Corralling Your Adolescent [Guest Post]
Corralling: To drive into; to arrange; to take control; to gather; to confine; to form
We often hear the phrase, “Were you raised in a barn?!” Well yes, actually they were. Our 11 beautiful and unique horses at CORRAL Riding Academy are our most prized therapeutic resources. Parents, teachers, probation officers, and counselors, often bring us girls who are emotionally responding and behaving as if they were “raised in a barn.” How do we respond? We let them join our herd.
Our program focuses on developing and increasing emotional intelligence among our girls while improving functioning in all areas of life. We utilize a horsemanship style known as Natural Horsemanship and apply this technique to “our herd,” the girls. This style tends to go against many instincts of our girls, as well as their parents. In the end, we find it works best in “corralling” our girls.
This can be a pretty difficult concept to grasp because with this style of horsemanship we provide our horses, as well as our girls, with choices. That’s right, we provide choices to pre-adolescent and adolescent girls,rather than using forceful or authoritarian tactics. We want our girls to develop the desire and willingness to change and improve their emotional responses and behaviors. Once the desire is present, growth will naturally occur with the empowerment and healing provided by our program.
So how do we accomplish this? This can be accomplished by using one technique we call “Pressure and Release.” Both our equine staff and mental health staff will utilize this technique when interacting with our girls and our horses. We will specifically design lessons and activities, as well as equine assisted therapy sessions, which will provide our girls with an opportunity to respond to this technique in a behaviorally and emotionally healthy manner. When responses are not behaviorally and emotionally healthy, it provides our staff with an opportunity to assist our girls with processing the underlying reasons to their maladaptive response.
This technique is pretty self-explanatory and may be considered common sense to some. In reality, adults, authority figures, and parents, often have difficulty naturally utilizing appropriate levels of pressure and then releasing this pressure, with the release being the most challenging. We will provide our girls with the choice to make the correct decision or action. If making this choice is proving to be difficult, we will place various levels of increasing pressure on our girls to encourage them. Examples of pressure may include, simple discussion, confrontation on behaviors, or tangible consequences. Once the correct choice is made, we immediately release our pressure. Eventually, the girls will make the correct decision or actions on their own. When our girls make choices on their own, overall commitment levels and motivation are visible. A sense of independence and autonomy are established which is vital to their healthy development. This technique can be applied by anyone who is responsible for the care and development of a child or adolescent. Consistently applying appropriate levels of pressure and releasing this pressure once movement is displayed, is important to developing a healthy understanding of natural consequences in addition to the essential development of independence and autonomy.
When our girls make choices on their own with our appropriate usage of pressure and release, they learn to respond without fear and instead respond out of respect and trust for themselves, our staff, teachers, parents, and authority figures. Our world and their lives would be a much better place when respect and trust were the underlying reasons for choices made on a daily basis. Unfortunately, that is not often the case. With the help of our community, donors, and staff, we are doing our part to change this in the lives of our girls.
About the author
Amy Gressler, MA LPC NCC, is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of North Carolina. She attended North Carolina State University where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She then proceeded to obtain her Master’s degree in Counselor Education at North Carolina Central University. Amy has been in the mental health field for approximately nine years and has gained valuable experience in working with children, adolescents, adults, and families. She is passionate about the needs of today’s adolescent girls and considers it a blessing to be able to work with such a special population. Although Amy does not have an educational background in working with horses, her knowledge and understanding of these magnificent animals increases daily. She has been fortunate enough to see the powerful effect horses and at-risk girls have on one another. Amy obtained her certification in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy through training under Greg Kersten with OK CORRAL Series. To learn more about CORRAL and how you can help make a difference, please visit www.corralriding.org.