Soul to Soles Connection

 

Web copy used by permission. No reproduction or retransmission is permitted without expressed written consent of Bruce D Schneider and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). Copyright 2006-2007 Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC)

“Aligning Veterans’ Strengths with Horses’ Freedom for Healing”

Soul to Soles Connection is dedicated to providing a safe space for veterans and their families to overcome life’s challenges. Using the Eagala model, our heroes are offered a tranquil space and the time they need to heal.

Our vision is to offer the Eagala model of personal development to veterans and their families. We honor all branches of our military and their families by providing a nonjudgmental, supportive, safe haven - a place where concerns and struggles can be explored. The experiential nature of working with horses through the Eagala Model engages military veterans in their own healing process, with solutions that meet them squarely on their own terms. Soul to Soles Connection is committed to respecting the integrity of those who fought for our freedom and offering them space and time to heal.

We are awaiting our 501(c)3 status.

Eagala Military Services standards and treatment protocols promote healthy life transitions through practical application of proven principles rooted in military culture. Here’s why our program is particularly valuable for service members, veterans and their families.

Discover real world solutions to their toughest challenges. Clients find their own solutions to the struggles in their lives. Under the direction of an EAGALA Military Services Treatment Team, clients build on their resilience and learn through self-discovery the changes they need to make in order to be more successful in both military and civilian life.

Horses are novel and engaging. The non-traditional settings of Eagala programs help service members move beyond the perceived stigma that can be associated with talk-only therapy and office visits.

The unique qualities of the horse speed emotional breakthroughs, especially those suffering from PTSD. These highly-at-tuned animals offer safe reflection and compelling feedback for fears and anxieties military clients may be facing. In the hands of a skilled treatment team, the horses’ unique sensitivity can help clients understand their own internal processes more readily than hours of talk.

Herd dynamics can help clients understand their own lives. Observing the dynamics of a herd of horses can help clients better understand the dynamics of their own family, military unit and community and provide another positive model for collaboration, support and trust.

Foster resilience in times of high stress. The Eagala Military Services approach is based on experience and doing. The treatment sessions re-create life experiences, including those involving frustrations, high stress and relationship problems. This provides opportunities for service members and their families to discover their resources and strengths and overcome perceived obstacles to change and growth in their unit, communities, and homes.

Clients challenge themselves in activities with horses that remove much of the perceived stigma associated with traditional talk therapy treatment methods.

          
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“ We have conducted a number of Eagala EAP (equine assisted psychotherapy) sessions. The veterans who participate tell me that never have they found a group or individual session so useful and life changing,
and that they have found hope. After these workshops, many reflect frequently on the experience and skills
learned then take these lessons into their daily lives.”

Susan T. Lisi, AFGE Local 3306 Chief Steward,
VA Medical Center, Canandaigua, New York
 
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Geriatric Veterans with cognitive deficits often struggle with feelings of being an observer of their own life.  The very nature of Alzheimer’s, dementia’s, parkinson’s threatens to rob a person of their individuality, of their personal memories and ability to meaningfully connect with others.    Many of their daily choices, and that of their family members are now decided and acted out by medical staff persons.  And while healthcare has come a long way in becoming “person centered” and “Homelike”, which are measures to be appreciated- truly living in the moment, celebrating one’s life as it presently is- remains a dim glow in everyday skilled nursing care. 

Humans have an innate deire to belong, be a part of something bigger than themselves. And the need, perhaps especially for Veterans - to know they are making a difference. When our Veterans feel they are connected, making a difference, that is when the dim glow becomes a spark, a flame!

    

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning (EAP/EAL) incorporates horses experientially for personal growth and healing. Following the Eagala model, sessions are a collaborative effort between a licensed clinician, an equine specialist and our horses. EAP is therapeutic, based on clinical treatment goals. Sessions can be individual, couples or families. Your Eagala sessions are cover by insurance!

EAL addresses educational goals for personal/team growth and learning. These sessions increase individual personnel awareness as well as group dynamics. It is NOT psychotherapy; we do not single any one person out in front of the team. If a participant would like to share they may OR they can discuss things privately with the staff. A vast array of emotions, thoughts and struggles can emerge while working with the horses.

The Eagala model of Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy and Personal Development meets is a unique way to hold your space, take a deep breath of fresh air and work towards your goals in ground based session.

          

So when our aging Veterans roll onto Willow Equine, submerged in an environment that both comforts and energizes, a subtle reminder of home and the independence of their youth ... Eagala becomes the perfect catalyst for what our Veterans need most. The ability to connect and be present.  An opening to just be.  No judgement, no confusion, no power struggle.  Simply the opportunity to bask in the presence of a large animal that seems to accept them as they are.   The ability to meaningfully impact their environment.
    
          

Willow Equine allows the Veteran to bask in sensory stimulation ... enjoy the warm beams of sunshine that rest upon cheekbones, or catch a whiff of honeysuckle while being serenaded  by a chorus of  birds chirping.   Simple freedoms such as these are a gentle reminder of all that Veterans, and their family members, sacrifice to protect our homeland and the liberties offered to all residing here.   Despite the magnitude of what these Veterans faced in combat,  a trip to the farm leaves them filled with gratitude.   They understand that these “simple freedoms” are anything but simple.    

 The bus ride back to the VA is traditionally bursting with both enthusiastic chatter and a calm confidence of knowing their morning mattered.  And the question is always the same “when are we going back”?

Terri Gilbeau, CTRS
VA Medical Center, Salisbury, North Carolina

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