Tag Archives: Claire Dorotik

Equine Therapy: Object Constancy, by Claire Dorotik

At its core, cognitive-behavioral therapy encourages balanced thinking. Through examining our thought patterns, and sometimes through use of thought charts, we can identify characteristic ways of thinking that then lead to uncomfortable emotions.

Being able to tolerate both negative and positive emotions toward an object, or person is a hallmark of this type of therapy. However, this concept, referred to by some as having a bi-phasic personality, is also a core component of the development of object constancy.

In order to have object constancy, a child must be able to grasp the idea that when something is bad (like an inattentive mother), it is not bad or gone forever. Instead, when the child has achieved object constancy, he/she demonstrates the understanding that a mother can fail to meet his/her needs in one moment, and yet still be a constancy in his/her life, capable of meeting his/her needs.

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Equine Therapy: How Approachable Are You? by Claire Dorotik

While conducting a group recently, I was struck by how tentative the members were when I asked the question, “How approachable do you think you are?” Of course, I was asking the members to tell each other.

Resistance to authenticity is a natural effect of being human. We all engage in the habit of wanting to protect ourselves form the potential negative impact of THE TRUTH. Of course, the truth we are speaking of is really only our perception, or our truth. Yet this inherent tendency to avoid revealing what we really think impairs social relationships greatly. How is it that if a person are protected from others’ perceptions of him/her that any necessary behavioral adjustments can be made?

It was precisely at that moment when I recalled asking the same question in the middle of an arena with a big fuzzy nose nuzzling my shoulder. But this time I wasn’t asking the other group members to disclose the answer, I was asking the horse.

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Dressage in Perspective, by Claire Dorotik

With all of the media attention for Ann Romney’s horse Rafalca in the Olympic Games, the equestrian sport of dressage has certainly been brought to the forefront for many people who would otherwise have no idea what is meant by the oldest of all the equestrian divisions.

However, I’m not so sure all the coverage is, for one thing, the most accurate, or for another, the most positive. While Stephen Colbert’s depiction of “fancy prancing” is sure to bring some laughs, as of just today, an article in the New York Daily News slams Mrs. Romney’s horse for the failure of the Americans to medal on the world stage.

The reality is that dressage is hard… really hard. To really get a sense of just what this sport is like, imagine ice skating while holding a squirmy puppy and trying to navigate a pattern perfectly and beautifully. Well horses are much like puppies in that their attention span is not so good; they are incredibly reactive to human emotions and behavior, and in the beginning, they are not terribly coordinated.

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Equine Therapy: Five Myths, by Claire Dorotik

Equine therapy is many things. Powerful. Innovative. Spiritual. However, there are also many things that equine therapy is not. Unfortunately, like any alternative treatment modality, work with horses has been subject to its share of misinterpretations. As these incorrect beliefs have surfaced, those who work in the field have had to answer many questions, in service of clarifying what equine therapy really is.

So, let’s talk about a few of the most prominent equine therapy myths.

  1. Equine therapy involves riding horses. Actually, all mental health treatment that includes horses is done on the ground. While the therapist or equine specialist may have the participants perform several exercises or challenges with horses, they are all done unmounted. For example, a client may be asked to lead a horse through a maze of obstacles, place a halter on a horse, groom a horse, or pick up a hoof. Typically, the therapist, equine specialist and client together will examine the ways in which the client approached the situation, the horse’s reaction, and extrapolate this meaning into other areas of the person’s life. Another approach, which is more naturalistic, is to simply allow the horse and the client to be in the same space, and examine the horse’s response, inferring meaning based on the horse’s natural herd tendencies. (i.e.: this is what the particular behavior means in the herd).
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Famous People and the Horses They Love: Daryl Hannah, by Claire Dorotik

Perhaps best known for her role as the blonde mermaid in Ron Howard’s film, Splash, Daryl Hannah has appeared in many films throughout the 1980s including Roxanne, Blade Runner, and Wall Street.

However, unlike many beautiful Hollywood actresses, Hannah not only lives a life off the grid, but also in harmony with many things, not in the least of which is horses.

Driving her vegetable oil powered car and demonstrating the safety of the fuel, one of her web videos shows her licking the gas cap. And her solar powered ranch hums along quietly, but about environmental issues, Hannah is not quiet.

