Equine Assisted Therapy

“The best thing for inside of a man is inside of a horse” – Winston Churchill

Equine assisted therapy in California is a powerful and advantageous therapeutic approach that has been proven to have a positive impact on young women who are struggling with a variety of behavior, developmental and psychological issues. Equine assisted therapy is an integral part of treatment for women at Safe Harbor Treatment Center, located by the beautiful beaches in Southern California, who are suffering from addictions, trauma, anxiety, depression, mood disorders, attention deficit disorder, depression, relationship and communication issues, and eating disorders.

At Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women in Costa Mesa, California, our equine assisted therapists are certified by EGALA in equine therapy. EGALA has implemented strict guidelines to become a certified Equine Assisted Therapist each therapist must: have college-level educational training and degree in a mental health field, such as social work, psychology, marriage and family therapy; have 6,000 hours (equals to approx. 3 years full-time work) experience hands-on work with horses; must have completed at least 100 hours of continuing education in the horse profession.

During the equine assisted therapy session each client is learning about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses. Equine Assisted Therapy in California is similar to, but much more powerful than ropes course activities. The use of horses brings the added advantage and element of a living creature that the clients are able to bond with to develop skills and work through issues that may be difficult to do in normal therapeutic settings such as one to one “office” settings or group settings.

Why is Equine assisted therapy such a powerful tool in helping clients? According to EGALA professionals, “Those who are familiar with horses recognize and understand the power of horses to influence people in incredibly powerful ways. Developing relationships, training, horsemanship instruction, and caring for the horses naturally affects the people involved in a positive manner.

Most importantly, horses have the ability to mirror exactly what human body language is telling them. Many people will complain, “The horse is stubborn. The horse doesn’t like me,” etc. But the lesson to be learned is that if they change themselves, the horses respond differently. Horses are honest, which makes them especially powerful messengers.”

Equine assisted therapy in California combines the effort between licensed therapists, their clients and horses to address treatment goals and underlying issues such as, trauma, anxiety, depression, mood disorders, attention deficit disorder, depression, relationship and communication issues, and eating disorders.

These core issues, if not identified and treated can cause continued drug use or relapse. At Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women in California, the focus of equine assisted therapy includes ground activities with the horses, which requires the client and/or group to apply certain skills. During each equine assisted therapy session clients must use and more importantly, develop tools including: non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking and problem-solving, leadership, personal responsibility, teamwork, relationships, and confidence while doing the ground work with their horse. There are three phases in each equine therapy session: The first phase is called “pre-process” where the client and the therapists go over safety, zones, non-verbal and verbal tones and communication between the horse and the client and discussing what had occurred in the last therapy session. The second phase is the actual work with the horse and the third phase is processing what occurred during the second phase.

During the ground work exercises and following the completion of the ground work exercises, the therapist guides the individual client and group through the psychological effects of each activity; processing feelings, behaviors and life patterns that arise during a session. During each equine assisted therapy session each client is learning themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing (or discussing) feelings, behaviors, and patterns. Throughout each equine assisted therapy session the activities are used as metaphors for the issues each client is facing.

The benefits of using equine assisted therapy in combination with other therapies give the clients the opportunity to actively process, learn and practice the tools necessary to they are able to break free from work through issues, break free from destructive life patterns and build a strong foundation of emotional and physical sobriety. While humans are considered predators, horses are considered prey. As a result of these classifications, the horse is uniquely aware of every action a human makes around them, responding in ways that are visible to the clients and to the certified therapist.

Equine assisted therapy is unique in that it is experiential and keeps clients in the present. Equine assisted therapy helps clients explore issues affecting their personal happiness and long-term sobriety helping clients build skills in conflict resolution and self-esteem. Therapists emphasize building communication skills and being assertive, practiced with their relationship with their horse and then utilizing these skills in their newly sober lives.

At Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women in California, equine assisted therapy is done with three professionals: the therapist, the horse professional and the certified therapy horse. The therapist looks at how the client is responding to the horse while the horse therapist looks at how the horse responds to the individual. The certified therapy horse show the non-verbal communication that the client themselves may or may not be aware of that can affect their long-term sobriety and recovery.

Equine assisted therapy differs from other kinds of therapy around the world as it is experiential and pragmatic. Unlike other therapies, the client does not have to look into their past directly and build it up, but focuses on present feelings. Equine assisted therapy finds out what is happening right here and now with the client while seeing how their past behaviors are affecting their present life. The client and the certified therapists then look to find the tools and skills to change bad feelings and behaviors as they come up in the moment. This type of therapy is completely different then “office therapy” where clients can talk about their problems and troubleling behavior, but do not get to put their problems into practice immediately. Equine assisted therapy is also non-threatening as the client is out there on their own with the horse, although it is monitored by therapists.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The Cognitive Behavior Therapy approach of psychotherapy has proven to be one of the most effective psychological approaches for a wide range of behavioral problems. In Cognitive Behavior Therapy, the psychotherapist works with the client to identify and evaluate behavioral problems. The purpose of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to focus on problems that arise from conflicting relationships between thoughts, feelings and behavior. The therapist relies on the patient for the development of an understanding of the individual’s behavioral problems. As soon as the therapist is able to develop an understanding of the individual’s problem, he or she defines multiple therapy strategies and objectives, which are continuously reviewed and observed. It should here be noted that Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapists work with individuals as well as families and groups.

