As humans face their day to day life experiences, several mental health issues or behavioral problems are bound to incessantly occur. Quite a number of children are victims of family violence and this causes them to be at a risk of social complications and mental disarrays including anger, suicidal intentions, depressions and awareness dearth hyperactivity disorders (ADHD). Other cases include drug addiction, eating disorders, learning disabilities or work related complications that may befall adults.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy also known as EAP is a form of psychotherapy which cartels horses and psychotherapy to help restore self-esteem, trust, personal confidence as well as group-cohesion in people with the above issues (Schultz et al., 2007). This yearns to gauge what EAP entails, its correlation with other forms of equine therapies, how it is done and its use in assisting people with various difficulties.
EAP is the teaming up of human certified therapists and horses with the common goal of helping people who have succumbed to mental health problems, relationship complications, lack of life skills, grievance, loss, ADHD or short temper. EAP is also used to aid those who desire to focus on their own professional development (Jaleh, 2010). In fact, horses are used because of their prey-animal instincts that allow them make quick and precise assessment of their surroundings thus responding appropriately.
They have incredible insight in comprehending human body language besides being utterly honest and incapable of pretense. These enable horses to avail honest response to the client during their interactions. Conversely, a therapist organizes treatment plans and diagnoses while monitoring the process to ensure nothing goes astray. They are there purposely for the therapeutic parts of the sessions although other roles may come up.
EAP utilizes experimental vision oriented therapy which enhances the therapeutic process by applying a client’s ability to create metaphors. This is how humans relate to other peoples experiences. Metaphors of characteristics of a client situation, persona or people in their life in this case are the horse and all other requirements of an EAP session. Jaleh (2010) states that in this process only horse interactions on the ground are used while horse riding is not.
Equine Assisted psychotherapy versus Traditional psychotherapy
EAP unlike the traditional forms of therapy achieves quick and noticeable changes in the client within the first or subsequent periods. The instant reactions of the horse to the human actions and behavior assist the victim in meeting the therapeutic target in a short period. The brevity of psychotherapy period sets this method apart from other traditional forms of psychotherapy.
Moreover, the process conveys its lessons through various senses including visual, dynamic and acoustic which enable the client to retain lessons learnt for a longer period. According to Jaleh (2010) assertions, it is clear that numerous research studies can attest to this.
EAP versus other Equine Assisted Therapies
There are numerous other equine assisted therapies. Though partially similar, there are observable differences between them.
Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP)
Like EAP, this is an experimental therapeutic process that comprises of horses and individuals or groups. It entails control, lunging and grooming of the horse. However, it mainly depends on activities done while riding the horse and hence making it different from EAP (Shultz, 2005).
EAP is considered better than EFP since its ground undertakings involve a horse creating more and appropriate opportunities for client development and enlightenment. Riding a horse in the process makes it the main focus rather than an instrument of the procedure. One has time to focus on issues affecting him and thus facilitating healing.
This is another form of physical, professional or speech therapy that borrows the services of a horse. The rhythmic characteristics of horse riding are utilized in dealing with the physical restrictions of the client making it different from EAP.
Horses versus other animals
Horses are EAP preferred animal since they offer therapeutic advantages that are not available in other animals. The most conspicuous is their size that ranges between eight hundred to twelve hundred pounds. This acts as a metaphor to the client in handling intimidation and life challenges.
Basically, horses are social animals with attitudes and temperaments. Each plays a precise role in their groups and derives excitement in enjoying themselves. Individuals can relate with them since they impart metaphorical lessons (Addiction, 2011). Their ability to reflect back human nonverbal cues offers lessons on use of verbal or non-verbal communication.
Conducting of EAP sessions
A new client in an EAP center is taken to tour the facility upon which an introduction to horses is made. However, horses’ background data is withheld to facilitate efficient formation of a metaphor by the client. This in turn sets grounds for fresh and new relationships. The emotional security and physical safety of the client is optimized by the session structure. The speed of the therapy depends on that of the client though in the first encounter the client may be allowed to groom the horse. Fearful clients are allowed to start with the pony.
In the second and all subsequent sessions the clients are given the freedom to make choices of the horses they want to work with during the day. During this time, the mental health specialist consults with the equine expert on the clients’ changes since the previous period. Depending on the client’s problem, an activity is selected by the psychotherapeutic team (Addiction, 2011). These activities aid the client in discovering and overcoming various mental or behavioral difficulties.
Since the horse can mirror the clients’ behavior, the equine professional observes changes in behavior or attitude patterns in the horse while the mental therapist observes the client. Through their discussions they come up with open ended and nonjudgmental questions that help the client relate the observations to their life. As the clients approach their therapies goals the questions are changed into those that help find answers to the current predicament.
Issues assisted by EAP
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is used to solve problems that psychologists, counselors and even coaches solve. Such problems include:
EAP is majorly used for cases in which talk therapy is difficult for some unknown reason. Interactions with the horse not only help the person relax but also become symbols of frustrations being faced. This helps to float their emotions in a serene comforting surrounding. Observations of interactions help therapist comprehend the unfulfilled wants and dreams of the addict. Via EAP addict does not only rediscover their hidden self but ways of assisting them similarly become evident (Addiction, 2011).
At-risk adolescents along with life skills
These are children faced with the risk of failure in life due certain factors such as poverty, learning difficulties, family violence, molestation or abusive parents. Such children may exhibit withdrawal tendencies and depression. In an attempt to change the behavior of the horse, youths are compelled to change their behavior first thus learning how to be responsible of what they do. Caring for the horse imparts lessons on benefits of handwork and overdue gratification.
Anger management, relationship building and depression
Horses have the ability to reflect nonverbal communication in humans. Since horse mode of communication is via non-verbal cues, individuals are encouraged to face and influence change in a potent and nonthreatening way. Interactions help human lower their defenses and become open to new thoughts and attitudes.
The associations with the horses instill lessons of respect, problem confrontation and preservation of health wise relationships with other people. Companionship brings in a sense of mutual working as a team for groups that undertake the program (Shultz, 2005).
EAP is not a new idea in the history of therapy. Its efficacy makes it certain that it will continue being used for a long time. People are beginning to realize how this animal-human bonding helps save and restructure many lives. With everyday inventions in the social forums EAP specialists are taking their time to advertise their services to those who are ignorant of this process.
This offers frustrated people a second chance to live. In essence, many conferences are held while associations that deal with EAP and other animal related therapies are formulated to help as many people as possible to restructure. Whether we are the ones directly in need of it or the loved ones, it becomes imperatively clear that we cannot deny that this procedure is an integral part of our lives.
Addiction, D. (2011). Drug Addiction Treatment at the Ranch. Retrieved from: http://www.drugaddictiontreatment.com/featured/can-a-horse-help-you-with-drug-addiction/
Jaleh, C. (2010). How Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Can Help You Heal. Retrieved from: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5893214/how_equine_assisted_psychotherapy_can_pg3.html?cat=5
Shultz, B. (2005). The Effects Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy on the Psychological Functioning of At-Risk Adolescents ages 12-18. Retrieved from: http://eagala.org/sites/default/files/attachments/The%20effects%20of%20Equine-Assisted%20Psychotherapy%20on%20the%20psychosocial%20functioning%20of%20at-risk%20adolescents%20ages%2012-18.pdf
Schultz, P. N., Remick-Barlow, G. A. & Robbins, L. (2007). Equine-assisted psychotherapy: a mental health promotion/intervention modality for children who have experienced intra-family violence. Retrieved from: http://animalassistedtherapyprograms.com/documents/EquineAssistedPsychotherapySchultz.pdf