Review by Christine Livingston

This review relates to our recent workshop, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy: Understanding a Growing Modality.

The Sierra Foothills Chapter of CAMFT held a thoroughly interesting workshop on Saturday June 15th at the Auburn Holiday Inn. A delicious continental breakfast was served as the participants gathered together. The presenters were Susan Bryne LMFT, owner of the equine facility In the Presence of Horses, and her partner in therapy Toni McCormick LCSW. Both women are licensed psychotherapists. Susan and Toni are passionate about their work, and are also certified with EAGALA, which advocates a team facilitation approach consisting of a licensed mental health professional, a qualified equine specialist, and the horses. Dually certified, the presenters are able to assume either role during their therapeutic sessions. The workshop was smoothly presented with a flowing team approach. The camaraderie, humor, expertise, and high spirits of Susan and Toni made for an engaging and informative morning.

The EAGALA model of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy experientially incorporates horses into therapy for emotional growth and healing. This model of therapy utilizes only ground work with the horses rather than teaching riding or horsemanship. It is rather, a problem solving model of change utilizing therapeutic metaphor to expand perceived limitations, allow behavioral practice, and facilitate cognitive restructuring. The EAGALA Model of Equine Assisted Therapy is especially relevant for MFT’s, with its strength-based, systemic, and solution oriented process. Because horses are truthful, they become mirrors for the non- verbal communication clients bring into session.

Horses are adept at reading and reacting to non verbal communication, confronting behavior and attitudes, and acting as a metaphor to aid in the understanding of relationships. The role of the psychotherapist is to observe, set tasks for the client, and reflect back the learning observed in session. Consolidating observations and bringing them to conscious awareness and relevance for the client is an important aspect of facilitation. The equine specialist is focused on the horse during the session, making certain the scenarios being enacted are safe for horse and client. The treatment team creates a space for the clients and horses to tell the client’s life story, as well as write subsequent chapters. Facilitators also focus on client’s non-verbal shifts, patterns, and discrepancies. Observations are non-interpretive and non- judgmental so that clients can provide their own interpretations.

The presenters gave an overview of several areas where EAP is particularly effective. These include trauma; families and couples; grief and loss; and work with children. Specific interventions were discussed and demonstrated accompanied by an excellent slide presentation. Anecdotal sharing of case studies exemplified the tremendous potential and superior outcomes offered by Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Thank you Susan and Toni for a delightful morning.

Thank you Christine for this wonderful review!

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