Like the Somatic Experiencing® training process offered through the Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute, EQUUSOMA® offers a certificate of completion. Neither are a certification. This is in keeping with Canadian and international standards that call for a clear separation between those offering training and those offering certification. Certification should not be provided by trainers themselves, but by an independent professional association, in order to avoid conflicts of interest and also to set a higher bar around what constitutes a "certification": ISO/IEC 17024 - Conformity Assessment, General Requirements for Bodies Operating Certification of Persons Because this standard is not consistently applied in the field of equine-assisted interventions or horsemanship, there is an astounding amount of variety in the length, quality, and calibre of "certifications" that are available, which cheapens the value of what a certification should be about. As a result, there are certifications that claim to qualify someone to perform a particular role after only a few days, which is problematic on a number of levels. Conversely, there are certificate programs that are far more lengthy, thorough, and of higher quality than some certifications. The word "certification" is currently not a guarantee of effectiveness, reputability, or validity - it's a bit of a free for all and the term has become less meaningful as a result. We now see people who want to fast track their way into a career without doing the work involved to practice with integrity, ethically, and competently who can do so because of the lack of consistency around what constitutes a certification. Just because someone can do this doesn't mean that they should. A third party certification involves an application process, an assessment of competence through formal evaluation methods, a decision as to whether an individual is certified or certifiable, and requirements for maintaining certification or re-certification. A certification also involves guidelines around the use of the certificate, logo, trademark, and related designation, if applicable. Training is not listed in the ISO/IEC standard of what constitutes a certification - it is a separate process. Whether or not a training leads to a "certification" is not an indicator of said training's value, quality, practical application, effectiveness, or worth in preparing someone for a particular role. For more about this issue, please read the following article by Sue McIntosh, "The Certification Conundrum".
The designation of Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner (SEP) through the Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute is conferred after completing the requisite number of training modules, personal sessions and consultations. EQUUSOMA® is modelled on this process; only following the completion of training modules, personal sessions, and consultations, and other requirements can someone can be eligible to call themselves an EQUUSOMA® Practitioner (ESP). The EQUUSOMA® training offerings do not qualify anyone to call themselves a trauma therapist, psychotherapist, Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner, equine behaviour specialist, horse trainer, and so on. Students and professionals should check with their provincial/state and federal governing bodies and laws to ensure they are complying with standards of practice and legislation governing their profession. Professionals are expected to incorporate EQUUSOMA® in their work in accordance with their scope of practice. For instance, EQUUSOMA® will look different when used by a mental health professional, a life coach, a horse trainer, a horse behaviour consultant, or a riding instructor. People who have not yet obtained a professional scope of practice and are currently students in an educational program that will provide them with a clear scope of practice are welcome to attend EQUUSOMA® trainings and apply the material to the degree that is possible given their student status, provided that they have the approval and support of a supervisor or seek consultation to do so safely and ethically.
Scope of PracticeSimilar to the Somatic Experiencing® training, people who attend EQUUSOMA® training are responsible for identifying what material they can apply in their scope of practice. Not all material taught in the training will be possible for everyone to apply in the context of their work. Adapting the material based on your scope and context may be required. Everyone who takes EQUUSOMA® training will have a different level of skill, confidence, and integration of the material by the end of the program. This is because everyone has a different nervous system capacity, personality, history of risk and resiliency factors, and current circumstances that influence their learning process. Completing the EQUUSOMA® training and obtaining the ESP designation is not a guarantee of a particular level of competence; further consultation, personal sessions, and learning may be required to support further integration of the material into one's way of being and doing. Continuing education and lifelong learning is normal and encouraged in helping- and equine-related professions to develop mastery in any particular area of specialty.
