Category Archives for "BHW Blog"

The Year of Girls

It is the GIRLS DECADE!!  Whether California’s Lulu Cerone, Founder of LemonAID Warriors, whose nonprofit is activating the next generation of leaders one “ philanthroparty” at a time, or Kakenya Ntaiya who transformed her experience with female mutilation into becoming the first female in her Kenyan village to receive higher education in the United States and later founded the Kakenya Center for Excellence– a primary school for girls in her native village, or Malia Obama bringing such grace to the White House … OR our own wonderful young women from the Berkshires – Girls Inc. and the Boys and Girls Club’s  “Smart Girls” — who have been empowering themselves to become the best women  possible through the Berkshire HorseWorks’  Girls Rule! and Sister Sense! Equine Assisted Learning programs. Girls and women worldwide are planting their stakes in the ground with their own achievements and also laying  the foundation for others to follow.  The ability to make empowered choices, be confident , problem solve, embrace creativity and  be part of the solution is fostered though our EAGALA personal development programs.   Horses and Girls — a  connection that runs so deep is now helping groom our next leaders.  We can’t wait to help these strong and inspired women influence the course of the future.  Go girls!    And Happy New Year to everyone!!

Post Traumatic Growth versus Resiliency


Many of us are familiar with the acronym PTSD  — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder  — whether through the media, involvement with veterans and active military, or firsthand in our own families. We also have a rough understanding of the word “resiliency” and how these two mental health terms may be related. A term not widely  recognized or frankly even used in this arena is Post Traumatic Growth (PTG).  On the surface many may assume that resiliency and PTG are interchangeable. This assumption is incorrect. According to an article in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor, resiliency is the ability to bounce back from traumatic experiences. PTG is when an individual struggles to bounce back from a traumatic experience which  questions his/her core beliefs, and then experiences a sense of personal growth which affects one’s world view,  and core values. What is interesting to note is that the individuals who experience this growth are the ones who struggle most as their foundation is shaken, not the ones who aren’t as affected by the trauma. There are evaluations to measure PTG. These inventories look for positive responses in the following areas: appreciation of life, relationships with others, new possibilities in life, personal strength, and spiritual change. Although there has been evidence found to suggest a possible genetic predisposition for PTG, the link has yet to be solidified. Moreover, there are ways in which practitioners can assist in the healing of individuals with PTSD and encourage PTG. Some top line techniques noted in the article, Growth After Trauma in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor,  are integral to the EAGALA Model of equine assisted psychotherapy utilized at Berkshire HorseWorks:

  1. Highlight strengths of the individual – instead of focusing on their faults and struggles with this experience, focus on how they are making it through and what it is that is allowing them to do so.
  2. Go beyond getting by – Instead of providing clients tools to simply cope and ‘get by’, allow them space to discover how meaningful and fulfilling life can be. Provide  an environment where they can discover options  to lead a more fulfilling life. i.e. volunteer, spend more time with loved ones, start a hobby or career path

In closing, a psychologist at Boulder Crest’s Warrior Program in Bluemont, VA said that he hoped his clients will, “develop new principles for living that involve altruistic behavior, having a mission in life and purpose that goes beyond oneself, so that the trauma is transformed into something that’s useful not only for oneself but for others.”  We provide an environment for those with PTSD to discover their own solutions, while working with horses, in a safe, non judgmental space.


Check out the rest of the article:

Corporate Personalities

Are your management styles in conflict or at odds with the overall culture of your company? This might not necessarily be a bad thing! According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, companies with relationship-based cultures, focused on teamwork and communication, did best with task-oriented or result focused CEOs and vice versa. This study used companies’ return on assets as a measure of success. This is interesting since intuitively we would think we would want CEOs to have the same mindset and focus as the corporate culture itself. It turns out that the opposite is true. Identifying discrepancies like this are one of many facets of EAGALA Model Equine Assisted Team building. What management style do you or your team have and how does it relate to the culture of your business? How does it relate to your clients?  These are just some examples of questions explored during Equine Assisted Team building sessions which are held year round, rain or shine.

