Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) is a dynamic form of experiential psychotherapy that involves a collaborative effort between the client, the horse, and a mental health professional. Horses are extremely powerful and extremely sensitive so we must strive to find the delicate balance of being both assertive and gentle in our interactions with them. Developing a connection with a horse takes patience, courage, attunement, self-awareness, and the same interpersonal skills required for successful interactions with other humans. With the horse as a teacher and the therapist as a guide, that connection will cultivate confidence and centeredness to improve overall functioning and enjoyment of life.
Although it is still a relatively new field, EFP has been growing rapidly over the past two decades since the founding of the Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association (EFMHA) in 1996 and EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) in 1999. A recent study confirmed that connecting with horses increases levels of oxytocin, the powerful hormone that plays an important role in intimacy and social bonding.
EFP has been utilized to improve the following:
- Self-esteem and self-confidence
- Self-awareness and insight
- Leadership and interpersonal skills
- Concentration and focus
- Empathy and perspective-taking
- Assertiveness and boundary-setting
- Impulse control
- Emotional regulation
- Frustration tolerance
- Problem-solving, goal-setting and other Executive Functioning skills
- Responsibility and accountability
- Cooperation and collaboration
- Balance, strength, flexibility, and coordination
Anyone can benefit from the opportunity to develop insight, build confidence, and experience the emotional rewards of being part of an authentic and trusting partnership. While therapy is welcome to anyone, EFP can benefit individuals who struggle with:
- Stress and Anxiety
- Depression and emotional regulation
- Low self-esteem and negative self-concept
- Feelings of guilt and shame
- Learning disorders
- Autistic Spectrum Disorders
- Eating disorders
- Interpersonal and social struggles
- Major life transitions
“Our culture teaches us to focus on personal uniqueness, but at a deeper level we barely exist as individual organisms. Our brains are built to help us function as members of a tribe…If we look beyond the list of specific symptoms that entail formal psychiatric diagnoses, we find that almost all mental suffering involves either trouble in creating workable and satisfying relationships or difficulties regulating arousal (as in the case of habitually becoming enraged, shut down, overexcited, or disorganized.) Usually its a combination of both.”
– Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Given its relational and somatic nature EFP is a highly effective approach for building interpersonal skills and improving emotional regulation. Evidence suggests that contact with a horse can facilitate expedited progress in psychotherapy either as a primary treatment or in the role of adjunctive therapy. The relationship between therapist and client is one of the most important factors in effective therapy. I offer free initial phone consultations so we can determine together if I personally and if EFP will be the best fit for you at this time.