Equine Assisted Psychotherapy/Learning (EAP/EAL) are the professional fields where horses are used as facilitators for emotional growth and learning. EAP is a collaborative effort between a licensed therapist and a horse professional. Because of its intensity and effectiveness, it is considered a successful short-term, or “brief’ approach for positive behavior modification.
The use of horses has proven to be extremely effective in working with at-risk youth and families. Success is also seen with difficult or emotionally hard-to-reach clients. Research has been conducted to evaluate the efficacy of Equine Assisted Therapy. Kay Trotter, PhD., LPC, and adjunct professor in the Department of Counseling, Development and Higher Education at the University of North Texas published her findings in collaboration with Dr, Cynthia Chandler and Deborah Bond titled "The Efficacy of Equine Assisted Group Counseling with At-Risk Children and Adolescents". The results of this study indicates that equine assisted group counseling is an effective mental health treatment for decreasing negative behavior while also increasing positive social behavior with at-risk children and adolescents. Furthermore the results suggest that equine assisted therapy is a more effective treatment process than in-school curriculum and traditional group therapy for several behavioral areas.
Barbara Lester, a licensed clinical social worker at a boarding school for adolescents, reports in "Horse Play Can Be Therapeutic: Equine Assisted Psychotherapy", “Now that I have started to do horse sessions, it’s difficult to imagine doing talk therapy in an office with adolescents.” Also, Lynn Thomas, LCS, and co-founder of the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association states that the success of EAP/EAL comes from the horses. “Horses react to our body language. This gives immediate feedback to what people are communicating non-verbally. It is powerful because it is more than just talking; it is doing.” In this same report evidence is given that indicated that recidivism rates of male juvenile offenders improved after the introduction of horses into the treatment sessions. In an average of just five sessions clients improved in areas of conduct, mood, and psychotic disorders, after years of conventional methods of therapy had failed to have an impact.
EAP/EAL involves setting up equine activities which require the individual or group to develop skills such as: non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking and problem-solving, motivation, leadership, deference, responsibility, teamwork and relationships, confidence, positive attitude, and an awareness of self and environment. The interaction with our horses will act as a metaphor for relationships. The potential and possible applications for this type of therapy are limitless.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy & Learning
Rancho Del Sueño
Equine Division of Heritage Discovery Center, Inc.
Rancho Del Sueno
40222 Millstream Lane
Madera, CA 93636