Therapeutic Approach

What makes the EquuSpirit program different is that we integrate a variety of holistic and experiential therapeutic modalities to support healing and recovery.

EquuSpirit is based on the latest neuroscience research and practice for working with stress, attachment relationships, trauma, and addictions.  It draws from the theory and practices of a number of key players, including Peter Levine (Somatic Experiencing™), Stephen Porges (poly-vagal theory), Daniel Siegel (interpersonal neurobiology), Eugene Gendlin (Focusing), Bessel van der Kolk, Gabor Maté, Pat Ogden, Babette Rothschild, Lisa Najavits (Seeking Safety), and others.

In the field of mindfulness and self-compassion, EquuSpirit is inspired by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dr. Kristin Neff, Dr. Tara Brach, Eckhart Tolle, and Piero Ferruci.

The following provides more specific information about some of the core approaches used at EquuSpirit.  For details about the model of equine-facilitated therapy adopted by the program, click here.

Somatic Experiencing™

Somatic comes from the root word, soma, which means the body. Originally developed by Dr. Peter Levine, Somatic Experiencing™ is abody-oriented clinical approach for healing from traumatic or overwhelming life situations with a specific focus on emotional regulation, attachment and the nervous system.

Somatic Experiencing supports us to come home ourselves, by learning how to:

  • use sensory awareness to develop orienting and grounding skills
  • be present to our discomfort, distress and impulses without feeling overwhelmed, so we are less likely to lose ourselves in the flood, act out, or self-medicate
  • restore and build our innate ability to self-regulate
  • develop the capacity grow our internal container to tolerate distress
  • be curious about their internal experience without judging, avoiding, bottling or making it worse
  • come back to the present moment safely through trauma-sensitive mindfulness
  • develop the capacity to titrate (only take on one small piece of emotion or pain at a time)
  • self-soothe and be gentle with ourselves
  • discharge or complete blocked fight / flight / freeze responses in a safe way
  • process traumatic experiences in a way that supports self-regulation
  • Learn to recognize the edges of your window of tolerance and how to come back within this more manageable and resilient range
  • find greater ease, flexibility and choice in how to respond to life’s stressors
  • restore healthy boundaries and connection with self and others

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills

Traditional DBT was originally developed by Marsha Linehan as a way of treating individuals who had experienced complex / developmental trauma (which is still being called “Borderline Personality Disorder”), but the skills themselves are applicable to anyone who is struggling with emotional dysregulation. DBT is a ‘top down’ approach to self-regulation (managing symptoms through the mind) that pairs nicely with the ‘bottom up’ work done in Somatic Experiencing™ (supporting the body).

DBT focuses on:

  • Emotional self-regulation
  • Distress tolerance
  • Self-soothing
  • Radical acceptance
  • Mindfulness
  • Interpersonal effectiveness


Inspired by the practices developed by Jon Young (Wilderness Awareness School) and Michael Cohen (Project NatureConnect), the ecotherapy activities used at EquuSpirit also focus on sensory awarenessorienting to one’s surroundings as a mindfulness practice, grounding and following one’s attractions.

Other Approaches

EquuSpirit also draws on a number of other approaches and perspectives, including:

  • Harm reduction and safety
  • Transpersonal and Jungian psychology (ego and subconscious awareness)
  • Psychodynamic, family of origin work, inner child work and self states
  • Life skills coaching
  • Non-Violent Communication, assertiveness and boundaries
  • Gestalt therapy

Does this sound like a fit for you?

If so, contact us today to begin exploring a different way of being in the world, a different way of coping with stress, painful feelings and overwhelm.