What is EAP?
EAP (Equine Assisted Psychotherapy) is an emerging field of treatment in which horses are part of patients’ therapy and recovery. Facilitated by both a licensed mental health professional and a credentialed equine professional, EAP provides a safe and secure environment that encourages healing as well as personal growth and development.
How Does EAP Work?
EAP involves both traditional therapy as well as activities such as choosing a horse from the herd, grooming and caring for them, working with them on the ground, and riding. By working with horses, participants have the opportunity to improve their self-esteem, self-awareness, and social skills. EAP has been shown to help individuals of all ages and backgrounds increase their overall satisfaction levels by helping them to decrease their depression, increase their self-esteem, and encourage their trust in others.
How can EAP help survivors of sexual and domestic violence?
Many survivors of violence suffer from psychological distress that affects them in many aspects of their lives. Survivors may experience symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, feelings of hopelessness, self-blame, loss of trust, and low self-esteem. They may even be diagnosed with post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD), or other mental health illnesses due to the trauma. Without treatment, these symptoms can cause continuing disruption and tension in many areas of a survivor’s life, and if left untreated, may result in depression, substance abuse, or suicidal thoughts.
Working with horses can help survivors of sexual and domestic violence regain their confidence. Many victims of violence have been overpowered by a larger person. Having a 1,000-pound horse follow their commands can help them regain a sense of power and control. Additionally, horses are hypersensitive to danger, and are very cautious and alert, especially when threatened. Often, survivors are able to relate to them in this way, which helps them to better understand their own feelings and have more compassion toward themselves when they feel anxious or fearful. Patients can also form deep bonds with the animals through exchanges of physical affection, such as nuzzling and hugging. This can be a very healing relationship for survivors. Through this collaboration, horses can provide a unique therapeutic experience that is one of a kind in the counseling field.
Where can I learn more?
For more information about EAP and to find a facility near you, visit www.eagala.org.