Cognitive Behavioral therapy is a form of psychoanalysis that focuses on the importance of thinking in determining human actions. Cognitive behavioral psychotherapists believe that the thinking of an individual influences his or her actions and emotions. Hence, if an individual is experiencing undesirable feelings and behaviors, it is a result of his or her thinking. It is therefore important to identify the thinking, which is the primary cause of undesirable behavior or emotions, and to replace it with productive thoughts that may lead to desirable behaviors. At present, psychotherapists adopt several different approaches to psychotherapy including Rational Behavior Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Therapy and Rational Living Therapy.

One of the most important treatment considerations in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the length of the treatment. A number of factors affect the length of the treatment. Among these factors, the most important ones include the mental and emotional state of the individual at the time the therapy begins, the nature and rigorousness of the symptoms, affect of the problem on patient’s social life, work performance & daily functioning and finally individual’s expectation from the treatment. Using these factors, a psychotherapist can estimate the length of the treatment. However, it should be noted that some of these factors cannot be assessed in the initial stages of the treatment and therefore psychotherapists have to rely on guesswork.

Unfortunately, many women, during their lifetime may endure a traumatic experience of some form. One in six women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. Following a traumatic experience some women are able to cope and lead a productive life; others are may not have the necessary support to deal with the issues that arise from such an experience and their lives become a daily struggle. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is on of the often used tools to aid in the recovery of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The act of sexual assault on a woman is completely out of their control, but from these studies, we can distinguish that there are some steps to take to avoid life long trauma. Obviously the age when one is sexually assaulted is uncontrollable, but how you decide to appraise your experience and how and if you acknowledge the assault is manageable. Acknowledging what has happened to you, reporting it to the police, and seeking treatment are all preventive actions that can be taken to avoid PTSD. In addition, how one perceives the assault and consequences have an impact on whether or not the victim will develop PTSD. Negative appraisals are directly related to PTSD symptoms. Understanding PTSD and how to avoid the disorder after a traumatic experience is extremely important. More research, particularly longitudinal studies, should be performed on the facts that predispose people to PTSD.

As a therapist learns about the personal objectives of the patient, he develops strategies to help the patient in achieving those objectives. These strategies are developed keeping in view the personal objectives of the patient. The therapist then develops a therapeutic plan for the client. During each session, the therapist comes up with a certain plan and delivers a specific lesson according to that plan. Throughout the entire process, the therapist teaches different techniques and concepts to the patient, which may later prove to be useful in achieving his or her objectives.

Many clinical problems are best described as disorders of thought and feeling, and since behavior is effectively controlled by the way we think the most logical and effective way of trying to change maladjusted behavior is to change the unbalanced thought processes that lie behind it. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is comprised of both cognitive and behavioral techniques. The premise underlying a cognitive-behavioral is that difficulties in living, relationships, general health, etc., have their origin in and are maintained by both cognitive and behavioral factors.

Cognitive Behavioral therapy is unique because it covers a number of different therapies that have similar foundations.  One of the primary understandings of this philosophy is that our thoughts determine our feelings. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy examines the client’s feelings in order to discover what thoughts are bringing these feelings about, especially if they are interfering with one’s mental or emotional health. So the concept of seeking to help the client understand that they behave and feel according to their perceptions or ideas about people and experiences, not necessarily according to what is true. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is basically used to help people understand their emotions and thoughts.

Unlike some therapies Cognitive Behavioral Therapy doesn’t really focus on the past. Rather it looks at the present and the way people view themselves, others, and the world around them. It looks at how the way people feel affects how they act, and what they do. Cognitive refers to the way people think, and behavior to what people so. By changing negative thought patterns, people can start to feel better about themselves and look towards a more positive future. CBT is based on the scientifically supported assumption that most emotional and behavioral reactions are learned.

The goal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to help clients unlearn their unwanted reactions and to learn a
new way of reacting. It is not an invasive therapy it helps the patient to discover and learn how to understand why they experience the emotions and feelings that they have. It teaches them not to be reactive and that they have control over what they think. It can be seen that cognitive therapy, rather than just teach the patient to be more positive in life, it actually teaches to patient to look at situations in a non-negative way there is a difference.

The word cognitive or cognition means to know or to think, so Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is seen as psychological treatment of thought, this in my opinion is key to understand the foundation of the therapy. The more open minded the person is, the more successful the outcome. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy functions under the thinking that thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and perceptual biases, influence what emotions will be experienced and to how powerful these emotions can be.