Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
EAP is traditional psychotherapy combined with therapeutic riding and horse related activities. It is facilitated by a credentialed mental health professional working in conjunction with a horse or pony with the intent to promote growth and healing.
Therapeutic interactions integrate the healing power of the horse, the skills of the psychotherapist and the challenges and successes of the client to formulate and work towards a variety of therapeutic goals including psychological, physical, cognitive, social and behavioral goals.
EAP creates opportunities for clients to reveal their own stories, gain insight into their own issues, process painful experiences and look at ways to change inappropriate behaviors all within a non-threatening environment. Because horses are bigger than humans, respect happens naturally and boundaries and limits are illuminated. Horses offer immediate feedback about behavior, give non-verbal consequences, are forgiving and offer second chances. Through the feedback provided by the horse, clients also develop an understanding of how their behavior affects others. In many cases the horse acts as a mirror or magnifying lens, helping to focus on the issues the client brings to the session. Issues that arise during the therapy session are linked with the larger ongoing issues within the client’s life to promote growth and change. The special bond that grows between the horse and the client becomes a catalyst for learning new skills and working towards improved functioning.
Our program for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and developmental delays focuses on meeting the client where they are and moving them towards increased independence, confidence and higher functioning. The program combines horsemanship skills with Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) techniques. Treatment goals typically include:
- Increasing tolerance for transitions
- Increasing compliance
- Decreasing aggressive behaviors
- Increasing social skills
- Increasing the efficiency of verbal and non-verbal communication
- Increasing the ability to bond with others.
Horse related activities are not limited to riding. Clients typically participate in grooming, feeding, saddling, and finger painting activities.
Children, adolescents and adults may benefit from this program. Children must be at least 4 years of age to participate.
Equine Assisted Learning
- Safe experiential learning environment
- Identify patterns and consider their usefulness
- Invitation to practice new behaviors and receive real time feedback
- An opportunity to explore new ways of healthy self expression
- Development of life and communication skills
- Reciprocity and warmth as a result of relationship building with our herd
- Recovering from trauma
- Substance Abuse Programs
- Psycho-educational Groups
Equine Assisted Learning programs are being used across the country as an adjunctive therapy for individuals . EAL is an experiential education process based on the belief that horses can help us learn new, more innovative ways of thinking about behavior and how we interact with others. Through a collaborative experiential learning process, participants use past experience, trial and error, reflection, generalization and metaphors to facilitate learning. Participants then take their experiences and the insights they have developed and bring them back to their therapists in the treatment center.
Who Can Benefit?
Individuals of all ages and levels of cognitive development can benefit from EAP. Clinical studies suggest that EAP is effective in treating:
- Low self-esteem
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Behavioral problems
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Conduct disorder
- Aggression and Substance abuse
In addition, clinical studies suggest that individuals suffering from chronic medical illnesses may benefit from EFP. With any medical illness emotional, cognitive and psychological issues may facilitate or impede compliance with and response to medical treatment. Diagnosis of medical illness is often associated with feelings of loss, depression, anxiety and at times confronting death and dying issues. Psychologists are becoming increasingly involved in providing mental health care and facilitating personal growth during such times of distress to both those who are ill and family members affected by the illness.
The unique relationship found between the client and the horse often leads to psychological benefits including:
- Healing of past trauma
- Feeling acceptance/belonging
- Development of trust
- Building social skills
- Increased assertiveness
- Decreased aggressiveness
- Enhanced motivation
- Improved problem solving skills
- Improved concentration
- Increased self-esteem and confidence
- Improved communication skills
- Improved listening skills
- Improvements in self-control
- Learning to master fears
Because the gait of the horse resembles the human gait riding may have physical benefits including improved balance, coordination, muscle strength and flexibility.
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