«Return to News ListingLANL Foundation Awards $5k Grant to NMCTR’s Self-Mastery Program

April 13, 2022 – 

Great News!  We are thrilled to announce that NMCTR has recently been awarded a $5k Education and Community Outreach Grant by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation for our Self-Mastery Program. We are so grateful for the support of the LANL Foundation and their recognition of the important and transformational work being done at NMCTR.

NMCTR’s Self-Mastery Program is a research-based program providing vitally-needed behavioral health services for at-risk youth experiencing school difficulties, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts, family conflict and loss, substance use, bullying, and aggression. 

In collaboration with the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS) for the last five years, the Self-Mastery program provides at-risk youth (teens deemed high/at-risk are chosen by SFIS to participate) an innovative, research-based, equine-assisted learning program consisting of two 8-week sessions, two hours per week that is co-facilitated by a mental health teen therapist and a NMCTR PATH Intl-certified riding instructor, both certified in HeartMath. This program has always been offered at no cost to SFIS.  

Through biofeedback mechanisms (horses and HeartMath technology), each lesson teaches at-risk youth the power of working with their own minds/emotions and breathing exercises to influence their autonomic nervous system and improve psychological and physical health. The program is for one academic year and will serve 25-30 at-risk teens from the 19 represented New Mexico pueblos served by Santa Fe Indian School.

The program is successful in teaching teens better self regulation through the use of two forms of biofeedback – horses and HeartMath technology  – and self-regulation exercises to bring them into coherence (an optimal state in which the mind, heart and emotions operate in sync and are balanced).

Biofeedback (via HeartMath’s heart rate variability measurements and via a horse’s response to their state of being) provides students the opportunity to observe their current emotional state and the effects of their efforts at modulating their emotional state. The horses provide the teens with immediate biofeedback, as horses function as a mirror in which a teen can immediately see the effect of their emotions and attitudes.

Multiple studies have shown that teens who have practiced the equine-assisted HeartMath techniques are better able to navigate daily life with less stress, increase their test scores, and get along better with others.

Each HeartMath session is recorded and saved automatically in the program so that our administrators can track the students’ progress over time. The goal is to transfer what is learned in each session to specific life situations in which a teen is required to exercise self control. Real life applications ensure a higher quality of learning.

In a letter from a recent 15-year old participant (SFIS), they stated, ““The self-mastery group really helped me in multiple ways, and I appreciate it. They helped me reduce my stress and helped me find a new outlet. The horses were very helpful. I learned so many new things, like how to control my breathing and my energy levels and it helped with my emotions.” 

With additional funding, NMCTR hopes to grow the number of youth participating in this transformational program.