should be”.
One mask-maker in California, Carla Almanza-de Quant says “Once you put on a mask you’re cheerful, you’re playful, you’re a more wonderful you,” she says “You become a fantasy character and you interact with others in a more outgoing way.”

What does that look like on a daily basis? What’s the mask or masks you wear when you are hiding your true self from others? Continue reading

Great Expectations!

Check out our latest guest blog, Great Expectations, for Innovation 360, a counseling center helping people recover from addiction through an innovative combination of therapy and life development activities.

Keys to Talking Well – Creating&Maintaining Intimacy

Last week we covered the keys to listening well, this week we are covering the other side of communication…talking (which by the way should be done less than listening). 🙂

When working to improve our communication it’s important to be aware of what we are saying and how we are saying it, so again remember your non-verbals, facial expressions, tone/volume of voice & body language.

Keys to Talking Well

Great communication leads to deeper intimacy.

  1. Know thyself – take ownership for your feelings and plan how to communicate them clearly to your spouse
  2. Avoid over-generalizations – these sound like “you always____” or “you never ______”  these types of statements are very rarely true of someone (did you see how I avoided using an always/never there?)
  3. Stay in the present, avoid bringing up the past  it can be so easy, especially in the heat of the moment, to bring up other situations from the past that trigger the same feelings you are currently having, don’t do it!  Stay in the present and deal with this one situation so you don’t pile on other stuff.  Once you’ve worked it through, you have to choose to let it go and not continually bring it up.
  4. Utilize “I feel” statements – this is a very structured way of speaking that helps you to do the above recommendations.

(Check out how to have difficult conversations for more on this)

How do we construct a solid “I feel” statement?   It’s a 3 step process.

Step 1: “I feel________________” this is where you identify your feeling, “sad”, “lonely”, “happy”.  This is not “I feel when…or I feel you…”  Those are just blaming statements cloaked as an “I feel” statement.

Step 2: “when _________________” this is where you provide a specific example of when you felt your feeling.  Be very careful not to use this time to bring up several incidents from the past here.  This is one event.

Step 3: “because_______________” this is where you express why you feel the way you do.  Be very careful not to over-generalize here by making always/never statements.

Example: I feel neglected when I’m at home alone in the evenings because I miss spending quality time with you before bed.

If this process is new to you, it may feel unnatural, or potentially engenuine………I know this can feel forced and stiff but the more you practice the more natural it will become.

There’s nothing wrong with planning out exactly what it is you want to say.  Think about a work presentation…do you just walk in the day of and say whatever you want?  Yeah right!!  You spend hours prepping for the project, researching your audience, creating statements and examples that express exactly what you want.  If we go to that extent for others, why wouldn’t we do this for our life partner, the person we love and cherish above all others?  How many conflicts would we be spared if we did this more often?  I, for one, do better when I plan what I want/need to say rather than just speaking off the cuff.  It has prevented many hurt feelings and miscommunication between Michael and I.

Our challenge for you is to try using these keys to talking well in conjunction with the keys to listening well and let us know how your intimacy is impacted.