Faces in the Crowd is a community spotlight, profiling people who are doing interesting and/or meaningful things in the Black Hills area.

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Faces in the Crowd: Bridget Williams

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PIEDMONT, S.D. -

For some mental health patients, traditional psychotherapy is an avenue to healing. But for patients who want an alternative method, Bridget Williams, a mental health professional, offers equine therapy.

Specializing in trauma, Bridget offers a nontraditional approach to therapy for her clients. Growing up around horses, she found a connection she hopes her clients will find as well.

"About 83 percent of what humans communicate is nonverbal,” said Bridget. “Only about 17 percent of what we communicate is through our voice. It's our body language. And horses, when we walk out there, they're not whining back and forth. All of their communication is through body language."

Suggested by a friend, her patient Joe Davis and his mother Rhonda Mitchell met Bridget after finding that other therapies weren't beneficial. A year later, their lives haven't been the same.

When asked what the biggest issue they faced was, both Rhonda and Joe said communication.

"Before, it was mainly focused just on Joe,” said Mitchell. “But with Bridget, it's been the two of us.

In the sessions, Bridget is more of a guide than a controller. She allows patients to choose the horse and what to do, breaking the communication barrier.

"She doesn't tell us what to do,” said Mitchell. “She just helps us find our way to the solution to our issues.

As an observer, Bridget allows the situation to play out, so the patient can then react if something doesn't go as planned. For instance, the horse they brought into the barn to brush was anxiously trying to get out.

Bridget explained that the horse’s behaviors of running from one side of the barn to the other and the horse having the feeling to flee, it was up to the patient to decide why. By allowing patients to decide that the horse’s behaviors were based on friendship with other horses outside of the barn, it allowed Joe and Rhonda to question their own issues.

"When they’re driving home,” Bridget said, “the hope is that they will process that because that, is very similar perhaps to their experience that being close to family and friends is important, feeling loved is important, feeling happy is important."

People that have experienced trauma find it difficult to build a relationship and find trust.

"He has to trust me,” said Mitchell. “We have to trust the horse, the horse trusts us, and so it's built kind of a circle around us. Sometimes, things happen in your life and you don't expect it, and she’s helped us accept what happened in our life and just made it easier for us."

Bridget says the horses provide the opportunity for mental health patients to begin trusting, communicating, and building a relationship, which is necessary for the healing process.

Red Horse Healing is hosting an open house on Saturday, Dec. 16 for anyone interested in learning more about their healing process. More information on Red Horse Healing.  

If you or someone you know wishes to be featured in our weekly segment, Faces in the Crowd, nominate them here.

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