What is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy / Counselling?
Being outdoors and in the company of such majestic animals, we are able to experience different "ways of being" and through a journey of self-discovery, become more in tune with ourselves and the world around us.
In learning about ourselves, we may discover behaviour patterns which are no longer serving us well or we may discover choices which are now possible, where previously there were none.
The journey of discovery that we experience in the company of our equine partners, helps us understand what influences our choices. Armed with this knowledge, we are then able to decide whether or not we wish to keep things as they are, or change them.
What's the difference between EAP and RDA?
Many people confuse Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) with other forms of therapy that involve horses, such as RDA (Riding for the disabled), horse riding lessons or learning to care for horses.
EAP involves working with our mental health, rather than our physical health. It incorporates different forms of therapy such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy), Gestalt, Art Therapy and/or Transactional Analysis etc. These different mental health therapy models, assist us change the way we process information relating to our hurts.
EAP is not about learning to ride or care for a horse (although some sessions may be conducted mounted and / or involve grooming our equine partners). It is also not RDA where horses assist with motor development such as Hippo Therapy or Occupational Therapy as part of the therapy offered.
Horses experience most of the same emotions that humans do. They can feel anger, anxiety, boredom, calmness, confusion, excitement, fear, frustration, interest, joy, relief, sadness, sexual desire and surprise; but perhaps their most unique quality is their ability to provide empathetic responses to our sub-conscious thought.
As herd, prey and play animals with an advanced emotional intelligence, horses have the ability to 'read' the thoughts and emotions of their herd members (including their human herd members). In the wild herd environment this is necessary for survival, but in the therapy setting it provides unique feedback and insights into our own 'ways of being'.
Horses model living in community and teach us how to be grounded and live in the moment. They don't judge us but they will modify their behaviour according to what's going on inside us. They teach us about forgiveness and security, and they empower us to modify our own behaviours.