She has been arrested many times for her protests of mountaintop removal, urban farm demolition, and the planned Keystone Oil Pipeline.

But for all of her activism, it seems that the actress feels most at home among her horses.

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Famous People and the Horses They Love: William Shatner, by Claire Dorotik

There are few who wouldn’t recognize William Shatner for his portrayal of James T. Kirk, captain of USS Enterprise in the science fiction television series Star Trek, the following animated series, or the seven subsequent Star Trek films.

However, Shatner’s roles expand far beyond Star Trek. He also played the veteran police sergeant T. J. Hooker, and hosted the reality-based television series, Rescue 911, which won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Dramatic Series. Following that, Shatner starred as attorney Danny Crane in the television dramas The Practice and its spin-off Boston Legal, for which he won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award.

While Shatner is nothing short of an icon for many, for those in the horse world, he is best known as an activist. Since 1990, Shatner has been the driving force behind the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, which raises money for several different children’s charities, especially those that help handicapped children through riding horses — a project dear to Shatner’s heart.

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Equine Therapy as a Positive Psychology Intervention? by Claire Dorotik

According to Shawn Alchor, the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, and the CEO of Good Think Inc., a Cambridge-based consulting firm which researches positive outliers, 90% of happiness can be predicted not by what surrounds a person (the environment), but rather how he/she experiences this environment.

Alchor, who has used a 21 day gratitude list intervention in a variety of different settings in forty-two different countries, explains that when a person’s mood is more positive, dopamine levels shoot up, and the learning centers of the brain turn on.

Now, the Harvard professor continues, the person is primed to scan the environment not for the negative, but instead, for the positive. Interestingly, dopamine — the pleasure detector in the brain — also shoots up when bonding with another person, or animal.

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Equine Therapy: Building Empathy, by Claire Dorotik

According to Daniel Goleman, author of Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence (http://www.amazon.com/Primal-Leadership-Learning-Emotional-Intelligence/dp/1591391849/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341540487&sr=1-1&keywords=primal+leadership), empathy is the single most important tool in social interaction, especially leadership. Yet, for all its importance, empathy is often lacking in everyday life, and as Goleman points out, often overlooked.

For this reason, a few organizations have sprung up that focus solely on teaching and building empathy. One such organization is the Humane Society. This organization has developed what they call the Empathy Connection: Creating Caring Communities through the Human-Animal Relationship. (http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/abuse/empathy-connection.pdf).

Here is an excerpt from their website:

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Equine Therapy: A Path to Visualization?, by Claire Dorotik

So often we are told to visualize what we want, and then our chances of achieving it will be greatly increased. While this idea is easy to understand and based in the study of neuroscience, the reality of it may actually be much more difficult for some people.

Especially when enveloped by self-doubt, fear, and worry, the tendency to second guess the visualization can be quite strong. Yes, we may be able to create the image of what we want — let’s say it is to find the perfect partner — but we will struggle to hold the image. So when the going gets tough, and we tend to doubt our future, we will also question the image itself. Questions like “Can I really find love?” and “Does he/she actually love me?” will ring through our ears.

But actually the ability to visualize — and hold the image — is one that is developed over time. Interestingly, the use of imagery is something that most pet owners do unconsciously. For example, most people who have a dog can recall a time when their dog came and sat by their side right at the very moment they had the vision of a loved person close by. Many dog owners can also share that their dog seems to “know” just right when they are about to walk in the door.

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SMWC Launches a New Minor in Equine Therapy, by Claire Dorotik

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) is pretty innovative. But then again, so is equine therapy. Perhaps this is why SMWC just launched a new minor in equine therapy.

According to Janet Clark, Ph.D., vice president of academic affairs, the human equine-facilitated minor, which was developed by the department of social sciences and the department of equine studies, allows students to be well prepared for a meaningful career in equine work.

“This unique minor is a natural extension of SMWC’s strengths,” Clark said. “Capitalizing on our nationally renowned equine program and excellent social sciences program creates a powerful combination for delivering another program of distinction. Our students care deeply about service to others and this new minor gives them another outlet to make a difference.”

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