This workshop was designed to encourage participants to “think outside the horse” and learn to augment and support equine interactions through activities that engage the senses while “fostering a deeper connection to self, others, and the natural world”.
My latest passion has become teaching people about something I call the “cycle of relationship” or “getting in tune, learning about each other, being purposeful together”. Of course this cycle works just as well with humans as it does non-human animals and the rest of the natural world. But, before they can get down to the business of working on relationship, they must learn a bit about creating SAFETY within relationship, and honing “humanship skills”.
Enjoy the journey (in photos)! Oh, and notice who shows up when we take the pressure off…. 😉
AND, if this peaked your interest please consider joining me on another upcoming learning adventure! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learning Together In Community
Consider joining us next year at Banyandah in October of 2020 for a very special opportunity to invest in your own personal development. This limited enrollment therapeutic intensive will provide opportunities for both group process and individual work conducted in partnership with equines and the natural world.
Due to the therapeutic nature of this offering, spots will be very limited and will sell out quickly. If you are interested, contact Leif at email@example.com.
Recently I have been struck by the importance of authenticity and vulnerability, especially for those of us who teach others or provide any type of therapeutic services.
I have been deeply saddened by the stories I am hearing of late about horse trainers, riding instructors, and equine-assisted mental health/equine-assisted learning training program providers using their power and authority to assert their beliefs, advance their personal agendas, and bolster their egos.
The motivation behind this blog post is that over the past few days numerous friends, students, colleagues, and clients have shared stories about feeling powerless to stand up to those they admire and respect in the horse industry. The overwhelmingly similar theme in all of these stories is the fear that if they stood up for a belief, or said something about a concern they have, the person in power would hold this against them and actually retaliate — cutting them off from the community, treating them poorly, shunning or bad mouthing them to others, or withholding services and needed resources.
Each of these people told me that they had a) already tried to talk with the “professional” in question and felt disrespected and/or unheard, or b) were too afraid to reach out. My sense in listening to these stories is that the “professionals” in question likely aren’t self-aware and have no idea how they impact others, and they probably aren’t using effective communication and leadership skills. However, the outcome is nothing shy of bullying.
It also got me thinking about the idea of power imbalances in general, and about how somewhere along the line it became the norm for those in powerful positions to hide their vulnerabilities behind a cloak of “greatness”. There is a direct correlation between power and strength — If you are strong and someone others look up to, you certainly don’t have any problems (or if you do, you sure aren’t going to share them).
Imagine what this has taught us as a society.. as a people?? It suggests that sharing our vulnerabilities, our challenges, and our struggles makes us appear weak. We have been taught to hide, to lie, to put on a smile, and it has led to all sorts of problems — From increased rates of depression and suicide, to an overarching sense of not being seen in the world, to very unwell people ending up in powerful positions and running amok and unchecked.
As healthcare professionals, we are actually cautioned against sharing our personal stories or our lives with our clients. In my opinion, this is the beginning of the power imbalance. If healthcare providers, teachers, and trainers separate themselves from their clients and students, or place themselves “above” the status of those in their care, they can quickly morph from human to deity – someone to idolize rather than a normal human who can be looked up to and respected because of their humanness, their openness, and because of their valuable skills, wisdom, and knowledge.
Thoughtfully and intentionally showing our students and our clients that WE ARE HUMAN and that we have challenges too makes us equal. Equal does not mean the same. Equal means that we all exist on this earth in community, and we all have unique struggles, strengths, skills, and gifts to share. In my mind, this DOES NOT LESSEN MY VALUE TO MY CLIENTS OR MY STUDENTS.
It seems to me that by being appropriately vulnerable and sharing our humanness, we can help to decrease or diminish some of the stigmas and power imbalances created by the ego shield of “greatness”. I can only hope that someday this concept will be more widely valued. But, for now here are some questions to reflect upon when thinking about that power person in your life:
- Do I feel safe saying no, or questioning an idea, assignment, or directive provided by the power person/people in my life? If I don’t feel safe, why not?
