How does EAP work?
EAP is the combined use of horses, a licensed therapist and a horse specialist working with clients to address various individual psychotherapy treatment goals. This unique method enables clients to learn about themselves and others by actually participating in activities with the horses, and then processing (or discussing) feelings, behaviors and patterns. The focus of EAP involves the use of activities involving the horses that requires the student or group to apply certain skills that are essential to be successful in life and relationships. Non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking, problem solving, leadership work, taking responsibility, teamwork and relationships, confidence, and attitude are several examples of the tools utilized and developed by EAP. The presence of a horse is considered "therapeutic" in itself, since it is a dynamic and powerful living being. There's also a healing bond that can develop between humans and horses. EAP utilizes this relationship with the horse as a tool to mirror client's experiences and facilitate change. Therapeutic results begin immediately. Because of its intensity and effectiveness, it is considered a short-term or "brief" approach. Anyone can participate in EAP; no prior horse or riding experience is necessary. It is completely safe and all activities are done from the ground. No riding is involved.
Does Equine Assisted Therapy Work? Several studies have been done as to the effectiveness of equine assisted therapy versus traditional therapeutic sessions. In nearly all cases adolescents who received EAP on average experienced greater total therapeutic change in psychosocial function than those who received no training. Bettina Shultz author of "The Effects of Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy on the Psychosocial Functioning of At-Risk Adolescents ages 12-18" states that the scores are 15.77 and 32.11 points greater than at-risk adolescents who are not participating in EAP. Statistically there is only a 5% change this is due to error or randomness.
EAP is an alternative to traditional 'talk' therapy. Sessions are intense and effective, often resulting in breakthroughs much more rapidly than other therapies or learning situations. This therapeutic approach assists clients in reconnecting with their emotions and learning how to utilize them skillfully to promote health and healing. In a safe environment, clients are provided an opportunity to practice emotional competency skills that facilitate their ability to observe their behaviors and see how they impact self and others.
Our EAP services are designed with the goal to provide counseling in an emotionally safe, and healthy environment. We generally work with a diverse population of individuals with mental, or emotional challenges. All Equine Specialists, and Therapists are required to have obtained the minimum requirement of Level I Certification in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy through EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) a national organization providing ethical standards, and criteria for EAP. Therapist/Counselors are independently licensed with the State of New Jersey.
Horses offer several advantages. Obviously, their size offers a perfect opportunity for someone to overcome fear and develop conﬁdence. Accomplishing a task involving a horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and provides for wonderful metaphors when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life. Plus, just like us, horses experience a large variety of emotion, are intuitive and social animals with distinct personalities, attitudes and moods. They have deﬁned roles within their herds comparable to human dynamics. Because of these similarities, horses can demonstrate and teach self-awareness, honest communication, trust, healthy boundaries, leadership, patience, assertiveness, play, affection, and more. Most importantly, horses have the ability to mirror exactly what human body language is telling them and therefore provide us with metaphors and lessons about ourselves to help facilitate change. The horses are a valuable therapeutic tool because they are “safer” then people to talk to or about. This is part of why EAP has been found to be more effective than traditional talk therapy in working with children and at-risk youths. Life patterns and issues tend to surface quickly because EAP relies on non-verbal communication skills with the horses. Through the relationship with the horses, and the experiences with the activities combined with the processing done with the professionals, EAP provides an effective environment for change.
Who beneﬁts from EAP?
People of all ages can beneﬁt from EAP. Some speciﬁc client challenges include: behavioral issues, Attention Deﬁcit Disorder, anger management, conﬂict resolution, relationship problems, couples therapy, depression, anxiety, stress, substance abuse, eating disorders, at-risk youth, victims of abuse, those in bereavement, those lacking self-esteem, veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, people who are unresponsive to traditional therapies, and people with other mental health challenges. EAP is also used for corporate retreats, group and family sessions.