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Transforming Lives

Description of the Program

Nationwide, Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is rapidly emerging as one of the most popular treatment models available today (Recovery Journal, 1999). It is a therapeutic approach in which horses are used as a tool for emotional growth and learning. It is a collaborative effort between a licensed therapist and a horse professional. Because of its intensity and effectiveness, therapeutic results are often achieved more quickly than in conventional forms of therapy (Myers, 1999). This approach has the unique ability for participants to experience the effects of their decisions, to see the impact that their choice has on the outcome, and to discover the tremendous value of their personality in all relationships.

Refuge Service's Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) team is highly trained and certified in providing professional, safe, and effective services to the community. The team consists of a licensed counselor, EAP certified and trained horse professional, and horse. The team, working together with the client, provides a hands-on application to problem-solving.

Horses are the key to effectiveness and application of this program. Horses have an amazing power to heal and teach. They offer unconditional friendship, experience a wide range of feelings and provide immediate, honest, observable and physical feedback. They are sensitive to nonverbal stimulus; therefore, they provide valuable and visible lessons for the participants in terms of nonverbal cues and body language. Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals. They have defined roles within their herds. Like adolescents, they would rather be with their peers. They have distinct personalities, attitudes, and moods and require respect because of their large and intimidating stature. An approach that works with one horse does not necessarily work with another. At times, they seem stubborn and defiant, and they like to have fun. In other words, horses are much like people in their behavior, attitudes, and personalities. This gives the participant a visible metaphor for life experiences and relationships. Using these metaphors, in discussion and activity, provides a unique advantage for Refuge Services when working with even the most challenging individuals or groups.

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