EQUINE ASSISTED THERAPY
What Is It?
With human-horse connection, we help children, teens, and adults approach counselling in a new way! Counselling is done side-by-side with our hooved co-therapists, which offers new insights, empathy, connection, and a way for those who may not respond to traditional therapy to open up and experience the healing connection animals give us.
Our Equine Assisted program is offered in partnership with the Hooves of Hope Ranch just outside of Millet, Alberta. Equine Assisted Counselling is a form of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). This type of counselling involves facilitated and non-facilitated interactions between horses and people while engaged in a counselling session with a Psychologist or Mental Health Therapist.
Our equine therapists incorporate an eclectic approach while conducting therapy sessions which include but are not limited to the utilization of: attachment theory, play therapy, solution-focused therapy, client-centered therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, systems theory, and natural horsemanship.
Our approach is supported by evidence-based research that demonstrates that working with animals leads to increased physiological, emotional, and psychological well-being including an increase in self-esteem, self-awareness, empathy, concentration/focus, communication skills, and pro-social behaviours; and reduction in stress/anxiety, depression, anti-social behaviours, and trauma symptoms.
Who Can It Benefit?
- Adults Seeking Personal Development/or to Explore and Heal from Past Trauma or Abuse
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Antisocial Behavior Disorders (Oppositional Defiant and Conduct Disorders)
- Anxiety Disorders
- At-Risk Youth
- Attention-deficit Hyperactive Disorders
- Autism-spectrum Disorders
- Depressive Disorders
- Dissociative Disorders
- Down’s Syndrome
- Eating Disorders
- Emotional Disturbance Disorders
- Individuals who have experienced violence and abuse
- Individuals with attachment difficulties
- Learning Disabilities
- Pervasive Development Disorders
- Speech Language Pathologies
- Survivors of Sexual Abuse
What Does A Typical Session Look Like
Sessions take place with a single horse or a herd of horses (and sometimes with a miniature horse, pony or goats). These counselling sessions are conducted in the pasture, round pen, arena, or in the barn.
Some activities utilized in the process include:
- obstacle courses
- equine related artwork
- liberty work (interacting with horses in their natural state off lead)
*Our program only involves ground work, it does not include riding.
Other times the focus is on being simply present with the horse. Many client’s will discuss issues they are having with their therapist and find that much of what they are experiencing mirrors interactions their observations or interactions with the horses. This creates a non-threatening platform for clients to open up, develop new insights, and feel heard or understood by the animals they are interacting with.
‘Discussions may start in the context of the horse and the activity, and gradually lead to parallel issues in the client’s life. Subsequently, much of the therapeutic work is accomplished through the use of metaphors’
– (S. McIntosh, 2016).