Equine Assisted Psychotherapy

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is the professional field in which one or more equines (horses, ponies, donkeys, burros, or mules) are incorporated into activities that help clients achieve emotional growth and learning. EAP is experiential in nature, meaning that clients learn by participating in hands-on activities with the horses and then discussing behavioral patterns and how they relate to everyday life.

At Take Flight Farms, we deliver all EAP sessions based on a team approach: the client, a licensed therapist, a professional horse-knowledgeable person and at least one horse. Riding is not part of the program; our activities take place 100% on the ground. All sessions are strictly confidential, and close communication between the Take Flight therapy team and the client’s therapist is essential to the success of this process. Click on the link below to see specific examples of activities we use in EAP sessions.

EAP Examples

For individual therapy sessions, the client is presented with challenges that involve working with the horse(s) on the ground. The challenges are designed to help the client address and discuss specific issues that they are also working on during traditional therapy sessions. Examples include:

  • A teenage girl with treatment goals of improved assertion skills and communication of personal boundaries is asked to move a group of horses from one end of the arena to the other without touching them. Discussion revolves around methods the client used, how the horses responded, how the client perceives their own level of success, and if the activity reminds them of any situations they’ve experienced in life.
  • A young man working to control his anger and frustration while identifying his own strengths is challenged to back a horse (labeled with his strengths) around a set of cones (each labeled with areas of his life he has identified as obstacles to success). Discussion centers on how the client used his/her strengths to surpass each obstacle, how the horse responded, how the client perceives their own level of success, and if the activity can translate to handling real life situations.

However, Take Flight Farms also designs EAP sessions to address the needs of a group of clients. For example:

  • Residents of a substance abuse treatment facility are challenged to work together to lead a horse through an “alley of temptation”. Buckets of grain and carrots are labeled as the clients’ “drugs of choice” and the clients choose their own consequences for the horse eating the “drugs” or leaving the alley. Discussion focuses on how the group worked together, how the power of their “drugs” impacted their performance, how they perceived their own level of success, and how they can use this activity to combat temptations in life.
  • Youth in an emergency shelter are told that it is “Moving Day” and their task is to move all of “their stuff (buckets, ropes, sawhorses, cones, etc.) from end of the arena to the other, along with at least one horse. Discussion involves what they chose to move and how, how the horses responded or if they represented anyone or anything to them, and how the clients think they handled the task.

Who can benefit from EAP:

  • Individuals
  • Youth
  • Families
  • Military/Veterans

Mental Health Needs

EAP may be helpful for people with psycho-social issues and/or mental health needs such as:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Mood Disorders
  • Behavioral Difficulties
  • Other Mental Illness, such as Schizophrenia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism, Receptive or Expressive
  • Language Disorders, Personality Disorders, Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Major Life Changes such as environmental trauma, divorce, grief and loss, etc.