Welcome to the information page about Equine Assisted Psychotherapy or EAP. It is a mouthful! Here you will find a description about the difference between traditional counseling and EAP, and why we use horses in therapy.
EAP is an alternative to traditional talk therapy. Typically, when you visit a counselor or therapist, you would meet in an office setting and discuss life events, feelings, and relationships that are having an impact on your emotional/mental well-being. The act of expressing thoughts and feelings can bring clarity and healing in a way that can be very beneficial. Oftentimes, the process of therapy is also about discussing difficulties and opportunities for growth, and then going home to put these ideas into practice. It can be an incredibly valuable process.
EAP, however, offers an alternative for those who would like, or need, something different - an experience, rather than a conversation.
In EAP, the client and the therapist meet outdoors. One or more horses, as well as an Equine Professional are also a part of the session. The purpose of EAP is to interact with the horses so that familiar feelings, communication, and relationship styles arise as a relationship between human and horse emerge. While interacting with horses, clients are able to experience and practice new ways of being and communicating - rather than simply talking about it. When we have a new experience, new connections are made in the brain and body - making it easier to repeat these new behaviors again in the future (think about it like learning to drive - you have to actually drive a car before you can fully understand how, and with practice you become more and more skilled, making the act of driving easier and easier). A trusting and genuine relationship is encouraged between horse and client, and will offer many opportunities for reflection, insight, and practice of new skills. Riding is sometimes recommended as a part of the therapy; as it can support the brain in developing neural connections for self-soothing and self-control. Riding is only included if necessary therapeutically; you will not receive traditional "riding lessons" in EAP.
Horses offer you moments in which to experience your own communication style, practice self-control, and learn how intention and purpose help you create the kind of life and relationships you desire. Who we are with our horses is who we are in life.
Why Horses? As prey animals, horses are naturally tuned in to the body language and energy coming from all around them, for their own survival throughout evolution horses had to be able to read internal states of others - not what a predator was pretending to be, but what the animal truly was, on the inside. Horses are also herd animals and seek out connection wherever they go - like humans, they feel most at peace when they are connected to themselves and others. Because of these characteristics, horses provide honest and immediate feedback about our own internal states, communication, and relationship styles - as well as seek out connection with us the moment we become honest and trustworthy. As their own self-protection, horses seek authenticity and peace - and they provide rich opportunities for you to do the same.