New Article in Choice Magazine!!

I love Choice Magazine, the Magazine for Professional Coaches! I have written several articles for them and will continue to do so. Here is the latest; Coaching from the Heart!!  Enjoy!!

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EAC in Dubai

Pia Ault, one of our Virtual Equine Assisted Coaching students, lives in Dubai. After her first Intensive with the horses and Equine Alchemy, she sent this note about one of the experiences she had when she returned! Thank you, Pia!

Today I brought a friend of my son’s who needs extra credit for school in activity and services; she has always been nervous around horses since she saw her brother fall off one when she was quite little.
Lola usually always wants to move her feet and has high energy – today we groomed her in the stall and she never moved! We then brought her to a round pen and worked a bit on the 7 games (friendly, porcupine and circle games) Lola was unusually calm and responsive!
I can only deduct that she was trying to tell my friend “don’t be nervous, I won’t harm you”…Natalie_Oly_300x240

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Day 5 of War Horse Coach Training

It’s hard to describe the incredible journey our Equine Alchemy students are experiencing this week during our first WAR HORSE coach training intensive. We just completed day 5 of 7 and the learning has accelerated the coaching and therapy opportunities for many of the participant’s business models.Vietnam Veteran  Photo Ken Buck, HorseCentered Photography

The focus of this program has been Connections Focused Therapy developed by Linda Kohanov and Dr. Rebecca Bailey. Our focus this week is on veterans and their families. Of course the horses have been their incredible, amazing selves – providing the perfect opportunity for the students and families to look at and access information about themselves and each other that was previously hidden or hidden from discussion.

We are immensely grateful and excited to have had Dr. Rebecca Bailey, Ph.D from Transitioning Families (www.transitioningfamilies.com) here with us for the past 3 days. Her expertise in working with the re-unification of families who have experienced intense trauma and PTSD has been invaluable for the WAR HORSE students and the ongoing direction of this program.

She has been incorporating animal assisted therapy, including of course, horses for 25 years. She completely validated our philosophy of the importance of being part of a great team that consists of 4 highly skilled members; a coach, a licensed therapist, an excellent horse handler and a veteran that has experienced combat.

When working with veterans, they need support, love, empathy (from someone who’s been there, done that!), TRUST, humor and skilled guidance as they navigate the landmines of their recovery and reintegration with their families and communities.

The students are already helping to design the next phase of WAR HORSE training and we will be putting together a ‘Partner’s Training’ as well so “stay tuned”.

All Photos  Ken Buck  HorseCentred Photography – K.W. Buck, Armstrong, BC – (250) 307 4191.

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When the Soldier Comes Home from War

When the Soldier Comes Home from War

Last summer, ABC News featured a story called, Breaking Down the Walls and Helping Vets Become ‘Horse Whisperers’. You can watch the report here  and find out why Winston Churchill has been quoted to say that, “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.” (I’d like to add ‘woman’ to that, too!)

According to the site, HealMyPTSD.com these are some of the statistics for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affecting Military service men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan:

  • Lifetime occurrence (prevalence) in combat veterans 10 – 30%.
  • In the past year alone the number of diagnosed cases in the military jumped 50%– and that’s just diagnosed cases.
  • Studies estimate that 1 in every 5 military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTSD.
  • 20% of the soldiers who’ve been deployed in the past 6 years have PTSD. That’s over 300,000.
  • 17% of combat troops are women; 71% of female military personnel develop PTSD due to sexual assault within the ranks.
  • Doing the breakdown by war:
    • Afghanistan = 6 – 11% returning vets have PTSD
    • Iraq = 12 – 20% returning vets have PTSD

(Military statistics as of 12/2010)

The website, FaceTheFactsUSA.org did a statistical piece called, When the War Comes Home with the Soldier, where they added the following social and economic costs of PTSD to the above statistics.

  • First-year treatment alone costs the government $8,300 per person, or more than $2 billion so far.
  • Suicides among active-duty military personnel averaged one per day in 2012.
  • Veterans now account for 20 percent of suicides in the U.S., with the youngest (24 and under) taking their lives at four times the rate for other veteran age groups.

And the following is from an article published by the American Psychology Association titled, The Critical Need for Mental Health Professionals Trained to Treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Female veterans are particularly likely to suffer from mental health issues. According to the VA, about one-in-five female veterans have post-traumatic stress related to “military sexual trauma,” a catch-all category that includes everything from sexual harassment to rape. Also, women are the fastest growing subset of the homeless-veteran population in America (J. Kitfield, National Journal, 2011).

Stigma associated with mental illness in military communities. The Army recognizes that stigma is a major barrier for veterans in need of mental health care (Mental Health Advisory Team IV, 2007). According to SAMHSA, service members frequently cite fear of personal embarrassment, disappointing comrades, losing the opportunity for career advancement, and dishonorable discharge as motivations to hide symptoms of mental illness from family, friends and colleagues (2007).

Veterans seek help outside the system.VA data indicates that 22 percent of veterans receive their mental health care outside the VA system. (2005) The percentage varies from state to state, with the rural states having the greatest percentage of veterans who get care outside the system (McClatchy Newspapers, Feb. 9, 2007).

Inaccessible mental health providers. A Department of Defense task force found that a significant number of veterans face constrained access to care when they return to their communities. In fact, one-third of both the National Guard and reservists reported choosing civilian care because they lived too far from a military treatment facility (An Achievable Vision, 2007).

