Equine Assisted Therapy

Our Equine Assisted program is offered in partnership with Mystic Meadows Equine Centre.  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.

Equine Assisted Therapy

  • Individuals with attachment difficulties
  • Individuals who have been experienced violence and abuse
  • Adults seeking personal development and/ or to explore and heal from past trauma or abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Addictions
  • Attention-deficit hyperactive disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • At-risk youth
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Autism-spectrum disorders
  • Emotional disturbance disorders
  • Antisocial behaviour disorders (oppositional defiant and conduct disorders)
  • Pervavsive Devleopment disorders
  • Survivors of sexual abuse
  • Learning disabilities
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Speech language pathologies
  • Down’s Syndrome

What Does a Typical Session Look like?

Sessions are take place with a single horse or a herd of horses (and sometimes with a miniature donkey or goats). These counselling sessions are conducted in the pasture, round pen, arena, or in the barn. Some activities utilized in the process include: leading, grooming, obstacle courses, equine related artwork, or liberty work (interacting with the horses in their natural state off lead). 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). For example: a client who has experienced abuse in their past may feel threatened by a more dominant horse as the animal may remind the client of their abuser. The client may choose to share his or her story through the observation and interactions with this animal, and then as the therapy progresses learn to interact with this horse in a more confidant way- learning to set appropriate boundaries for themselves and simultaneously have a meaningful and healthy relationship with the horse while working through their anxiety. ‘Other clients just need to be with the horses; to have the opportunity to give and receive safe non-threatening affection and physical touch, through grooming and other simple interactions’ (S. McIntosh, 2016).