Working with military personnel and people who have complex PTS(d) poses many challenges. EMDR is a treatment technique often used to assist in processing traumatic experiences. EMDR is well researched and evidence based. However, particularly when working with combat related experiences, EMDR has not proven to be as effective as initially hoped for. There are many reasons for it - in part due to the moral injury, that was often experienced by soldiers and veterans, trust in the medical provider is often impaired. This also applies to people who have experienced trauma at the hands of somebody they initally trusted, on the relational level.
Since 1992 I have been working with military personnel, and since my return to Germany in 2011 increasingly with other populations as well, primarily those who have experienced severe trauma and suffer from complex PTS(d). Relational trauma requires of a provider to apply traumatherapeutic techniques on the relational level. Building a trusting and reliable relationship with the client is of the utmost importance, so that sufficient resources are available when it comes to processing the traumatic material.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) includes horses as team members. Horse-human interactions support the diagnostic process and provide insights into underlying (human) concepts, which can then be addressed in an experiential manner. All of which support insight oriented work. In the typical EAP, there is no riding. Through the many years of experience I have had in PEATT (psychodynamic equine assisted traumatherapy), I have experienced over and over again how working with horses positively influenced the therapeutic working alliance between provider and client - as long as the interaction between provider and horse is respectful and considerate of horses being sentient beings.
EMDR is part of PEATT in that it is an often utilized traumatherapeutic method. What makes it different is that the horse is included. Initially I worked only with clients walking next to horses, using the sounds of the hoofs on asphalt as bilateral stimulation. But since 2007, I have included clients being on top of a horse while working with EMDR. The horse's movements, in addition to other physiological and physical factors assist in the client being oriented in the here and now. In addition to equine specific considerations, the standard protocol, somatization and pain protocol are used. In case of severe dissociation, the 4 (up to 6) field technique is used.
If you wish to learn more about Equine Assisted EMDR, please consider attending the Part II training of PEATT.