Mindfulness and Seeking Balance

Burnout is a real phenomenon. It affects us all. Ironically, those in the mental heath field, teaching self-care to clients, don’t always abide by their own advice. Enter the concept of mindfulness. In an article from the American Psychological Association, “Seeking More Balance,” maintaining a work-life balance is a life-long task and is much easier said than done. Some professionals focus solely on time-management in order to create balance, as  with Jim Davies, PhD, a faculty member at Carleton University in Ottawa, “We’re too busy because we’re overcommitted, not because our jobs are too onerous.” He uses a strict technique of planning out every 30 minute block of his day, “Crucially, I also schedule in my breaks…including lunch, coffee breaks and even daily naps… For me, prioritizing life means putting it in the schedule like all the other important things.”  On the other hand, many others don’t seem to focus solely on time management, but rather energy. Sandra Lewis, PsyD, a clinical psychology at Montclair State University in New Jersey and founder of the Living Source, said, “People focus a lot on time management, but I think in terms of personal energy management. If you have enough energy, you make better use of your time. In the same way we charge our cellphones, we need to charge ourselves.” Instead of adding on all of these self-care activities to your day that then simply seem like another item on your To Do list, “Find self-care strategies that you can integrate in rather than add on. Honor the small things,” says Lewis. Instead of picking up a new exercise class at the local gym, walk around the block on your lunch break or instead of taking a half hour nap, spend 5 minutes between meeting meditating or breathing or stretching.

The APA included several research-based strategies in order to create and maintain balance in your life. One being to practice mindfulness. “Cultivating a habit of self-awareness is vital…One of the best things we can do is to develop a reflective habit of checking in with ourselves at least a couple times a day, taking note of the emotional ‘weather’ without judgment,” states John Christensen, PhD, past co-chair of the APA Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance. In a study of working parents, Tammy D. Allen, PhD, found that individuals with better mindfulness experienced better work-family balance and sleep quality as well as greater vitality. Another technique for better balance is to go outside. Roger Walk, PhD, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, has found that spending time in the great outdoors is linked to improved cognition, attention, mood and also subjective well-being. Lastly, a third technique is to make your life meaningful.  As Sandra Lewis states, “We do our best work and live our best lives when we have a sense of meaning – a feeling that we what we do extends beyond us and brings good to others.”

All of these mindfulness techniques can be utilized in many environments. We have found integrating mindfulness into our Equine Assisted Psychotherapy work with at-risk youth, veterans, families and even with our inmates.  Cultivating mindfulness while being surrounded by 1,200 beings, as they connect with you and match your breath is magical.

Check out the full article here:

Berkshire HorseWorks Secures First Grants

HorseWorks_Article_Part_1The most recent issue of “Berkshire’s Best” Bridal Guide includes an article about Berkshire HorseWorks’ first grants that were recently secured. The article (replicated in the accompanying graphics), share the entire article. To see the original article in its online form, please follow this link and find us on page 25.













Social Worker Caseloads Put Them at Risk

Overwhelming caseloads and a lack of safety training puts social workers at an exceptionally high risk. These professionals report to put their own safety on the back burner while handling a large number at cases. While the federal guidelines recommend no more than 12 cases per caseworker, caseworkers in St. Albans, VT average a caseload of 24.8. If these social workers limited themselves to the federal recommendation, the entire office would be able to handle only 60.4% of their current cases. This reveals another dilemma: a dearth of qualified professionals in this area or just budget cuts?

Either way, security has shamefully faded to the background. Does it take a death of a local social worker, for Vermont’s DCF offices to establish mandatory safety training programs and protocols such as the buddy system when making home visits?  Please chime in.

Read more here.

Horses Facilitating Change at Berkshire HorseWorks

Berkshire HorseWorks has seen nearly 200 individuals, couples, and families struggling with various mental and behavioral challenges ranging from depression, PSTD, TBI, anxiety, ADHD, trauma, addiction, autism, sexual abuse, and anger management. Our rescue horses have been there for them as they have been there for the horses. This video gives you a glimpse into the lives of these people as well as how this work has affected them, and the benefits they received from Equine Assisted Therapy.  As you will hear from some of our partners and mental health professionals, this is incredibly powerful work and horses really do facilitate change.

If this video has inspired you to become involved in some way, please contact Berkshire HorseWorks at (413) 698-3700 or Of course if there is someone in your life who you believe will benefit from this work, please reach out. We would love to thank Ptarmigan Films, in particular Stephen and Derek for their hard work and creative support.

Helping Released Inmates Succeed

In October, the United States Justice Department announced its plan to release thousands of inmates early from federal prisons. With this, comes the question, how many of those released suffer from mental illnesses, and how, as a society, and more specifically as mental health professionals, will we address their needs.

Approximately one in every 100 Americans lives behind bars, according to a 2014 report by the National Research Council—approximately 2.2 million people currently reside in our nation’s correctional facilities. Out of this population, many will be released and commit additional crimes and return to the criminal justice system. Psychologists have seriously begun to look into the cause of this where intervention must occur.

