Being new to Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, I didn't know what to expect when I decided to attend a HorsePlay Demo led by Cori Nichols, EAGALA certified Equine Specialist and founder of HorsePlay, and Alix Sugarman, Licensed Creative Arts Therapist and EAGALA certified MHP. Upon my arrival, I was introduced to a group of adults - some were equine specialists, others licensed mental health providers, and there were even thos who had never spent time with horses or in any sort of therapy.
We were aksed to bring a challenge in our work into the space and move through it with one or all of the three horses. As a practitioner of play therapy, I was open to the concept of interacting with objects (in this case living beings) outside of myself, often without talking at all, in order to explore and process an issue or challenge in my life.
However, I did not realize how powerful the experience of equine assisted psychotherapy would be.
After spending time with the horses and other memers of the group, aware that Cori and Alix were caring for our safety without intruding on the process, I was confronted with the challenges I experience in both therapeutic and personal relationships. I was then faced with the opportunity to try something new - to trust my instincts when interacting with a stranger and to also respect and appreciate being present rather than worrying about what to say or do next.
Some themes that came up for the group as a whole (which we processed together) were:
Frustration - The struggle one may face with clients - or in any job - when things simply will not move forward or change. What are these challenges and how do we handle them?
Distraction - What distracts us from what we need to get done? How do we cope with distraction and what are some of the ways in which we can change our work habits or work spaces to minimize distraction?
Awareness - Learning to be more present in the moment (for therapists, being iin the here and now with the client), and take the time to read the needs of the people around us.
Expectations - Sometimes we want to offer solutions or to fix everything, when what might be neccesary is meet our clients (or the people in our lives) where they are and know our own limitations. What expectations do we hold of others and ourselves?
There were many more themes that were great food for thought, but this gives a sample of the great ideas and experiences that were shared during this demo.
From this experience, I realzied that participants in EAP are given the chance to safely identify and explore obstacles, challenges, and struggles in their lives and potentially master them. Much like play and creative arts therapies, EAP allows a client to experience challenges and obstacles in the moment, address them, and process the powerful feelings that might arise. I left the demo knowing I would be back, having witnessed and experienced the insight and healing that can be gained through this modailty. I can see that EAP would be effective in addressing a variety of treatment issues for many populations and plan to recommend it as a form of treatment in the future.