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The Sweet Smells of Success:

Aromatherapy and DBT

July 14, 2017 - Horses and essential oils are helping Psynergy clients hone their coping skills.

Recently Psynergy Equine Therapist Roscelia Madrigal hosted Wendy, a representative of doTERRA at a session with Cielo Vista clients at the Indian Springs Ranch in Greenfield. The four clients were at the midpoint of an eight-week course working with the horses of Psynergy Equine in a series of exercises employing Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT. The goal of DBT is to teach clients how to be “in the moment” – not thinking about the future or the past. DBT helps foster individual strategies for clients to identify and table emotions, and how to reduce stress and vulnerability.

“This therapy teaches people how to recognize their emotions, label them as such, and use specific protocols to bring themselves into their rational mind so that they can make decisions from there,” says Madrigal. “Anyone can become upset. Some of us can take a deep breath and calm ourselves down in order to make decisions, and some can’t. Many of our clients have problems with that.”

The sense of smell can be a powerful tool for DBT therapy, with the aim of developing specific calming strategies. In this exercise, the clients were introduced to several anxiety-reducing oils, and each was assisted to create an individual calming blend that was pleasing to them. One client added orange blossoms, another added frankincense, another lavender.

“DoTERRA oils are cold-pressed, which means they last longer on the skin than an alcohol-based scent,” said Madrigal. “Because they last six to seven hours throughout the day, the calming memory lasts longer too. Clients put the oil on their arm and can smell it when they want to trigger a calming effect.” Each client was given a roller-ball of their special scent to take home with them.

The individual scents also had an effect on the horses, who are sometimes ridden, and who sometimes participate in ground exercises. In the ground-work sessions, clients learn how to move the horses around with posture and body language, which can also teach appropriate social skills.

“Initially, clients begin the course with their eyes down, hunched over, exhibiting a state of no confidence,” says Madrigal. “But with training, clients learn to stand straight up, look in the direction they are going, and move their body in the direction they want the horse to go. They greet the horse, get its attention, and ask it to walk forward in the direction they are looking.”

Horses are herd animals, and seek leadership. Getting the horse’s attention can be easier with the special scents. The horses are offered the individual oil blends to smell, and soon begin to associate the aroma with their human partner.

“One of our clients is blind, and we have a certain horse who tends to be a bit pushy,” says Madrigal. “But when that horse encounters the person who is blind, it becomes very passive and quiet. It appears that the horse understands that special behavior is needed.”

Is it the calming effect of the oils? Who knows? Wendy, who donated the essential oils session at no charge, brings the alchemy of essential oils and aromatherapy to both people and to horses in many disciplines, including high-level dressage horses. There, the oils may be used to repel insects as well as soothe competition nerves. For more information about the many uses of essential oils, check out their website at