Equine Assisted Psychotherapy allows client to process and heal deep rooted issues through Experiential and Gestalt therapy methodologies. With this form of mental health/addiction treatment, the horse is an active part of the client’s treatment team!
Horses are known for heightened sensitivity and can mirror human non-verbal communication and intention. Everyday situations and struggles are applied to Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Process Groups. With interpretation, clients are able to experience the horses’ actions and apply the scenarios to their lives and how they handle social interaction with others, conflict resolution, relationships, and motivation for change in order focus on solutions.
Tiffany Atalla (LMFT) and Katie Jolley (Equine Specialist) operate in conjunction with the horses to provide the treatment team for the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy at Benchmark Transitions Treatment Center. They practice the EAGALA Model, which is a “distinct experience based, team approach framework.” This model is client centered and solution oriented which is a perfect fit when working with addiction and trauma treatment. The Equine therapist helps the client draw connections to one’s life regarding; behavior, motivation and growth, while the Equine Specialist manages the safety component and helps the clients learn about Equine behaviors.
Last week, we had a client come to try Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. She presented with a history of abuse, trauma, drug addiction and very low self-esteem. This client chose a horse that made her feel safe. She was able to draw connections about the personality traits of this animal and the supportive people in her life that make her feel safe as well. By the end of the group, this client was leading the others in a demonstration of how to get a very stubborn horse to lead forward by using her assertive voice and body language to send clear messages. The client later shared she felt her inner strength reactivate during her Equine Assisted Psychotherapy session. What a great success to hear her say she was ready to start applying assertiveness in her life and provide her the opportunity to practice it first!
By Tiffany Atalla, LMFT