Cross-Training and Co-FacilitationWorking with people and equines together in any capacity is also a scope of practice in and of itself. While some professionals offer equine-assisted therapy/learning sessions by themselves (as a result of having sufficient cross-training and experience in both therapy/experiential learning and in horsemanship/equine science), others work in a co-facilitation team. EQUUSOMA® supports both models of practice. There are benefits and disadvantages to each one, which is explored further in the training. Participating in EQUUSOMA® training with your co-facilitator (if you work in a team model) can support the integration of the material in your work together. A discount of 10% on the cost of each person's tuition is offered to participants who register as a co-facilitation team.
ConsultationsConsulting with EQUUSOMA®-approved professionals who have experience in Somatic Experiencing® and horsemanship / equine behaviourism / equine-assisted practice is encouraged to deepen integration of the material and support learning. Growing one's scope of practice in any area takes time and commitment.
EQUUSOMA® trainings are offered with the gracious permission and licensing approval of the Somatic Experiencing® Trauma Institute (SETI). This license allows the teaching of Somatic Experiencing® skills and principles and use of its intellectual property and trademark in the context of the EQUUSOMA® training. EQUUSOMA® is not an equivalent to the Somatic Experiencing® training, which are separate processes. EQUUSOMA® training was originally intended to be one of SETI's post-advanced certificate offerings for its students. The planning discussions with and proposal sent to SETI in 2016 were developed with this in mind. Since submitting this proposal and preparing the curriculum, SETI has started re-designing its post-advanced certificate program, which is on hold until further notice. For more information about the Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner training program, visit www.traumahealing.com
Yes, absolutely. However, if you intend to begin offering equine-assisted sessions, further training and experience in equine psychology, behaviour, and horsemanship is required to practice safely and effectively if this is not currently part of your skill set. Partnering with an equine professional who can co-facilitate sessions with you as you grow your equine experience is also required until your scope of practice has expanded. Bear in mind that there are as many approaches to horsemanship as there are to therapy, and not all horsemanship methods take the horse’s biology, personality, needs, and psychology into consideration. Signing up for the EQUUSOMA® training intensive with your intended co-facilitator is a great way to ensure you are on the same page and speaking the same language as you start working together.
EQUUSOMA® does not promote any one particular approach. Instead, this training emphasizes skills and principles from a number of sources that can be incorporated into different approaches to be more trauma-informed. It is less about which approach and more about how to adapt them based on an understanding of somatics, attachment and related neuroscience. People who have taken EQUUSOMA® training have come with prior backgrounds in EAGALA, FEEL, EFW, LEAP, HERD, Gestalt Equine Psychotherapy, Eponaquest, and Natural Lifemanship, among others. Students have also come with different horsemanship backgrounds, ranging from natural horsemanship, clicker training, equine behaviourism (learning theory), and various equestrian disciplines. The aim is adapting and enhancing these methods based on current science, research, and practice. Best practices in trauma-informed care promote an integrative approach, involving different modalities and approaches that can be combined to best meet complex needs. It is not recommended to be a “one-trick pony” in the field of trauma recovery, regardless of species. EQUUSOMA® provides knowledge and skills to enhance existing ways of being and doing the work.
EQUUSOMA® holds the perspective that equine-assisted interventions should at minimum do no harm and at best do good – for the animals and the humans participating in the experience. Healing and growth should not occur for one at the expense of the other. EQUUSOMA® promotes principles of trauma-informed care and an understanding of mammalian nervous systems and mammalian attachment needs through a trauma lens, which are applied to all participating in the program – whether two- or four-legged. In EQUUSOMA®, the horse is not a tool. The horse is also not a magic unicorn or a mirror. And the horse is certainly not a co-therapist. The horse is a horse - an equal participant in the relational process, with the right to choose, to voice an opinion, to say no, and to walk away. Like us, horses, mules, or donkeys are sentient beings with a nervous system, history, personality, and attachment patterns, and they offer us the potential for relationships. And relationships are where we get to learn about ourselves and others, experience co-regulation and develop self-regulation, explore our relational patterns, management strategies, and nervous system survival responses, as well as repair attachment ruptures and renegotiate trauma.