What is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy?
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is a unique model of therapy which incorporates horses experientially for emotional growth and learning.
It is a collaborative effort between a mental health professional and a horse professional working with the clients and horses to address a variety of emotional, behavioural and relational issues.
Clients learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing (or discussing) thoughts, beliefs, behaviours, and patterns. This results in growth and learning that is both personal and authentic and forms the basis for dealing with life's challenges and difficulties in the future.
Horses are large and powerful, which creates a natural opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence. Accomplishing a task involving the horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and provides for wonderful metaphors and life lessons when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life.
Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals. They have defined roles within their herds and have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods. An approach that seems to work with one horse does not necessarily work with another. In other words, horses provide vast opportunities for growth and learning.
Horses require focus and attention. In a society where busyness, distractions and immediate gratification are the norm, horses require people to be engaged on a physical and mental level that can be a successful and valuable characteristic in all aspects of life. Participants learn to relate to themselves, others and life in more mindful and helpful ways.
What is the Role of the Horse in an EAP Session?
The horse is an integral part of EAP - they help do the work of effecting change in people's lives.
The focus is on the relationship between the horses and the clients.The facilitators are there to provide the opportunities and to bring consciousness to the lessons learned.
Horses are sensitive to non-verbal communication and respond to what messages the clients give them in the moment. As a result, their responses begin to feel very familiar - just like how their spouses, children, and co-workers may normally respond or how their addictions, fears, and dreams play out in their lives.
The horses become very real symbols of these relationships and allow clients the opportunity to work through how to change these aspects of their lives in an experiential, in-the-moment and emotionally safe method.
How Does EAP Differ From Other Therapeutic Riding Programs?
Horses have long been used to benefit people in a therapeutic way.
Therapeutic Riding, for example, has been successful in helping disabled individuals learn to ride horses to relax, and to develop muscle tone, coordination and confidence.
EAP, however, is designed to help individuals, couples, families and groups address specific mental, emotional, behavioural and relational issues.
* The focus is on the ground. We do not incorporate any mounted work.
* The focus is on human skills, not horse skills.
* Our professional treatment team consists of a horse professional and a therapist, improving both the physical and emotional safety of sessions.
* Sessions are structured and facilitated to address the client's goals.
* Everything done with the horses is related to what is happening at home, school, or work so sessions are designed to promote change and impact these relationships positively.