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Equine therapy helps Cleveland police officer cope with department tragedies

Equine therapy helps Cleveland police officer cope with department tragedies
Posted at 5:50 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 18:22:47-04

BATH, Ohio — The last year has taken a mental toll on many of us for different reasons, that includes our first responders.

It's been especially tough for the Cleveland Police Department, dealing with the deaths of two of its officers and the grief that’s followed.

Officer Crystal Lewis, a community engagement officer in CPD’s fourth district, is working through that pain with help from a special kind of therapy.

Last year, Lewis, along with some of her colleagues, went to the Hope Meadows Foundation, an equine-assisted psychotherapy and learning program in Bath, for a series of wellness days.

“We came out here twice, we had between 20-25 officers come. And it is our way of doing mindfulness and wellness. So it's important to have an overall well part of you, yourself and anybody with any job or any person period. We need to work out our mind. So we know that there's physical fitness for your arms, your legs, but what can we do for your mind,” Lewis said.

“Just driving out here is just very peaceful, and you need that moment to say -- and this is anybody, not just an officer -- that you are safe, to be able to breathe.”

At Hope Meadows, clinical director Tiffany Ingersoll and her team put together programs for people to work through with horses, hopefully solving their problems and healing their souls in the process.

“With horses, you can't lie to them, they are able to read our emotions and our expressions. So of course, this mirrors what ends up going on with us,” Ingersoll said. “And so because you can't lie to a horse, you're then able to work through your whole mind, body, and spirit through the skill.”

“So it's not just a roleplay. It's an actual literal experience with an animal that's going to give you immediate feedback. And that immediate feedback then helps us to change and figure out solutions that work best for us.”

The learning programs have helped Lewis not only relax but develop coping skills for stress and helped her face emotional trauma, like the deaths of fellow officers.

At a session in early April, Ingersoll and her team led Lewis through a session where she addressed her grief. She was able to make a breakthrough with the help of the horses.

“That was really the obstacle that I saw was getting over that grief, and the horses were not helping me that much, but they still showed me that I have strength, and I can do it, and I can clear the way,” Lewis said.

More information about the Hope Meadows Foundation can be found here.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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