I've been working with a human therapist and her two horses (and whatever barn cats come by) for theee years now. Working with horses has been helpful - it gets my whole body involved in processing - which seems to work a lot better than sitting on a couch talking.
Because of my chronic pain, I've been looking at EMDR. My pain has all sorts of visible and diagnosable causes, but I've still wondered what connections there are to trauma. I've got a lot of years emotions that were held in while going through some kind of intense trauma. It makes sense to me that it would add to a pain feedback loop. Besides all that, PTSD and trauma emotions and memories are still a part of everyday of my life. I've learned to cope, and I've learned to manage, and I function really well. I'm overall happy and healthy, and I also recognize it could be better if I'm willing to put in more work.
Insurance refused to pay for EMDR therapy. They said because they cover therapists who treat trauma, they don't need to cover that therapy. I don't have the cash available to pay 100% out of pocket, so I hadn't thought much more about it until my therapist told me she was getting trained in it. I figured, "What the hell? Let's give it a go."
Today was my first session.
First, I am glad she didn't get offended when I couldn't help but laugh as she moved her hand back and forth. It's a little weird, so let's laugh about it.
Second, I couldn't keep my eyes focusing on her. When I dissociate, I get lightheaded and there seems to be a block between the rest of my body and my head. So she used tapping on my hands. That helped me stay more grounded, feel more connected, and made me feel safer on an emotional level.
Since I have learned that sitting in an office is less effective for me, I chose to go out with the horses while also giving EMDR a try. Having two horses tuned in to me, and one licking my hand and resting her nose on my cheek, arm, or leg, was calming and grounding for me. I know some people don't feel calmer standing in a pen with two horses, but I do.
There really wasn't much to it. Talk about a memory - or a cluster of memories with similar emotions. Wendy (therapist) tapping my hands while Daisy and Violet (horses) do their thing, and I stand there and shake until I'm done shaking.
Since I can recall memories without pain or intense emotions, it's hard to tell if it was helpful. I can disconnect and dissociate while still staying present and look connected. (It's a helpful skill to have if I'm being totally honest, but it's not necessarily how I want to live my life if that makes sense...) l will see how it goes and how I feel between today and my next session in two weeks.
It's really hard to describe what it does and how it works. Equine assisted therapy is like that too. Somehow, it just works for me. I am able to process things on an emotional and body level that gets me farther than just talking. I'm smart. I can say and do what needs to be done, but sometimes it actually works better to NOT work that way, and let emotions take control and lead the way. Like I said, hard to explain.