Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy
Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy Defined
Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) is an experiential therapy administered by a licensed mental health professional and a certified equine specialist to address specific psychotherapy treatment goals. Horses willingly participate in these individual or group sessions giving the client a holistic treatment experience.
Interaction with horses during a counseling session provides clients a dynamic type of feedback accessed solely through this type of therapy. Horses are particularly sensitive to one’s emotional state and require humans to be congruent with their own emotions. Horses, due to their prey animal nature, will only build trusting relationships when they feel safe. Clients often work with horses as they are loose in the arena, exploring the effects of their body language on the horses. Communicating through interactions with the horse creates a safe space for the client to explore difficult thoughts and feelings and a chance to reflect inwardly without fear of judgement. Horses also require a sense of awareness from humans, and exercising this sense of awareness can aid clients in rebuilding neuroplasticity, attentiveness, and thought processes.
Often a session begins with greeting and spending time with the horse. This may include grooming or walking with the horse. The therapist usually gives the client(s) a task to work on. This may include building obstacles or paths to represent things in their lives. It might involve moving a horse to a particular area. Clients are encouraged to observe and think about what the horses do and how they react. The therapist assists clients to draw parallels between their own lives and what happens in session.
EFP is considered an experiential therapy. What this means is that the clients are able to learn, grow, and heal by considering their entire experience in the arena. The therapist assists the clients to process their experiences such that they can transfer their new learning to their day to day life.
There is a weekly group session specifically designed for teens, led by Merri Vaughn. The focus is on building awareness, coping skills, emotion management, and interpersonal skills. It meets on Wednesday evenings from 4:30pm-6pm at the barn. The cost is $60 per session
More information about the group can be found at Psychology Today.
Benefits of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy
Research shows that spending time with animals and being in natural settings is beneficial to our health.
EFP is a holistic approach that creates rich memories that stick with clients for long periods of time.
- Working with large animals is empowering
- EFP is a full body experience
- All five senses are engaged
- Many EFP therapists have noted that clients often progress more quickly with equine sessions than with office based therapy
More information about the research and evidence supporting EFP can be found at www.eagala.org/research.
Forward Stride EFP Staff
- Merri Vaughn LPC, EFP Program Manager
- Mary Ellen Englert LPC
- Rebecca Wara-Goss LMFT, Equine Specialist
- Shannon Tabbal, Equine Specialist
- Connie Saul, Equine Specialist
- Lisa Harman, Equine Specialist, Skills Trainer