- When I have tried to stand up to this person or question this person, how did they respond? Were they authentically open and interested to talk, or were they defensive?
- Do I feel like my voice is heard and respected by this person, regardless of what they say? (meaning, sometimes people say they are open to feedback, but really it doesn’t seem/feel that way at all)
- Does this person actively implement changes because of my feedback?
- Do I feel empowered when I am around this person?
- Does this person build me up and help me to feel big, or do they put me down and make me feel small?
- Am I given freedom to think for myself and figure things out? Or am I told how I should think?
- Does this person hold me accountable while also complementing me and giving me both positive and critical feedback?
- Do I see myself as equal, but different from this person, or do I see this person as greater and more able than me? Do I feel lesser than this person?
- Do I respect this person because of their perceived or self-proclaimed “greatness” or because of how they ARE in the world and because of their actual knowledge and skills?
- If I have a need or a request, is this taken seriously and does this need get addressed?
- Overall, how do I feel when I am around this person?
If, after considering these questions, you believe you may be experiencing an abuse of power, don’t wait — disengage and/or reach out for help.
Feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or find a therapist or mentor you can trust. Life is too short to be bullied and YOU ARE TOO VALUABLE AND YOUR VOICE IS TOO IMPORTANT.
Here’s to open hearted leadership, vulnerability, and authenticity.
I have been blessed and honored to spend time in Australia, bringing whatever I have to offer to this bourgeoning community of folks hungry for knowledge and really wanting to do it “right”.
At the moment, the questions being asked of me involve the creation of a new equine-assisted mental health and equine-assisted learning association in Australia. Rather than responding to people individually, I thought it might be helpful to share some general information about associations.
What is a Professional Association?
Typically a professional association seeks to advance a specific profession or group of professionals by setting and/or upholding broad and inclusive standards of practice, ethics, and/or a code of conduct for the betterment of the profession and the protection of the public.
Professional associations are commonly not-for-profit organizations or incorporated associations that are governed by a non-biased board of directors who are voted into office by the public or the membership. Typically, a working group is established to assess the need for an association, and do the initial tasks necessary to bring the association into being. As a part of that process, the working group organizes a public process to understand the issues facing constitutes and learn what constitutes would want or need out of a membership association. The working group also publicly announces a call to elect board members. Usually it is considered good practice if the members of the working board step away once the full board is seated.
Elected board members should be either free of any conflicts of interest (i.e. they would stand to gain monetarily if they enacted specific standards, they have a product or service that would be promoted by the actions of the association, etc.), or must remediate potential conflicts before assuming leadership responsibilities and practicing their voting rights. Board members should also recuse themselves from any decisions in which their position of power within the community (i.e. therapist, trainer, educator, supervisor) might illicit influence over the decision.
The association should operate under a set of transparent “good governance” principles that are based upon:
- Laws and ethics
Associations must be free from fiscal conflicts of interest, and if the association aims to provide support for a diverse group of professionals undertaking a specific profession, then the board should reflect such diversity and the association should avoid any specific ideological focus or conflicts of interest related to a specific ideology.
Specialty associations may belong to a larger professional association that also sets regulation for an entire profession and thus adhere to the ethical guidelines of the larger association (i.e. a member association designation through the Psychotherapy and Counselling Association of Australia or other examples). This relationship helps to create increased transparency and earns the association a greater sense of public trust.
Questions to ask of any association interested in creating standards for EAMH/EAL in Australia could include (Thanks to Camilla Mowbray for her help with these):
- How does this association model inclusive and diversity among the many models and ways of practicing EAMH and EAL?
- Is the association getting caught in the weeds – meaning are they attempting to dictate details vs. remain “10,000 feet” above, setting broadly inclusive membership structure and standards?
