I just finished reading an article titled “A Review of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy” by Frewin and Gardiner from Massey University in New Zealand. The entire article was quite interesting but I thought I would summarize just a small part of the article dealing with EAP (Equine Assisted Psychotherapy) directed at youth. We have seen amazing things happen in our own Equine Assisted Program, its nice to see our results being backed up by research.
Youths At Risk
The author cites studies directed at youths who are at risk or are in treatment. In-patient psychiatric and substance abuse programs that have integrated an equine experience have been successful in teaching clients effective use of both verbal and non-verbal communication. Horses have been very beneficial when utilized in behavioral and therapeutic programs for children and adolescents. Another researcher (Mann) reported that the recidivism rates of male juvenile offenders improved after the introduction of horses into treatment sessions. Mann and Williams found clinically significant improvement of youth taking part in Equine Assisted Family Therapy. An average of 5 sessions produced improvement in areas of conduct, mood, and psychotic disorders, after years of conventional methods had failed to impact these adolescents.
Reduced recidivism has also been reported by the Geauga County Juvenile Court in Ohio after the incorporation of EAP. The researcher Levinson reports a positive impact of equine assisted work on children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. The children in this study focused for long periods of time when either grooming or leading the horses. The children’s self-esteem also increased once they obtained training in how to ask for and receive cooperation from the horse. Meyers reported on the use of EAP to teach problem-solving skills to adolescent recovery groups. The aim of this study was to strengthen sobriety. The program increased the adolescent’s ability to think creatively, take risks, break down tasks into manageable steps and work as a team.
The author reports on the formation in 1999 of EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association). Our own DeAnna Wahlheim works is a member of this organization. The article states that this association is a non-profit organization that is devoted to the development of high standards and professionalism in this field. Professional activities with EAGALA include conferences, ongoing education, support groups and newsletters. If you would like more information about EAGALA, please click on the link.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy sessions
EAP sessions involving horses are designed around setting up activities that require clients to apply particular skills (such as non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking and problem solving, leadership, working together, taking responsibility, relationships, confidence and attitude). The author of the article reports that these sessions address a variety of mental health and human development needs (such as substance abuse, ADD, abuse issues, depression, anxiety, among others). Sessions usually have activities that include mutually respectful equine activities such as handling, grooming or leading the horse.