EAP - Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
You don't give kids confidence and self-esteem - you show them how to earn it.
~Tom Maier, founder of Riata Ranch in Exeter, California
It's Much More Than "Horse Play"!
Plato was quoted as saying, "You can learn more about an individual during an hour of play than in a year of conversation" and Einstein once contended that, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". When traditional forms of therapy don't work, therapists sometimes don't know where to turn. Some clients are better served outside the office. Experiential forms of therapy allow clients to confront a situation, try a new problem solving technique and then process the experience with a trained therapist while it's occurring!
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) refers to partnering with horses to treat/teach humans that are dealing with challenges that range anywhere from addictions and victimization issues to communication and relationship difficulties. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is a growing discipline in which horses are utilized as cofacilitators to create a therapeutic setting that employs an experiential, action-based, counseling model. In EAP, a clinical professional and a specially trained horse professional work with a horse to co-facilitate a therapeutic process together with the client(s).
Experiential approaches to therapy provide an ideal compliment to traditional (talk) therapy in that clients often explore skills and gain insight in the office that aren't internalized until practiced or experienced. Investigations into the effectiveness of experiential interventions indicate that they offer physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. Douglas Mann, a family therapist in Colorado, has published a paper in the Family Therapy News (April/May 2001 edition) documenting the benefits of adding a horse to the therapy toolbox. Based on the principles of Reality, Gestalt, Cognitive-Behavioral and Problem Solving Therapy models; the sessions center on the 'here and now' as opposed to past experiences. The activities engage the clients bodies, minds and spirits. Solid theoretical grounding and burgeoning supportive research have contributed much to the rapid growth of equine assisted assessment and psychotherapy.
EAP participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses and then processing (or discussing) feelings, behaviors, and patterns. EAP exercises force participants to think "outside the box" and to try new solutions to old behaviors. Horse-based sessions are used in team/leadership development, group, individual and family counseling sessions. The focus is on behavioral interactions and the use of deliberate interventions to alter the observed pattern(s) of undesirable behavior. This approach has been compared to the ropes courses used by therapists, treatment facilities and human development courses around the world. But EAP has the added advantage of utilizing horses which are dynamic and powerful living beings. Horses have moods, fears, likes and dislikes just like the clients. Horses have an underlying ability to heal and teach. They provide unconditional accep- tance, experience a variety of emotions and deliver immediate feedback that is observable and honest. Horses are sensitive to nonverbal stimuli and therefore provide valuable and visible lessons in nonverbal communication and body lan- guage. The focus of EAP is not on riding or horsemanship. In fact, 90% of equine- assisted activities takes place with the client on the ground.
Not all programs or individuals who use horses practice EAP. A licensed and specially trained clinical professional needs to be involved for it to be considered "therapy". EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth & Learning Association) is the certifying body in the growing demand for equine assisted mental health services. NAADAC (National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors) and a host of nationally recognized certification and licensure boards have authorized EAGALA and their "horse-based therapy" workshops as a provider of CEU's. Numerous residential programs have had their staff trained by EAGALA and use horses. . .not just as an "adjunct", not just as a "recreational diversion" but as the mainstay of their therapeutic programming. Virginia Intermont College was the first to offer a minor in equine assisted growth and learning, but the list is growing rapidly and several other universities including those in Ohio have followed suit.
Linda Myers, MA, LICDC, LPC was the first therapist in the State of Ohio to be certified by EAGALA and was the first in the United States to reach the advanced "Master" Level III status in EAP. Director and owner of Specialized Assessment and Counseling Services, Inc., Linda and her horses host a variety of workshops, groups and team development programs throughout the East Coast and at Stone Fox Farm*. Linda is a popular guest speaker at conferences, inservice development programs for staff, and college classes at Ohio State University where she and her horses captivate and educate. Linda served as cochair on EAGALA's Board of Directors for six years and is uniquely qualified to provide consultation, leadership and clinical services.
Linda is one of a select few who worked with EAGALA co-founder, Greg Kersten, to co-facilitate the certification process for therapists and horse specialists interested in EAP certification. Linda's office phone is 440-834-8096; email address is email@example.com; and the fax number is 440-834-8258. EAGALA co-founder, Lynn Thomas can be reached at 877-858-4600. Please visit EAGALA's website at www.eagala.org.
There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.~Sir Winston Churchhill
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