Chase came to Chinook Horses at the beginning of the summer, referred to us by his social worker. He had recently gone to live with an Auntie and was really struggling to control violent outbursts towards family members. “Taking it out on the wrong person,” is how his foster mom Stacy described it. Chase began by attending the weekly Social Thinking group. By the end of the summer, he was attending the week long Leadership Development Program, when we heard that Chase’s grandmother was hospitalized and in a coma from Covid.
As Stacy explains “horses in Native American culture are a spiritual connection to the unseen world”, Chase is aware of his heritage and very proud of it. The weekly connection to the horses provided healing and strength during this difficult time. In spite of his grandmother’s health he went on this summer to compete and WIN the National Junior Boxing Championship! We are also very happy to report, his grandmother recovered!
Stacy started seeing changes in Chase’s behavior, especially a decrease in his displaced anger. He talked about the horses with his pediatrician and during court visits. After the summer, Stacy was awarded long term guardianship, it was decided it would be good for Chase to engage in 1:1 Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with the horses. One of our Eagala certified, licensed therapists was engaged and one of the equine specialists from the Leadership Development Program was selected to work with Chase for continuity of connection.
On his first day of therapy he was asked “what are your therapeutic goals?”. Yes , even a 12 year old can answer this question. His response was “I want to be a bottle of water not a can of pop”. Carolyn Yegen who spearheads the Leadership Development Program explains why something like this would be said by Chase.
“Habit #1 is the foundation for the Seven Habits of Happy Kids and Effective teens. Habit #1 – BE PROACTIVE centers around the concept of taking responsibility for ourselves and learning that we are responsible for our own actions, attitudes and moods”. – Carolyn Yegen
An effective tool, we use to explain this habit to the kids, is to compare a reactive person to a can of soda. When we let other people make us angry, sad or out of control we are allowing them to shake us up like the can of pop…ready to ‘explode’ at any time. When we are proactive we can choose our own behavior and we do not blame others for our mistakes, we do not let others control the way we feel. However, when we choose to be proactive we are like a bottle of water, always calm. No matter how many times other people may try to ‘shake us up’ we stay in control and we do not ‘explode!’.
Stacy has observed he readily has his 7 Habits from “The Leader in Me”, he learned at Chinook Horses, either on top of his dresser or game console as a reminder of the strategies to emotionally self regulate. Our Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Equipower, involves the caretaker and asks to the child to learn to express his or her needs. Stacy says she can now recognize Chase’s anger before it is going to boil over and they both can work towards him avoiding an outburst. As she said, “it’s all because of you guys”. She continues to say “Chase is not embarrassed of being in therapy , he readily brags to his friends he is doing equine therapy!”
We are all very proud of his improvement and commitment!