- How is the board constructed and is there representation from different models and practitioner groups?
- Is the association connected to a larger regulatory association?
- Does the association adhere to recommended “good governance” policies (see attached example)
- Are there any conflicts of interest especially related to an ideological focus (i.e. do any of the organizing members also provide training or education in a specific model?)
- Is the membership structure (or admittance to the association) biased towards any specific trainings or models?
- Who is responsible for auditing the procedures of this association?
- Are the fiscal activities of this association audited by an outside source?
- Is the association legally established as an incorporated association or not-for-profit association?
- What are the benefits of membership? Could you gain these benefits in another way? (i.e. through a networking group or a method-specific training group?)
- Will this association represent my unique needs, approach, and beliefs about EAMH/EAL?
The Australasian Association for Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine-Assisted Learning (AA-EAP-EAL) formed out of the Equine Psychotherapy Institute of Australia (a model-specific training program), and seeks to develop standards for EAMH and EAL in Australia.
The Australasian Association for Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine-Assisted Learning has developed a questionnaire in an attempt to gain industry feedback. Since it is up to the industry as a whole to be actively engaged in developing an association that meets the needs of ALL who are involved, not just those who subscribe to a specific model or method, I urge you to seriously consider reviewing the survey, and either responding directly or emailing the board members with feedback.
My hope for any membership association in Australia is that it truly is FOR THE INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE.
I would also hope to see such a membership association form with a diverse board who represent the voice of the industry (including those who don’t subscribe to any specific model), and who bring external association experience and expertise (meaning outside of the EAMH/EAL industry).
I urge all of you who are passionate about EAMH/EAL in Australia to step up and take part in this important discussion!
By my nature I am highly collaborative, and believe that whatever knowledge and wisdom I have gained through life experience is a gift I’ve been given to share. However, I am also keenly aware that there are professional parameters that guide what we do with the information we learn.
When someone is kind enough to share wisdom or knowledge with me, I acknowledge their contribution, and recognize that this information is theirs – as to have something of value to share usually takes a journey, and likely someone has had to work very hard (personally or professionally) to come to realizations that are helpful to others. Therefore, it is only right for me to ask if I can use the information they have shared, and to identify ways to honor their contribution – whether through financial reimbursement, formal citation, or simply by publicly recognizing who offered me this piece of information.
Of late I have been struck by the uncomfortable realization that my belief about intellectual ownership may not be shared by all. And, that unintentional (or intentional) acts of intellectual property “theft” pose a real risk for our industry. Supporting each other’s diverse experience and knowledge is a key factor to the growth and financial viability of this industry.
As such, it dawned on me that maybe writing a brief piece about the legalities and ethics of receiving and sharing information might be helpful.
What is Intellectual Property?
“The law of intellectual property is commonly understood as providing an incentive to authors and inventors to produce works for the benefit of the public by regulating the public’s use of such works in order to ensure that authors and inventors are compensated for their efforts” (Cornell Law School, 2019).
Patents, trademarks, copyrights, and unfair competition protections are the four types of intellectual property rights set in place to protect the hard work and financial investment inherent in developing concepts and publishing, or otherwise making public one’s intellectual endeavors.
A patent grants the “exclusive right to exclude others from making, using, importing, and selling the patented innovation for a limited period of time” (Cornell Law School, 2019).
A trademark grants federal protection for distinctive marks including “words, phrases, logos and symbols used by producers to identify their goods” (Cornell Law School, 2019). Even unregistered trademarks can be protected by common law if the user can demonstrate five years of continuous use.
Copyright law protects the writings, concepts, and expressive creations of authors. The reach of the copyright law has extended over the years to include architecture, software, graphic arts, motion pictures, sound recordings, and much more (Cornell Law School, 2019).
If someone has written a book, workbook, handbook, training curriculum, workshop description, blog post, or anything else that is original, copyright laws protect the rights of the author to this material. If someone else wishes to use the concepts or content presented, permission must be gained from the author, or the author must be credited or otherwise cited (see “fair use”).
