Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) incorporates horses experientially for emotional growth and learning. It is a collaborative effort between a licensed therapist and a horse professional working with the clients and horses to address treatment goals.
Because of its intensity and effectiveness, it is considered a short-term approach.
EAP is experiential in nature. This means that participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses.
The focus of EAP involves setting up ground activities with the horses which will require the client or group to apply certain skills. Non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking and leadership are examples of the tools developed by EAP.
EAP’s powerful approach addresses a variety of mental health and human development needs including behavioural issues, attention deficit disorder, PTSD, substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, relationship problems and communication needs.
The EAGALA Model provides a standard and structure for providing Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning sessions.
The EAGALA model of EAP incorporates:
- The Team Approach – An Equine Specialist, a Mental Health professional, and horses work together with clients in all EAGALA sessions.
- Focus on the ground – No horseback riding is involved. Instead, effective and deliberate techniques are utilized where the horses are metaphors in specific ground-based experiences.
- Solution-Oriented – The basis of the EAGALA Model is a belief that all clients have the best solutions for themselves when given the opportunity to discover them. Rather than instructing or directing solutions, we allow our clients to experiment, problem-solve, take risks, employ creativity, and find their own solutions that work best for them.
- Code of Ethics – EAGALA has high standards of practice and ethics and an ethics committee and protocol for upholding these standards, ensuring best practices and the highest level of care.
The EAGALA Team
- The Horse: Horses have many characteristics which lend them to being effective agents of change, including honesty, awareness, and ability with nonverbal communication. The role of the horses in an EAGALA session is to be themselves.
- The Equine Specialist (ES): The ES chooses the horses to be worked with in sessions, works with the MH to structure sessions, keeps an equine log to document horse behaviors in sessions, stays aware of safety and welfare of clients, horses and the team.
- The Mental Health Professional (MH): The MH is responsible for treatment planning, documentation of clients, and ensuring ethical practice. The MH builds on the ES’s horse observations, bringing in the metaphoric and therapeutic/learning relevance of the session