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I'm Now a SEP!

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

I have now completed all my training, consult sessions, personal sessions and have received my certificate as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner.  This 3-year journey of learning has been incredible, not only in what I learned about trauma recovery but also what I have learned about myself.  A huge part of the SEP training is practice sessions, where you take turns be the practitioner, the nervous system ‘lender’ (aka the client) and the observer.  Each of these roles teaches something.  While we are repeatedly told not to think of these practice sessions as ‘doing therapy’, with an expectation of something happening for the lender, most of the sessions where I was the lender gave me a new embodied experience of healing.  And being the observer gives one a different perspective of the SE session.  So much can be learned by just watching!


So – how does this change what I do with clients and my horses during a session?  We still have the primary goal of connection to the body as our guiding light.  That is the essence of experiential or embodied learning, which I first became acquainted with in my Eponaquest training.  However, once I began seeing clients for equine-facilitated learning, I found that signs of trauma kept showing up as we began connecting into the body.  What both the Somatic Experiencing and the Internal Family Systems trainings have given me are more refined ways to tap into the body’s wisdom as well as the skills to deal with trauma energy if and when it shows up.


Another thing I have learned is that it isn’t always what one would think of as ‘trauma’.  Sometimes it is just the ‘rules’ that we learned growing up in our families.  (This is often referred to as small -t trauma.) As young children, we had to make sense of what we experienced and these became ‘implicit emotional learnings’, to use the language of Memory Reconsolidation research.  We are not conscious of these learnings, but they inform how we make sense of the world.  The unfortunate part, though, is that often these learnings were ways we had to protect ourselves in less than optimal surroundings.  ‘I can’t trust anyone but myself.’ 'I need to do everything perfect in order to be accepted.’ ‘I need to act in a certain way in order to be seen.’  These survival strategies worked when we were children but can become very limiting when we are adults.  I have gained skill in helping clients bring these implicit emotional learnings into consciousness and then we are able to find ways to show that they are no longer ‘true’ for us.


This is where the horses are so valuable.  For example, for someone whose value has always been determined by ‘what they do’, spending time with a horse and discovering that the horse just wants to hang out with them and that they don’t need to pet, stroke, groom, or even talk to the horse can be life changing.  The horse reads the person’s energy so deeply and can sense when the client gives up ‘trying’.  Then, I will often see a big sigh in the horse, or they begin to lick and chew which are signs of relaxation in the horse.  It’s as if the horse can also fully relax once the client can relax.  There is a deep level of connection between client and horse at this point, but to the observer it looks like nothing is going on.  It is only when the client is finished and comes out of the roundpen, and I hear the softer tone of voice and they tell me that the tension is gone from their belly, or that they feel their heart space more open, that the magic of the time spent with the horse becomes apparent.


However, I am not a psychotherapist.  I do not diagnose and I don’t even primarily listen to the client’s stories.  I am interested in how those stories live in the body, though, and our work together is to ‘renegotiate’ how those stories live in the client by reconnecting mind-body in a new and deeper way.  In this way, I suppose you could say that I am a ‘somatic therapist’.  What the horses and I truly are, are facilitators who can help the client become aware of and reconnect their body and their mind.  The client is the explorer, and we are privileged to go along on a journey of self-discovery and healing.

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