Equine therapy program launched for RCMP members with PTSD

An equine therapy program that has been helping Canadian veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder is expanding its reach to the RCMP. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

TORONTO – A program for Canadian veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is expanding its reach to the RCMP.

Can Praxis uses horses to help veterans recover from PTSD and operational stress injuries. Now it will conduct a similar equine assisted learning (EAL) program for RCMP members and their spouses.

Founders Steve Critchley, a 28-year veteran and mediator, and Jim Marland, a registered psychologist and EAL facilitator, work with small groups from a ranch in Alberta. During the three-day program, they help members with PTSD recover from traumatic experiences while repairing relationships with family members.

READ MORE: Animal therapy offers hope for veterans struggling with PTSD

The program helps veterans, and now RCMP members, reconnect with family members, learn effective communication skills and manage conflict.

Critchley explains that they use horses for a number of reasons, first because they are a herd animal. “Horses understand the need for social interaction,” Critchley told Global News in a previous interview. “Horses are also hyper-vigilant, [they] can pick up on emotions and feelings.”
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Can Praxis’ EAL facilitators interpret the reactions of the horses for the participants to increase their own self-awareness.

“With a horse, if you come on too strong and aggressive, it will take off. We show them through exercises, that if they approach things differently the horse will come back, because the horse will believe that [they’re] worthwhile to trust and respect,” said Critchley.

The lessons learned while working with the horses can then be applied to how the individual interacts with family members.

READ MORE: How horses are being used to help veterans deal with PTSD

Re-entering civilian life and getting help with PTSD and other operational stress injuries can come with financial challenges. Critchley said it has always been important that the programs are free to attend; costs covered for the participants include everything form flight and hotels to meals and babysitting, if required.

The session for RCMP members, running from Oct. 9 to 11 in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, is funded by Boot Campaign Canada and Wounded Warriors Canada.

Retired and active RCMP members who wish to attend can contact Can Praxis.


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