Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) Program
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Vinceremos is dedicated to providing services to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those in our community using an intervention called Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy.
What is EAP? Vinceremos offers a mental health treatment modality called equine-assisted psychotherapy which is an experiential form of psychotherapy where horses are involved in the sessions. EAP activities are done on the ground, typically no riding is involved. “Experiential” means that you will be involved in hands-on experiences with the horses designed to reflect things going on in your life. This is facilitated by a mental health professional and an equine specialist in mental health and learning.
What is unique about equine therapy is that clients are partnered with a living animal who has feelings and reacts to others non-judgmentally. Horses also mirror our emotions, bringing them to the surface so that clients are faced with working through them in the present moment in a safe environment. The process is not always about interacting with the treatment team, although that will happen at times. It is about providing you the opportunity to experience, explore, problem-solve, discover, be creative, gain insight and experience practical applications of what you are learning in the moment. The process is about “doing” along with the “talking.”
All activities take place at Vinceremos and are led by a Licensed Mental Health Professional and a Certified Equine Specialist of Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH Intl.) and/or Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). Both professionals are certified.
Why use EAP?
Goals may include but are not limited to an increase in:
- mindfulness and stress reduction skills
Goals may include but are not limited to a decrease in symptoms of:
This program is customizable for individuals, groups, families, school, workshops and much more!
- At-Risk Youth
Substance Abuse Treatment Centers
- Coaching and Leadership
- “My confidence level and self-esteem really went up due to the interaction with the horses and forming that camaraderie with the group”.
- “Because of this program I am a lot more calm and … it has lowered my anxiety tremendously”.
- “I am sleeping better, I can think more clearly and appreciate the beauty in life. I feel at peace with myself”.
Building Relationship: Participants have to move through all of the stages of a relationship, beginning with connection and trust. Horses are in touch with instinct and intuition and react accordingly in the moment, therefore, responding in an honest way. Human to human relationships have more of an opportunity to lie or hide true intentions, horses cannot do that.
Experience: During and after activities the participant observes and reflects on the behaviors of the horse and their own attitudes, emotions and interaction during their session. The treatment team helps to translate those experiences into their own lives.
Feedback: Horses’ survival depends on reading emotions and energy, therefore, whether we realize what we are feeling at that moment, or trying to shut out an emotion, the horse will react to it. This provides instant feedback that participants must recognize and work through.
What to Expect
Examples of Activities: All of the activities are designed to build a co-equal partnership with the horse. As a result, activities are done with the horse
- Breathing and Relaxation Techniques for Self-Regulation - Horses respond, engage or disengage depending on the client’s energy and emotions. The client must work on modulating their energy and behaviors to truly connect with the horse. The calmer the client is, the calmer the horse partner is and vice versa.
- Grooming Horses with Intention - Simply brushing a horse is an incredible calming activity for both human and horse. Grooming helps to begin gaining connection and trust between each other. Clients learn to identify what type of grooming helps horse partners relax or what makes them anxious, then relating this back to the client’s life.
- Leading Horse Partner - Horses give us the privilege of leading them when they feel safe. Clients will gain confidence in: horse handling ability, setting boundaries as well as understanding the horse’s boundaries, and building mutual respect. May times this brings to the forefront the client’s patterns of passive or aggressive communication, body language, tone of voice, patterns of getting frustrated, wanting to give up, resilience or determination.
- Overcoming Obstacles - Building an obstacle representing a challenge they are facing in their lives, then leading their horse partner through it. Having the horse accompany the participants through an obstacle is very powerful and comforting. We do not need to walk through difficult challenges alone. A lot can pop up, did the horse pick up on the client’s resistance to approach certain parts of the obstacle, did the horse knock down the wall that has been holding that client back- providing clients with the metaphorical confidence that they can overcome challenges.
Please note this program is unmounted, meaning that there is no riding and all activities are done on the ground. Please express this to potential referrals as we want to avoid any confusions in advanced. As we all know, when people think horses, they automatically think riding. Also, no horse experience is necessary.