EQUUSOMA™ Certificate

Where Somatic Experiencing® and Attachment Theory Meet Equine-Assisted Practice™

Are you an equine-assisted practitioner who wants to become more trauma-informed and be more effective in working with horse and human nervous systems and attachment dynamics?

Are you a Somatic Experiencing® or similarly trained professional1 interested in partnering with horses to support the trauma renegotiation process?

Do you believe that the equine participants should have more choice and more of a voice in equine-assisted interventions, whether the focus is therapy, experiential learning, yoga, life coaching or other modalities?

Consider EQUUSOMA™ training for your continuing education goals.

Why EQUUSOMA™?

  • Grounded in Somatic Experiencing® (Peter Levine), polyvagal theory (Stephen Porges), attachment theory (Mary Ainsworth, Mary Main, John Bowlby), and developmental trauma work (Kathy Kain and Stephen Terrell)
  • Explores equine-human relationships from the lens of trauma, attachment ruptures, nervous system patterns and co-regulation
  • Incorporates ethological principles surrounding affiliative and conflict behaviours and calming signals (inspired by the work of Lucy Rees, Rachaël Draaisma, Anna Blake, and others)
  • Promotes trauma-informed care principles in EATL program development and delivery
  • Clinical application of trauma, somatic and attachment principles in 1:1 sessions and group programs, including student co-facilitation of a workshop for trauma-affected individuals
  • World-class team of training assistants with extensive experience in Somatic Experiencing® and equine-assisted practice to support each module
  • Pre-approved providers of personal sessions and case consultations located worldwide to support you in further integrating the material

Trauma shows up in every equine-assisted program

Survivors of trauma are often drawn to alternative approaches in support of their recovery. When talk therapy fails, and when specialized trauma therapies are not available, equine-assisted programs fill a gap for people who are desperate for change and who are drawn to the human- animal bond. Unfortunately, without trauma awareness and skillfulness, equine-assisted programs can unintentionally lead to harmful re-enactments for both two and four-legged participants. Being trauma-informed is an essential part of safe and effective interventions, whether therapy or experiential learning in nature.

Attachment and trauma are somatic experiences

Our capacity for life and relationships is impacted by trauma and adverse experiences. When the nervous system is continually primed for danger and life threat, it is difficult to stay present to sensations and emotions, and to relate to ourselves and others in healthy ways. For many, safety is a luxury that was not available, and the body especially has not been a safe place to live. Relationships have also no been a source of safety for many equines and humans. Bringing the body back into the equation requires specific skills in order to navigate the complex survival responses and body memories that hijack life, relationships, and boundaries – all of which arise in equine- assisted practice.

Somatic Experiencing® and equine-assisted practice are a natural combination

Dr. Peter Levine’s research on the impacts of stress and trauma on mammal nervous systems and Dt. Stephen Porges’ polyvagal theory have important implications for understanding and working with humans and equines in the process of trauma recovery. Somatic Experiencing® offers a practical way for trauma neuroscience to be understood and used to support (co)regulation, resonance, presence, coherence, boundaries, aliveness, an integrated sense of self, attuned relationships, relational and boundary repair, and the renegotiation of incomplete self-protective responses. As a polyvagal-informed approach, Somatic Experiencing® also brings subtle nuances of body reading to the process of working with horses and humans, learning to recognize where they are on the nervous system map of activation or threat response, when they are in sympathetic (stress arousal or trauma activation) or parasympathetic (relaxation, rest and digest, social engagement, or submission / shutdown) states.

Continuing Education

This 16-day training provides a grounding in the principles of trauma-informed care, relevant Somatic Experiencing® (SE™) skills and frameworks applied in the context of equine-assisted trauma recovery, and practical applications of the neuroscience of attachment theory and polyvagal theory around the power of safety in relationships.

The learning process is enhanced by the completion of personal sessions of Somatic Experiencing® with and without horses, along with case consultations.

Modules 1, 2 and 3 build on one another sequentially and incrementally. Similar to the SE™ training process, students are first introduced to the ingredients (specific skills, frameworks and principles) before being shown particular recipes (working specifically with particular patterns of self-protective responses, and sequencing or structuring EATL activities based on an understanding of nervous system and attachment dynamics in both species).

Module 4 allows training participants to consolidate their learning through co-facilitating a group workshop for trauma-affected individuals with the support of the assisting team. Module 4 will take place 3-6 months after the end of Module 3 to allow time for training participants to collaboratively plan the workshop and activities they will be co-facilitating. Each training cohort will decide on a particular target group to work with for their workshop and tailor the workshop accordingly.

The material also aligns with modern ethology about what we know about equines as social, herd- oriented creatures who naturally seek affiliation and connection and only mount self-protective responses when necessary or under stress or adverse conditions. Humans, too, are built for social engagement and connection first, and have the capacity to mount stress and survival responses when necessary. Both humans and equines can experience attachment ruptures and trauma, and experience re-enactments of familiar patterns of misattunement with one another. These patterns reinforce old beliefs and nervous system responses that contribute to an ongoing felt sense of helplessness, danger or life threat, that relationships are not safe, and that things don’t change.

And, for both, trauma and attachment ruptures can be healed in relationship.

1 Similarly-trained professionals are those who have completed trainings that are related in theory and practice to Somatic Experiencing®, including Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Self-Regulation Therapy, Somatic Transformation, Organic Intelligence, Somatic Resilience and Regulation: Early Trauma (SRR), and DARe (Somatic Attachment).