“The law of unfair competition is primarily comprised of torts [a wrongful act or an infringement of a right] that cause economic injury to a business through a deceptive or wrongful business practice” (Cornell Law School, 2019).
Unfair competition “relates to the practice of endeavoring to substitute one’s own goods or products in the market for those of another for the purpose of deceiving [or misleading] the public (Kane, 2019).
Intellectual property rights are violated when people replicate and claim ownership over original concepts, content, designs, or inventions.
Ethical Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
Just like laws govern intellectual property rights, so should professional ethics. As professionals, we have a responsibility to model ethical behaviors in our business practices, and also to push ourselves to grow personally. Here are some ideas and questions to ponder.
Each time I develop a workshop, training, or publication, I scour the internet to learn what others are doing, and I attempt to develop something that is original and unique to my education, training, research, and experience, and that supports the needs of the industry. I am careful not to duplicate someone else’s work, unless it happens that my publications and initial offerings pre-date their efforts.
Question: Is my concept, content, or design novel and unique to my own education, training, research, and experience?
Give Credit Where Credit is Due
If during my market research I find that my idea is not original, but I believe I have a new way to go about sharing my knowledge, or that I could contribute to the body of knowledge already established, I look for ways to include those who came before – potentially collaborating with them to learn more about their concepts and ideas, paying them for consultation time if that is needed, and certainly giving them public credit for what they have already done. Once I have done that, I aim to create an original offering that is different than what they have already done. Sometimes in this process I learn that I can’t create something different or better, and thus I determine whether a referral or collaboration is the best strategy to support the growth and wellbeing of the industry.
Question: Am I comfortable giving credit to other people for their accomplishments? How do I do this in daily life?
Publicly acknowledging collaboration helps to foster a greater sense of safety and trust in an industry. If the public gets the sense that competing businesses or professionals are actually working together to support each other’s diverse approaches and beliefs, consumers are less fearful and more engaged, which creates a more robust and financially viable industry.
If I discover people whose ideas I appreciate, I attempt to find ways to collaborate. This could include working together on a writing project, developing a training, or simply establishing a referral process between our two services.
Question: Am I collaborative? How do I seek to support diverse ideas and ways of thinking?
If I realize that someone has already written extensively about my topic, or is offering what I had in mind to offer, and assuming it is of high quality and meets my ethical and safety standards, I refer people to their book or training rather than creating the same or similar product. I also believe that I am NOT the expert of all things – and that what I have to offer might not be the best fit for all people all the time. Thus I look for ways to introduce people to diverse ideas and options, and to support their continuing inquiry and investigation.
If it happens that there is enough market demand for the additional resources, and I have the education, training, and experience to produce or provide a similar product as someone else, I attempt to collaborate with the person or people I would have referred to so as to create a united front rather than an industry of division.
Question: Do I refer out, attempting to expose people to as many new ideas or ways of doing things as possible, or do I hold tightly to those who come to me?
In a nutshell, if you attend a workshop or training, or read a book, research article, or other publication, and you learn something that gives you a new idea or influences your business practices, give credit where credit is due, look for opportunities to collaborate or refer, and by all means, don’t take ownership of something that someone else has worked very hard to develop or establish.
Our industry is only made richer (in all ways) by diversity. Attempting to be the “best” or the “only”, or to “be everything to everybody” and offer too much will only damage this industry. There is space for everyone, and thus there is no need to try and fill all of it – by doing so you will push out some of the best minds – those with great talent, those who are quiet, those who avoid conflict, those whose gifts may go unnoticed. When you give space, and make room, amazing things happen.
Cornell Law School (2019). Intellectual Property. Retrieved from: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/intellectual_property
Kane, S. (2019). The Definition of Unfair Competition. Retrieved from: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/unfair-competition-2164416