Over half of today’s prisoners suffer from some sort of mental illness, and rates of serious mental illnesses such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder are three to four times higher than that of the general population. In addition to mental illnesses, substance abuse compounds the issue.  Regrettably, June Tangney, PhD, a clinical psychologist at George Mason University who studies interventions for jail inmates admits, “The correctional system has become our de facto mental health system. It is one of our silent shames.”

Ironically, despite the pervasiveness of mental illness and substance abuse in today’s prisons, there is a dearth of quality services which adequately examine the root of the behavior as well as the familial impact or other factors before diagnosing and proceeding with a treatment plan.

Furthermore, those who do receive treatment are highly unlikely to either seek treatment after release or to possess the resources necessary to continue.

In addition to the lack of treatment of mental illness before and after release of these inmates, there are even more basic needs that must to be met in order to ensure these individuals will not succumb to recidivism. The Risk-Need Responsivity (RNR) Model created by the late psychologist, Donald A. Andrews, PhD, of Carleton University in Ottawa, has been the leading tool in assessing the needs of inmates. It not only assesses the risks of recidivism, but also measures the broad range of criminogenic needs associated with criminal behavior.

The greatest challenge is to accurately communicate and share the findings (knowledge) with certified social service professionals to ensure appropriate treatment. Fortunately, the Federal Government stepped in in 2008 and passed the Second Chance Act which provides grants to evidence based programs that aid in the reintegration, monitoring, and overall treatment of inmates.

One viable evidence-based modality for these inmates is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is the basis of EAGALA Model Equine Assisted Psychotherapy practiced at Berkshire HorseWorks. This modality has been found to be highly efficacious with this population for its unique ability to identify and modify behavioral patterns.

To read more about this topic, visit the article “Life on the Outside” featured on the American Psychological Association website.

EAL Session at Berkshire HorseWorks

15th Annual EAGALA Conference Held in March

EAGALA Convenes in Mesquite for Annual Conference ~

Every year, people from across the world who practice the EAGALA method of treatment, gather to learn more about the program and discuss new ways to apply the EAGALA Model of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning to help others in need. Professionals come here to learn more ways to treat their patients. We were there to represent Berkshire HorseWorks. Read more about this year’s conference in this article from The Mesquite News. The photo below is from a session at Berkshire HorseWorks and is not related to the Mesquite conference.

EAL Session at Berkshire HorseWorks

Unique mental health conference held in Mesquite

Mesquite News

Kenny Green • The Mesquite News • March 19, 2014 – Since the Mesquite Arena opened, it has been the host to numerous events that utilize horses. A recent event involved horses in a different way. Instead of using them to race around barrels at breakneck speeds or guide wayward bulls back into their pens, these horses where being used to provide therapy to individuals with mental illnesses as part of EAGALA’s annual conference.

“EAGALA uses a specific model for horses to help people with various mental illnesses,” said Lynn Thomas, EAGALA co-founder and executive director. “The way we incorporate the horses, it allows people to connect with them. Because horses are prey animals, they have the ability to read nonverbal communication. We are always sending these nonverbal messages, and the horses respond to that. As a result, through their reactions, we can learn a lot about ourselves.”

One way horses are used is for people that have faced addictions. Thomas said the person with the addiction will be asked to set up a path for the horse to follow. The path will contain various roadblocks and key points during their recovery process.

Kenny Green’s entire article is available at Mesquite News.

Military Reins Of Hope

Equine Assisted Therapy Helps Veterans With PTSD

Equine Assisted Learning Proves Effective For PTSD ~

According to a new study in the Canadian Military Journal authored by Dr. Randy Duncan of the University of Saskatchewan, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy “does in fact provide real-time relief for PTSD.” The study was conducted at Can Praxis in Rocky Mountain House with 100 particpants over a one year period. The photo below is from a session at Berkshire HorseWorks and is not related to article from

Military Reins Of Hope

Data suggests equine-assisted learning helps veterans with PTSD; program hopes for expansion

A local program that helps Canadian veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by working with horses is hoping new data will show how effective their methods are.

Can Praxis in Rocky Mountain House has been in operation for a year where the horses are used to help soldiers with anxiety, behavioral issues and problem-solving.

Co-Founder Steve Critchley is praising a new study in the Canadian Military Journal, which said the model is providing valuable help not only to the veterans, but their families as well.

“If they’re carrying a lot of angst or aggression with them, they see it, the horses won’t cooperate very well,” he said. “So they are learning how to within themselves, find a way to relax, to calm down, to be able to communicate effectively.”

Lucas Meyer’s entire article is available at

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