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What is Trans-Species Psychology & Why Does It Matter In Animal/Equine Assisted Interventions?

Trans-species psychology (TSP) was established by Dr. Gay A. Bradshaw, an ecologist and psychologist who saw the need to integrate the sciences of neurology, psychology and ethology to create a more accurate scientific understanding of the commonalities between human and non human animals in cognition (thinking) and emotion (feelings). 

The prefix "trans" is a Latin noun meaning "across" or "beyond", and it is used to describe the comparability of brain, mind, and behavior across animal species. In an interview, G.A. Bradshaw stated that the "trans" affixed to psychology "re-embeds humans within the larger matrix of the animal kingdom by erasing the ‘and’ between humans and animals that has been used to demarcate and reinforce the false notion that humans are substantively different cognitively and emotionally from other species." Animal Visions Interview with Gay Bradshaw, 2010.

Until the last decade, science has depicted our animal kin as "automata," bundles of neurons and muscles that react only when stimulated by the right kind of signal. In our day-to-day experience with non-human animals those signals, we have been conditioned to believe, center around dominance-oriented training and interaction. So-called "alpha" and it's companion, negative reinforcement, have been and in many circles continues to be, "the norm" in our relationship with other animals. Thankfully those walls are crumbling and based on the sciences within trans-species psychology, mutual, reciprocal, empathic, and humane relational practices are emerging. Changes mandated by the ethics of our scientific understanding of non human animal minds and emotions.

Developing healthy personal and working relationships with non human animals is no more linear and methodological than it is between humans. All social relationships are nuanced and layered and must consider the individuals involved, making situational adjustments to strengthen understanding and connection. Following a method to create any kind of social bonded relationship is not only unscientific, it can be harmful psychologically and for non-human animals, it is often inhumane.

"How it has always been done" was easy to participate in when animals were not considered to be thinking, feeling, or conscious. When we believed that they didn't have a psyche, could not suffer psychological harm, and did not have the capacity to care about their family, friends, children, or species specific social needs. 

Today, empirical scientific evidence is disputing "the way we have always seen and understood non-human animals." Across the sciences that inform Trans-Species Psychology we know that non-human animals have brains and minds like humans and that social animals, human inclusive, share the primary affective emotions of Social Joy, Eager Anticipation, Rage, Fear, Reproductive Urges & Romantic Love, Nurturing Love, and the Life Sustaining Social Bonds we all need. The quality of a social animal's life, human inclusive, is directly proportionate to the quality of their familial and social bonds.  It turns out that befriending, loving, grieving for, and healing within relationship with the family dog, cat, horse, chicken, parrot or even an octopus is natural and scientifically understood as plausible. 

"Brain scientists confirm that what goes on inside conforms to what ethologists observe on the outside–the tender ministrations and cooing of a mother parrot sculpt her peeping infant's neuroendocrinal pathways that govern affect and stress regulation in much the same way as attachment pioneer John Bowlby, and his intellectual descendant, Allan Schore, describe for humans. Likewise, therapies that help heal human psychological wounds apply to parrots and pachyderms who face similar challenges when recovering from abuse. Trans-species science says inference goes both ways: what we learn about Henrietta the parrot, Billy Jo the chimpanzee, and Imenti the elephant informs us about ourselves and vice versa," G.A.Bradshaw, Psychology Today 10/02/09, The World of Trans-species Psychology~What animals teach us about ourselves.

On July 7, 2012, a world renowned group of neuroscientists gathered at The University of Cambridge to share research and reassess the neurobiological substrates of conscious experience and related behaviors in human and non-human animals. 

The Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness: “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

Humans and other animals share a common capacity to think, feel, and experience themselves and their lives. Non human mammals have demonstrated the ability to experience empathy, culture, self-awareness, consciousness, psychological trauma, altruism, morality, mourning rituals, grief and complex communication abilities.

The knowledge that nonhuman animals have the ability to think and feel in complex ways has also brought the understanding of their capacity to experience psychological trauma and suffering. Trans-species psychology seeks to prevent and treat trauma in all animals, human inclusive, through increased scientific understanding and humane education.

At One Heart Wild Education Sanctuary all of our relationships are based on the understanding that we are more alike than different from each other, we can all be hurt and can heal in relationship with each other, and that empathy and compassion change lives and that changes our communities which ultimately has the potential to make the world a safer place for all animals, human inclusive. 

One Heart Wild Education Sanctuary is dedicated to the values and evidence found in trans-species psychology for the benefit of all life. This is demonstrated through our programs, the "Being" Sanctuary and  R.E.A.L. Principles for Mutual Connection classes.  R.E.A.L. provides the opportunity for enhancing social bonds with non human animal friends, certification for coaches and therapists who wish to learn a humane, relational, trans-species approach to healing, and empowering clients AND non humans

Based on the principles set forth by Dr. G.A Bradshaw within trans-species psychology, One Heart Wild Education Sanctuary adheres to the following values:

  • Interbeing ~ Humans and other animals are interconnected.
  • Listening ~ Our work is informed and guided by what other animals need and value, human included.
  • Collaboration ~ There is no "I" nor "you," only "us" within relationship be it personal or professional.
  • Nature-based Consciousness ~ Living and working in ways that benefit all animals.
  • Ethical Integrity ~ We are committed to acting ethically in all aspects of our work equally towards human and non human animals.

A presentation by G.A. Bradshaw, PhD, PhD, for "Affect Dysregulation and the Healing of the Self," UCLA Annual Interpersonal Neurobiology Conference, March 2014.

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