Equine Psychotherapy Australia
Equine Psychotherapy Australia (EPA) Model
Equine Psychotherapy Australia provides quality Mental Health, Psychotherapy, Personal Growth, Organisational Consulting/ Groups, and Specific Learning opportunities for:
• Organisational groups
Client Needs & Issues that can be addressed include:
- Depression, Anxiety
- Attachment, Trauma & Abuse
- Relationship Conflict, Communication, Breakdown
- Child, Family Issues, Needs & Behaviours
- Life Transitions, Grief and Loss
- Personal Growth & Exploration
- Organisational Change, Team Building, Leadership Programs
Team Building Session
What is the EPA Model?
EPA Model has 7 features -
1. Relationship - sessions foster an I-Thou relationship between practitioner-client-horse, a unique and deep connection in the here and now
2. Specialist Trained Practitioners - practitioners are trained in 3 specialist fields - change processes, horses and horsemanship, and horse-human dynamics
3. Ethics - the approach is an ethically driven model focusing on professionalism, safety, values and horse welfare
4. Theory of Change - the theory of change is explicitly taught to practitioners and guides the focus of sessions for effective outcomes
5. The Way of the Horse - teachings from horses are offered to clients as opportunites for health and wellness
6. Holistic - the approach works across layers of functioning, including the body, feeling, cognitions, and relational wellbeing
7. Personal and Professional growth - EPA practitioners are comitted to their personal growth and professional growth
The EPA Model is a unique approach to equine therapy and learning where horses are co-facilitators and teachers in the process of change. It was developed in Australia by Meg Kirby, and is a unique Australian model that is ethically driven, safe and effective, professional, and deeply respectful of clients, horses and practitioners. Sessions occur in a safe environment, a paddock, menage or roundyard, with trained and certifed practitioners. There may be one, or many horses participating in the session. After an initial check in and initial assessment of the clients needs and issues, the client is offered a relational experience with the horse/s that is specific to the needs /issues presented. The client is offered some clear guidelines about the process, the horses, and supported in ways that are appropriate. The relational experience with the horses offers opportunities for the client to explore and make contact that is grounded and alive. It is an opportunity for embodied awareness, in the moment, in relationship. There is no possibility of being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It is purely an invitation to experience, grow and learn. The practitioner/s, the client/s and the horse/s together weave a unique opportunity for growth, self understanding and change.
The EPA process works with self exploration and healing across all levels of experience – bodily and sensing, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual. EPA Model sessions view horses as living the essence of 'gestalt', living in awareness, full bodied contact and healthy self-regulation. The horse-human experience offers a different opportunity, free from analysis and judgement, deepening into enbodied being, sensing, feeling, intuiting, and creative intelligence.
Practitioners are skilled to support clients to go where they need to go, to attend to what needs attending, to support the horses and clients to be together in a very unique way. Unfinished business and Patterns (in beliefs, thinking habits, bodily and emotional patterns), can become available for awareness, processing and integration. Clients can become Aware and Connected to self and others, able to nourish and step into their uniqueness, talents, self actualisation and life purpose.
The EPA Model works with relational horse experiences, including observation, meeting, ground/leadline sessions, herd sessions, led mounted and riding sessions. These experiences with horses are offered to clients, given the unique needs, goals and wants of the client, and, the wants and feelings of the horse/s.
What is EPA Model for Groups?
Small and large Organisational groups are offered an opportunity to be together, with horses as co-facilitators, to deepen their understanding of – and contact with – eachother, the group, the group’s visions, roles and responsibilities, to build awareness, choice, and possibilities excellence and endless creative solutions. Teams can become more emotionally intelligent, value individuals in the team as well as the group as a whole, build resilience and brilliance by freeing up individual’s strengths, value and effectiveness. Conflict can be addressed with awareness and respect. Vision can be strengthened. Dialogue can be opened. All in the most unexpected ways – by being with horses and engaging with team activities with horses leading the way.
Lessons on creative solutions, managing feelings and useful thinking patterns, managing change and challenge, strengthening leadership and effective teamwork, finding one’s place in the herd, and innovative outcomes,. Lessons on Leadership, knowing and managing feelings, fears, needs for belonging, strengths and underdeveloped capacities, strengthening capacities for trust, authenticity , awareness, curiosity, confidence, intention and action.
These are just a few lessons that an EPA workshop can offer organisational or corporate groups. The ½ or full day EPA sessions for Groups are based on the structure, function, process and needs of the organisational group.
What is EPA Model with Children and Adolescents?
The EPA process is defined by the needs of the child or adolescent , their developmental level and attachment style, and the unique psychotherapeutic focus. The horse experience, and verbal discussion is appropriate to the stage and needs of the child. The sessions may be offered in conjunction with parent or family sessions.