Inadequately trained mental health providers. VA policy has no provision for ensuring that community mental health professionals have appropriate expertise to effectively treat veterans (Testimony by the Wounded Warrior Project in front of the Veterans Affairs Committee, 2009). Surveys also found that many veterans seeking help are not properly identified as having PTSD (Mental Health Advisory Team IV, 2007)

Equine Alchemy is now part the solution!

My sister Susan Murrell Castañeda and I are launching the WAR HORSE Coach Training program on June 1st, 2014 in Corrales, New Mexico. WAR HORSE emerged from the wounds that Susan and her husband, (an Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran) suffered as they journeyed to embrace the mythic dimensions of the war experience; its painful truths and tragic losses….including a 20 year marriage.

As a result of those losses, WAR HORSE was formed as its own warrior’s path.  Our vision is to offer a unique and powerful method of recognizing warrior-hood as a psycho-spiritual identity, along with the rituals, ceremonies, values and traditions associated with it.

Our vision is to train an ‘army’ of practitioners qualified to deliver WAR HORSE Equine Assisted Healing as the leap out of suffering for Veterans and families and the opportunity to fully return home.

On June 1st the first ‘platoon’ of Equine Alchemy coaches will embark on a week-long intensive training to explore and gain the fundamental skill sets necessary to understand:

  • The Military Culture
  • PTSD as a Soul Wound
  • The Role of The Equine Partner in Working with Veterans and spouses
  • Integration and Experiential Application

Our veterans and their families deserve the space and compassion to heal themselves in order to become thriving, productive, peaceful warriors.

In closing I’d like to share this quote from War and the Soul by Edward Tick: ”Service to Veterans and their families, whether it is witnessing the horror they experienced or helping to relieve its brutal psychological and spiritual impact, is no less than the Jewish practice of tikkun olam, which means “repairing the world.  Not only in our large scale efforts at social justice or world peace but also, and perhaps especially, in our deep, slow one-on-one efforts with individuals, the tears in our world may be repaired.  As the ancient rabbinical sage Hillel said, ‘whosoever saves one person, it is as if they have saved the entire world’.”

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A Day in the War Horse Coaching Life

spankyI had the honor of doing another War Horse Coaching Session this week. The documentary, Ride to Peace, is still filming our work. Coach Spanky was an amazing coach this time. He was a perfect mirror for the unconscious emotions present which helped the veteran and her fiance see them more clearly, understand the impact of these hidden emotions on their relationship and lives and come up with ways to integrate them more fully for healing. I am full of gratitude to be a part of this healing process.

With ease and grace, Lisa Murrell

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How to talk to people about working with horses…

As entrepreneurs most of us have heard about the famous ‘elevator speech’.  You know, the little blurb about your business that shouldn’t be any longer than an elevator ride?  Well, try this little business building technique around working with horses!  Not so easy is it?  Believe me, I know.  I shared in my ezine today, 5 Tips to Talking to People about Working with Horses.  I would love to hear what you find works for you!

With ease and grace, Lisa Murrell

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War Horse Coaching

I just decided it might be an interesting journey for some of you to follow as I document the work I am doing with a returning veteran and her partner.  Today was the first phone coaching call I had with them together.  Previous to this I have had 2 coaching sessions with Jane and the horses before Gina came back from Iraq.  I had one session with the horses and both of them a week after Gina’s return.

As you might imagine, trust-or the lack of it- is a big part in the work with returning veterans.  The military culture in general is about trust, but in each other as soldiers, not with the outside world.  I am not sure yet how much this plays into the trust issues between Jane and Gina. Jane is very much about being hurt; Gina; the veteran, is about not feeling much of anything.  Surfacing their specific issues as a couple is a big step and deep work for both of them at this point.  We will see how the impact of war has played a part in this as we go.  One thing is certain, they both feel at ease and safe with the horses; something they don’t feel consistently with each other.  That they can feel the difference is progress.  We will see how this unfolds.  Stay tuned.

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Energy work is very validating

Energy work and Healing with Kali

Energy work and Healing with Kali

One of my very favorite things to do with my horses is energy work.  It can be reiiki or acupuncture or any kind of touching and healing.  They so appreciate it and are very demonstrative about where they need the work!

How about giving it a go yourself?  All you have to do is just ‘feel’ it, really.  Trust yourself and see what comes up for you around this.  Just try laying your hands on the horse and see his/her reaction.  Experiment with the horses’ special gift for validating the power of you!  I would love to hear how it goes!

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Coaching vs. Therapy

This seems to be a popular topic for equine assisted learning specialists.  My last newsletter began the discussion and here is something from Nina Ekholm Fry, MSSc, Director, Equine-assisted Mental Health Program at Prescott College:

1) Contract (how have you contracted with the client? Are you a mental health professional who, at this time, are offering an empowerment workshop one weekend, which qualifies as a ‘learning’ event? Does your client know that they are entering into therapy with you and what that entails?)

2) Scope of Practice (what are your qualifications? Are they appropriate ethically and legally for what you are intending to offer?)

3) Depth of Processing (where is the focus in the processing? Does it focus on the current situation and skills? Does it reach back into the client’s past? How deeply does the facilitator explore the client’s mental health challenges?)

Great, yes?  I invite more of this great conversation!

With ease and grace, Lisa Murrell

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The Power of Connection

As I ready myself to go to a wonderful event, CAMalot, Coaches Among Masters! to share my work with horses in Atlanta, I want to share the reminder of how powerful this work with horses and connecting.  Enjoy!

With ease and grace, Lisa Murrell

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