Can Praxis hopes to expand work with PTSD sufferers

Equine therapy program near Rocky Mountain House

Can Praxis is looking to grow its equine-assisted therapy program for veterans to include first responders who also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Steve Critchley, who has run the program with psychologist Jim Marland since 2013, said expanding the program to first responders like police, ambulance and firefighters, will help ensure the program continues for veterans.

“The farther we get away from Afghanistan, the farther back on the shelf veterans will be pushed until eventually they are forgotten about completely,” said Critchley, who runs Can Praxis at its main facility near Rocky Mountain House and also at Whitby, Ont.

“Often a large portion of our participants come from the Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia-era so we know there are large number of veterans who will be coming to seek our assistance in the future. We’re seeing veterans in the mid-60s who have just recently been diagnosed with PTSD.”

Critchley, whose 28-year military career included a tour in Bosnia, said many veterans become first responders when they leave the military and no matter what uniform people wear, “PSTD is still going to screw things up.”

“For people diagnosed with PTSD or operational stress injury, the stigma is still just as devastating and destructive in those work environments as they are for the military.”

Can Praxis combines mediation and communication training with equine-assisted therapy for veterans and their spouses or partner.

“A horse works on trust and respect, not loyalty, just like relationships. So working with horses helps people re-calibrate their understanding of what trust and respect are, what they look like, how to provide it.”

He said PTSD symptoms can include anxiety, anger, confusion and loss of confidence. Conflict and crisis is part of daily life and Can Praxis is making a difference in people’s lives.

“The vast majority of people are seeing great successes. Around 87 per cent of people are finding relief from PTSD symptoms and improved communication.”

The program has evolved into three phases. The third phase is held once a year with couples participating in a three-day pack ride in the mountains.

Critchley said this year Veteran Affairs Canada has provided Can Praxis with a second $25,000 grant to study phase two, which includes separate counselling sessions for veterans and their partners.

For more information about Can Praxis visit canpraxis.com.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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