Horses are beautiful, intelligent, sensitive and strong animals.
Horses live and breathe gestalt - they live in an aware, self regulating, authentic and relational way, within their own being and in the ‘herd’ and field at large. They are deeply embedded in a web of relationship, and there is a constant connection that occurs moment to moment, in the herd and broader environment.
Horses are prey animals and therefore have a sensitive, hypervigilant nature with a tendancy to flee from changes or perceived danger. They communicate predominantly non-verbally, via body expressions, energy and behaviours, and can pick up subtle changes in the horse/person/environment.
Horses are oriented towards connection and relationship due to being social animals with a herd structure. Horses experience, and then respond. Due to horses being highly perceptive species, they will react behaviourally to a person’s non-verbals, intention, feelings and thoughts, especially if they are incongruent to the person’s presenting behaviour or words.
Horses have many similar traits to humans. They are social animals, prefer to be with peers, have roles in their herd, have distinct temperaments and personal styles. They have feelings, moods and preferences, and an approach that works well with one horse may not work with another. They are playful, curious and creative…. The list goes on. Horses provide vast opportunities to reflect on parallels between the relational experience with the horses, and ones relational experience at large (in their life).
Relating with horses encourages the development of skills and values that promote emotional health, ie patience, fairness, commitment, emotional congruency, relaxation and good breathing, clear communication, care and slowing down, firmness and determination, good and consistent boundaries …
The Way of the Horse or horse wisdom is very rich for us as human beings and the inter-species relationships can teach us much about health, awareness, and balance. If Horses have not been damaged psychologically by the mistreatment of humans (intentionally or unintentionally), they offer a clarity of being, an authentic being which is both simple and profound in its capacity for Self Regulation and Relationship. Generally life lessons learned specifically from the way of the horse can include teachings on: wisdom of prey as different from predator ways, authenticity, managing feelings as information, stretching capacities to feel, intuit and sense from a distance, honouring sensitivity as a strength, offering insights around boundaries, roles, and purpose.
Horses are often depicted by artists, shaman, and spiritual indigenous communities as Beings of Freedom, Power, and Spiritual Wisdom. Connection with horses has the potential of connecting us with our deeper essential self experience and the deeper wisdom of the universe oneness of all beings.
What Horses Offer?
Horses offer much to the psychotherapy and learning equation.
As mentioned, there are many benefits that horses offer to those in many horse fields and sports, including encouraging responsibility, work ethic, assertiveness, patience, confidence, clear communication, and healthy relationships.
In the therapeutic/learning encounter, horses specifically offer :
• A feedback mechanism of how clients feel and behave in relationship. Due to horses heightened sensitivity and natural instincts of responding to subtle changes in the field/environment, they respond to each person uniquely. Additionally, when a person tries something different, and makes a change in intention, feeling or behaviour, the horse 's response changes. In this way, horse feedback can encourage self-awareness and congruency of body, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs.
• Non-verbal feedback from horses can be powerful and can effect change with client groups whom are not able or interested to verbalise or reflect.
• Authentic and honest Contact and feedback that is free of judgement and interpretation.
• A ‘safe challenge' to explore feelings, behaviours and patterns
• A captivating and unique way of engaging humans in their own growth via relating to magnificent, large, sensitive, and social animals.
• An opportunity for some people to feel less resistance than they may do in person to person therapy approaches.
* An experiential and experimental learning opportunity
* Awareness and Mindfulness skills development
* Relationship and attachment - rupture and repair
* Address Patterns that are nolonger serving one well
* Develop social emotional skills - understanding feelings, assertiveness, boundaries etc
* New body and feeling memory
* Trust, Safety and New experiences
* Clarity on purpose, goals and wants
* Leadership skills - leading oneself and others
Effectiveness of Equine Psychotherapy
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy has been found to be an effective treatment for many varied psychological issues in children, adolescents, and adults. Some studies finding significant improvement in outcomes for children and adolescents include:
• Children with depression and anxiety
• Children with difficult behaviours
• Children and adolescents ‘at risk’ with maladaptive behaviours
• Incarcerated adolescents
• Adolescents with disruptive behaviours
• Adolescents with conduct, mood and psychotic disorders
• Adolescents with depression, anxiety and low esteem.
Some studies indicating significant improvements for adults include:
• Adults with unresolved grief
• Adults with depression, anxiety and social disorders
• Adults with eating disorders
• Couples therapy
• War veterans with Post Trauma Stress Disorder
EAP is being used for individual, couples and family work with positive outcomes around the world, and many studies are indicating that the treatment duration is reduced with this work, compared to traditional counselling and psychotherapy.