MINDFUL WARRIOR EQUINE-ASSISTED PSYCHOTHERAPY
Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) 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 treatment goals. Clients learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing (or discussing) thoughts, beliefs, behaviours, and patterns.
- Here at Serene View Ranch, we currently offer two programs as part of Mindful Warrior Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy :
Those who are familiar with horses recognize and understand the power of horses to influence people in incredibly powerful ways. Horses are large and powerful which creates a natural opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence. Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals. They would rather be with their peers. They have defined roles within their herd; they have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods. At times, they seem stubborn and defiant. They like to have fun. In other words, horses provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning.
What is the role of the horse in EAP?
Horses are sensitive to non-verbal communication and respond to the messages the clients give them in the moment. As a result, their responses feel familiar to the clients, namely just as their spouses, children or co-workers respond, or how their addictions, fears, and dreams play out in their lives. The horses’ responses give the client and the treatment team information that builds awareness of current patterns and motivates change to new ones. Many clients will complain: “The horse is stubborn. The horse doesn’t like me” etc. But the lesson to be learned is that if they change themselves, the horses will respond differently.
EAP is about the horses doing the work of effecting change in people’s lives – it is about the relationship between the horses and clients, not the relationship between the facilitators and clients. The facilitators are there to provide opportunities and bring consciousness to the lessons being learned.
How does EAP differ from horsemanship?
Although spending any time with horses, whether it be riding, leisure or sport, is beneficial mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually – EAP offers the following benefits to individuals, groups and families that specifically address mental, emotional and behavioral issues:
- The focus is on human skills, not horse skills. Horsemanship is about the instructor directing specific skills with horses. EAP is about the clients being themselves.
- A treatment team consists of a horse professional and a clinician. This team approach improves both the physical and emotional safety of sessions.
- Specific treatment goals, objectives and interventions are identified and documented. Sessions are structured and facilitated to deliberately address the reasons clients come to therapy.
- EAP sessions are designed to best create metaphors to “real life”. This allows for metaphorical learning as everything done with horses is related to what is happening at home, school, work, in relationships, etc.