Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
Dr. Joseph Lancia
75 Walker Rd
Hilton, NY 14468
Phone: (585) 392-3492
What is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)?
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is a new and emerging field. It involves a team approach between a licensed mental health professional and an equine specialist. It is psychotherapy that promotes growth and change in people through activities that incorporate horses. It is not a riding or horsemanship program; all activities take place on the ground. It is a short term solution focused approach that involves the use of metaphor as a way to address current life challenges that may be limiting a healthier emotional and psychological state of being. It can be helpful in a variety of clinical problems including but not limited to depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, behavioral and impulse control problems, relationship issues and chemical dependency issues.
The therapy involves setting up ground activities that invite the individual, couple, family or group to look at their current styles of relating, communication (including verbal and nonverbal), problem solving and emotional regulation. It also allows for increased awareness and assessment for the individual of their current beliefs and attitudes and the opportunity to work on trying different ones.
Therapeutic metaphors work by allowing those involved to search within their own psyche to locate the area of meaning most resonant with their current psychological challenges and state of functioning. So the activities set up in addition to the horses all become potential metaphors. These metaphors are used to address the treatment goals and psychological difficulties that brought the individual to therapy.
The horses can become aspects of an individual’s emotional life or they can become significant people in their life. While engaging in these activities the individual has the opportunity to learn about how they approach problems in their life and establish relationships. The benefit is not only in processing the session but having the opportunity to look at what works and does not work and try again.
Some aspects of how the horses are metaphors for relationships include looking at whose needs are being met, problem ownership (whose problem is it), taking responsibility in recognizing how personal actions affect others and looking at beliefs regarding relationships. The insights gained and skills learned in the arena can then be taken to other aspects of the individual’s life outside the session.
Potential benefits of EAP include building self confidence, self efficacy and empowerment, communication, trust, anxiety reduction and impulse modulation, addressing boundaries, assertiveness and practicing social skills. EAP is a problem solving model of change that utilizes metaphor to look at expanding perceived limitations, allows behavioral practice and cognitive restructuring.
EAP elicits metaphors consistent with identified treatment issues and goals and fosters working towards improvement or resolution of these. Through the course of treatment, specific goals, objectives and interventions are identified and documented. EAP allows a person to actually respond to difficult and challenging situations in the here and now through the activities with the horses. It helps with a variety of behavioral and psychological challenges and issues. Individuals learn about themselves and others by processing the horse’s response and their own feelings, thoughts and behaviors during the session.