Deanna Wahlheim is trained in EAGALA Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Equine therapy is a collaborative approach consisting of a client/clients, mental health professional, equine specialist and one or more horses. There is no riding involved, rather the interaction is with horses on the ground. The equine therapy sessions are held at United Farms in Phoenix, AZ.
The Family Christian Counseling Center offers this treatment modality which is an experiential form of psychotherapy where horses are involved in the sessions. “Experiential” means that you will be involved in hands-on experiences with the horses designed to reflect things going on in your life. The process is not always about interacting with the treatment team, although that will happen at times. It is about providing you the opportunity to experience, explore, problem-solve, discover, be creative, gain insight and experience practical applications of what you are learning in the moment. The process is about “doing” along with the “talking.”
Why horses? There are several reasons we choose to use horses in this work, but primarily it is due to their nature as a social and prey animal. As a result of this nature, they have an extraordinary ability to read our nonverbal communication – picking up on messages we are sending which we are not always conscious we are doing. With this, they start responding to us in familiar ways reminding us of other people and things in our life. It is through this they become metaphors (symbols) providing us the opportunity to work on ourselves in relation to those aspects of our lives.
Horses do not know our past, education, gender, race or other labels we may apply to ourselves and each other. They are in the moment and can be a part of this relationship without the biases we humans put on each other. This provides even more value in the insight they can provide us about ourselves.
The Family Christian Counseling Center follows the EAGALA Model of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. This means:
1. Sessions are conducted by a facilitating team (treatment team) of a Licensed Mental Health Professional (MH) and a qualified Equine Specialist (ES) in all your sessions. These professionals are EAGALA Certified which means completion of specialized training in this model, requirements of ongoing continuing education and adherence to high standards of professionalism and practice. While both members of the team are involved in your therapy process, the role of the ES is to oversee physical safety needs and provide observations on the behaviors of the horses. The MH is there to oversee the psychotherapy process and help you make the parallels of the horse observations to your therapy goals and life.
2. All sessions are on the ground – there is no riding of horses involved in the treatment process. This is psychotherapy and even though you may learn a thing or two about horses, it is not the intent or focus to learn about horses or how to ride them. We are here to address your therapy goals and we commit to utilizing the methods we have found to best support that focus.
3. The process is solution-oriented – meaning we believe you have the best solutions for yourself when provided the opportunity to discover them. We are here to provide the space and guidance through exploring what is happening in the process. You are an individual, and every life situation you are involved in will have its own unique solutions which fit best for you – we are here along with the horses to help you find them.
4. This process also incorporates “Best Practice” or “Evidence Based” interventions as determined by the Mental Health profession.
5. EAGALA is an international, nonprofit professional association for Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and has standards and a code of ethics which we follow and have accountability to as EAGALA Certified professionals. You may review a copy of the Code of Ethics as well as go to www.eagala.org for more information.