What is Equine-facilitated psychotherapy?
Equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) takes therapy out of the office and into nature. Sessions can take place in the barn, riding arena, pasture, or other places on the farm. The horses (or other animals) are the co-therapists during the session. The work consists of developing a relationship between therapist, clients, and horses. The aim is to develop your communication and relationship building skills through interacting with horses. Sharing your experiences in a supportive environment will help you to overcome the emotional, behavior, and relationship difficulties you may be experiencing in your life. While working with the horses, fixed patterns of behaviors that are not helpful will arise. This is often where clients become “stuck” in the world. However, being mindful of these patterns while in session enables you to exercise real choice, heal wounds, and gain access to your full potential.
Horses are herd animals and rely on relationships, just as humans. The foundation of change in progress in therapy is relational. It is through relationships and making different choices, that change can occur. The horses provide a wonderful opportunity to experience relationships in a different way, that will hopefully lead to changing some negative patterns.
In addition, humans often get “stuck” in the past or future. Those thoughts/ideas of the past or future can become very controlling and do not allow for change. By nature, horses have to live in the present. Due to this, the horses naturally keep the session in the here and now. This allows you to explore what that feels like and give less power to your controlling thoughts/behaviors.
Is it called something else?
Yes ~ unfortunately there is a variety of names for this work. You may have also heard it called the following:
- Equine-assisted therapy
- Equine-assisted psychotherapy
- Equine therapy
- Equine mental health therapy
- Animal-assisted therapy
- Anima-assisted psychotherapy
Despite the name, here at Healing Hearts Sanctuary, Dr. Emily takes the training and principles of psychotherapy (i.e. mental health therapy) and brings it to the session. EFP is different than animal-assisted activities (AAA). Those types of activities are more educational and provide an unique learning opportunity. AAA does not get into the significant problems/symptoms that are occurring for the person. Since EFP is essentially therapy, at times, session can go “deeper” and work towards making positive changes in the person’s overall mental health and well-being.