Equine Assisted Psychotherapy

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy

What is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)?

The Wellbeing Paddock offers EAP work based on the Equine Psychotherapy Institute model or EPI model. EAP offers an engaging way for people to experience growth and change. It provides a 'safe challenge' for people to be in relationship and to explore feelings, behaviours and patterns in a new but challenging way. The horses bring a special quality to the process as they are large, sensitive, majestic and social animals. This experience can engage people and help them feel less confronted in the psychotherapy/learning process. The Equine Psychotherapy Institute (EPI) Model of EAP is professional, innovative and experiential. It is an approach to counselling, psychotherapy, and mental health that supports clients of all ages in addressing therapeutic goals, with horses as co-facilitators in this process. The focus of this psychotherapy model, as in room-based psychotherapy/counselling, is to support and explore therapeutic change and personal development for a broad range of client needs. This approach suits a diverse range of client needs similar to those seeking room-based therapies. EAP sessions and process are utilized with clients exploring:

  • Personal growth
  • Trauma and abuse
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Addictions
  • Attachment disorders
  • Personality disorders/traits
  • Children with a range of needs and disorders, groups, couples, families, and organisations.
EAP is a form of Animal Assisted Psychotherapy that was developed in the 1960's. EAP, as a unique methodology came into being in the 1990's. It is a form of Psychotherapy, and thus, is offered by registered psychotherapist or registered mental health practitioners only. Research suggests that the long terem benefits of EAP is dependent on both the active experience of new situations and on the quality of the 'processing' and integrating of the equine experience. Thus, it is a combination of the evocative and reflecting capacities of the horses, the natural connecting and healing presence of the horses and the skills of the experienced psychotherapists or mental health practitioners together weave the opportunities for growth in experience and reflection.

What is the purpose of EAP?

The purpose of EAP is to offer safe experiences with horses to increase our understanding of ourselves and to empower and resource clients to flourish in the world. Some key focus areas include to:

  • Develop emotional regulation skills
  • Develop boundaries
  • Develop communication skills
  • Build on personal stregths
  • Develop confidence
  • Increase experiences of safe relationships
  • Develop mindfulness and awareness
  • Increase social/emotional skills
  • Explore experiences and behaviours in relationships
  • Building awareness of behaviours and the impact on others
  • Building awareness and expression of emotions/feelings
  • Building awareness of values, core beliefs and thought patterns
  • Develop and increase understanding of coping skills to reduce stress response
Experiences offered with the horses are ground-based and are tailored to the client's needs and therapeutic learning goals. There is no riding or mounted experiences offered with the horses therefore, clients do not need to have any prior horse experience. Even clients who are fearful of horses can gain tremendous benefit from this approach.

What EAP is NOT...

  • EAP is not therapy for horses
  • It is an intervention for people with the horses who aid in the therapeutic process. The horses provide support.
  • It is not horsemanship or riding skills
  • It is a process designed to address the client's therapeutic or learning goals. This work is offered through ground work not through horse riding.
  • It is not restricted to people with horse experience
  • It is just as effective for people with little to no horse experience - in fact, the absence of preconceived notions about horses can be beneficial in enhancing change, growth and development.

What is PosEq and what happens in Pos Eq?

PosEq s a process of Experiential Learning with horses to address particular learning goals. PosEq is a unique program developed by The Wellbeing Paddock incorporating a strengths based program which is derived from Postive Psychology frameworks and EAL. PosEq can work with a diverse range of clients to address targeted learning Goals and may include Personal Development for children and adults or Professional Development goals. Goals may include psychosocial skills building, developing life skills, and developing particular organisational, business and work related skills such as working effectively in teams, leaderships skills and communication skills. What happens in PosEq sessions may look similar to what happens in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), however EAP works with therapuetic goals and PosEq works with learning goals. Often times the sessions may appear more structured and oriented around skills building. PosEq has key differences to EAP: The sessions do not deepen into emotional psychotherapy processes such as exploring, expressing and integrating core beliefs, deep emotions, early family of origin relationships and ruptures, and trauma. PosEq processes can be extremely valuable for all clients interested in developing awareness and life skills, and offering innovative pathways for self and professional development.

Why horses?

"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man/woman." Winston Churchill. What is it about a horse that makes them so effective at supporting people with the therapeutic or learning process? Below are a few reasons which you can read about, however, reading about horses can only provide you with some understanding, actually experiencing the EAP process gives people a complete, more powerful and integrated understanding of how horses help people. Horses are highly intuitive, sensitive, curious, playful and strong animals. As herd animals they are oriented towards connection and relationship within their herd and with people. It is from this platform of connection that we can explore our own relationship patterns; relational themes such as trust, respect, boundaries, power and control, vulnerability, attachment, and intimacy. Healthy horses have unique capacities which can have a powerful influence on people they work with. Horses are beautiful, they draw our attention and with their strength and power they require us to be present and aware. The horses size, beauty, and power can evoke emotions in humans which then become available to explore in sessions. Horses model behaviours that are important for human health and wellbeing. This inculdes expressing strong and clear boundaries, living in the present moment, demonstrating clear and assertive communication, and showing different forms of leadership characteristics. Horses are authentic, non-judgmental, and offer an acceptance which may be new for some people. They are highly perceptive and attunded to subtle changes in the surrounding environment and also in someones attitude, intentions and feelings. Horses react to these subtle shifts and changes via their body language and behaviour. This can provide feedback to the facilitator and participant. This authentic feedback can help increase our understanding of ourselves, our behaviour and how we are in relationships.

What is the Equine Psychotherapy Institute model (EPI)?

The Wellbeing Paddock works with the Equine Psychotherapy Institute (EPI) Model, a unique and comprehensive psychotherapy model with it’s own theory, principles, and practice methodology. An Australian model that is relational, ethical, effective, mindful, trauma-informed, effective, deeply respectful of clients and horses, and is founded on psychological and psychotherapeutic theory and practice. The model incorporates gestalt therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, and somatic experiencing (somatic trauma practice).The EPI Model is a unique approach to EAP and EAL, equine therapy and learning, developed in Australia by Mental Health Social Worker, Psychotherapist and Equine Psychotherapist Meg Kirby since 2008. The Model was developed with the primary intention of raising the standard of 'best practice' in service provision and training pathways available for practitioners in Australia. Advanced EAP and EAL Practitioners undertake over 27 days training and a total of 12 hours of formalised supervision for certification. This extensive training and competencies of the EPI Model Practitioner, sets the model apart from other models practiced in Australia. The EPI Model is informed by

  • Common Factors Psychotherapy/Counselling Research outcomes on the therapeutic relationship as one of the key ingredients to change
  • Contemporary Trauma practice based on meuroscience and somatic based practice
  • Psychological theory and Psychotherapeutic Practice
  • The Way of the Horse - where horses model and teach us about awareness, sensing/embodiment and authentic relationship