EQUINE ASSISTED Mental Health and cognitive therapies for women’s issues including trauma, stress, depression, anxiety and relationship issues.
EQUINE ASSISTED Mental Health (EAMH) is a rapidly growing field and showing significant improvements in the treatment of client’s symptoms. I specialize in working with clients suffering from trauma, recovering from sexual assault or domestic violence, as well as divorce recovery, depression and anxiety.
EAMH incorporates horses experientially for emotional growth and learning. It is a collaborative effort between a qualified mental health professional working with clients and horses to addresses treatment goals.
Equine Assisted Mental Health is an experiential approach to psychotherapy in which participants work one on one with horses in a variety of activities. The process includes working with horses in many different ways with the horse as your partner. As participants learn to establish trust, respect, and communicate with their equine partners they gain the skills necessary for building strong, healthy, trusting relationships in other areas of their life. This model of therapy provides a focused interactive equine experience in which emotions can be felt and processed as they happen in a safe and fun setting. The client has the opportunity to find deeper meaning and understanding of their patterns, behaviors and themes by processing the outcome of the activity with the EAP professional team. The clients will have the opportunity to try out new behaviors and attitudes with immediate feedback from the horses’ behavior.
Naturally intimidating to many, horses are large and powerful. This creates a natural opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence. Working alongside a horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and provides profound insight when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life.
Like humans, horses are social animals, with defined roles within their herds. They are exquisitely sensitive and are highly attuned to their environment. Horses are honest, which makes them especially powerful messengers. They have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods; an approach that works with one horse won’t necessarily work with another. They like to have fun and hang out with their buddies. In other words, horses provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning, an effective technique when working with even the most challenging individuals or groups.
What Does an Equine Assisted Mental Health (EAMH) Session Look Like?
As with any counseling method, practices vary and I find that every EAP session we conduct is different from others. This is because EAMH is experiential and each client is in a unique situation. However, we do operate within a basic framework.:
As in my traditional counseling practice, I typically work with clients first in an office setting to identify issues and set goals. Then, we head out to work with the horses. We usually work with the horses within an arena or pasture. No horse experience is required.
Throughout the session, we will ask the client to participate in a variety of activities that requires interaction with the horses. This is where the client drives the process. The activities may range from simply being in the horse’s presence to asking the horse to navigate an obstacle course. It really depends upon the client’s needs and goals.
Our closing process vary as well, but often involves giving the client the opportunity to “set the horse free” either metaphorically or literally by turning the horse back out in the field. We then give the client the opportunity to verbally process what happened during the session. Most of our clients report that they develop a new sense of self-awareness from working with horses that is transferable to other areas of life.