Equine assisted therapy:





Equine assisted therapy is a recognised form of professional counselling that helps clients of all ages address behavioural, emotional and relational issues by using horses as an intervention tool. This program addresses a variety of mental health and human development needs including self-esteem, behavioural issues, relapse prevention, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, family dynamics, abuse, anger management, conflict resolution, personal development and other mental health and behavioural needs. 


Some time ago you may have heard in the news media about Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) as the former US president, Barack Obama, allocated significant funds for the use of EAP for veterans’ rehabilitation, and EAP had been instrumental in the rehabilitation of Jaycee Dugard (of the infamous abduction case).


As practising professional counsellor I find EAP to be non-threatening, gentle and respectful, but also effective and powerful, I see a meaningful impact with EAP in less time. This modality can stand on its own as a form of treatment or can be a powerful adjunct in collaboration with other therapies.


Some studies have found:

  • Those participating in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy experience significantly greater amounts of therapeutic change

  • Statistically significant positive changes in clinical outcome measure as a result of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy

  • Statistically significant improvement in clients ability to identify and manage behaviour

  • Provides a less threatening environment for clients to experience the benefits of working with a mental health professional

  • For couples, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy results have shown a statistically significant difference in marital satisfaction 


During the sessions a Professional Counsellor and an Equine Specialist – working as a team - are present at all times. The therapists are trained within their professions and by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.


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 wonderful insight into dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life.  Horses are attuned to emotions around them and so horses have the ability to respond to and reflect human stimuli. Horses can, therefore, provide us with metaphors and lessons about ourselves and our lives and thus help facilitate change. 


Clients report feeling not judged, safe, accepted and able to be themselves with the horse. Clients have experienced clearly ‘seeing’ their family boundaries in a session and through this awareness being able to adjust boundaries more constructively. A number of clients became aware that with trusting themselves and increased confidence the negotiation of challenges became more manageable. There are also many examples of increased self-acceptance, self-respect, empowerment, perseverance and the powerful realisation of more choice than originally thought.


No prior knowledge of horses or horsemanship is necessary for the clients and all activities with the horses take place on the ground.


by Petro Booysen Creative living.

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