Group Therapy Sessions
Ages 8 and up are provided group therapy, emphasizing socialization, esteem building, empowerment and healthy boundary development.
Peer pressure is a very powerful force that can be extremely destructive. Teens today face tremendous distractions and obstacles in their journey to becoming responsible, successful adults. Our current culture is driven by immediate and counterfeit gratification through:
· Technology--which fosters the loss of face to face personal relationships and relationship skills
· Alcohol and drug abuse--which eradicates physical, emotional and sexual boundaries, numbing the natural physical and emotional vitality of a teen
· Sexual promiscuity--which reflects an ineffective attempt to find validation.
These often lead to depression, anxiety, school failure, vulnerability to bullying, somatic concerns and general loss of momentum and focus.
Peer pressure can also be used to strengthen and build the core power tools. Forming healthy relationships, keeping strong boundaries, and understanding the consequences of choices, is critical. Developing the tools to navigate adolescence positively is the goal of each group. Participants experience positive peer support as they accomplish this and learn to provide this positive support to others.
Being great parents is the most important job we will ever do. Trial and error learning in parenting is costly and reckless. Our parenting groups provide an excellent “arena” to practice parenting skills. The horses have moods, attitudes, and emotions much like those of our children:
· When they are approached with respect and positive relationship skills, they are responsive, respectful, and cooperative.
· When they feel forced or coerced, they resist and may exhibit disrespectful behavior.
· Horses desire and follow functional leadership; when that leadership is not provided, they lead themselves or follow other leaders.
· Horses constantly monitor their environment for safety and are most comfortable and agreeable when they feel that safety is present.
· When horses’ needs are understood and met, they are more tractable and cooperative.
Parents will gain understanding and practice of the core Power Tools with the horses in assigned tasks. They will gain insight into the current presence/absence of these tools in their parenting. Children brought up in homes where these tools are practiced consistently, have excellent chances of being secure, responsible, and able to make good choices throughout their lives.
What we say is not always what we do. As couples meet the horses, get to know them, play with them, work with them, learn about non-verbal communication, intent and partnership, they have a chance to reassess their relationship skills. Old patterns, behaviors and attitudes that have not been working, are amplified and the consequences clarified by the horses’ responses. The horses allow facing challenging tasks together, immediate feedback, and reinforcement of brand new ways of functioning as a couple. New methods of verbal and non-verbal communication, seeing each other in a different light, understanding the consequences of choices made and making new choices with new consequences can be a powerful beginning to a more fulfilling relationship.
Couples, in what they feel may have the potential to be a life long relationship, frequently are offered no real help in discerning “Is this truly THE ONE?” By then, the engagement may have been announced, the wedding planned and pre-marital counseling entered. Few will change their course once it is set, regardless of what is seen in counseling.
Long before engagement, couples need to look at family of origin patterns, unrecognized needs and expectations, values, relationship skills, patterns of communication, regulation of emotion, and attitudes that “love will conquer all”. An opportunity will be provided to observe old patterns and learn new skills together while working on challenging tasks with the horses. Personal metaphors will be discovered that will have very valuable meaning should the couple enter into the real adventure of marriage.
Families are either functional or dysfunctional “herds.” In order for the family to function effectively, the following issues must be clarified for all family members.
· What are the goals and intents of each family member?
· How do the parents lead and work together?
· How do the family members communicate, verbally and non verbally?
· How are emotions expressed and what impact does this have on each member of the family?
· What does each member need in order to be secure, strong and effective?
Assigned tasks with the horses quickly reveal family dynamics. Functional patterns can be reinforced and problematic patterns identified by the family and replaced with their own solutions.
Horses are prey animals. Their senses must be extremely keen in order to survive. As well as being able to acutely read non-verbal body language, they must discern intent quickly and accurately. It is our experience that horses appear to be distressed and difficult to work with when they sense “incongruence” from others, e.g. when the inside doe not match the outside. Throughout our lives, we have learned to suppress or keep parts of ourselves “under wraps” to avoid disapproval from parents, teachers, peers, spouses, and others. These parts may be core parts of us, essential to our vitality, energy, and the ability to truly be ourselves. Healthy, refreshing self-discovery is fostered, supported and even celebrated through time spent with the horses, staff and co-participants at the ranch.