Equine Assisted Psychotherapy uses the care and presence of horses to facilitate the therapeutic process. Horses have a history of being empathetic in the presence of human beings. They can pick up on human emotions and respond to them. This response develops self-awareness for people engaged in EAP and can help people heal from various behavioral and mental health concerns, as well as, gain confidence, self-trust, creative expression, and empathy.
Many people are familiar with the comfort that pets can bring humans, but EAP goes beyond this comfort and uses the care, grooming, and riding of horses to engage people in counseling. Simply being with horses and in nature can be beneficial for some people. EAP takes this idea and extends the care and keeping of horses to engage people seeking counseling in tasks and exercises that benefit their mental health. Unlike humans, horses do not judge people for the struggles or experiences they’ve had. While counselors try their best to make their spaces non-judgemental, the peace offered by horses may facilitate the ability for some people to be more vulnerable with their counselor. As horses are perceptive to behavior in humans, someone might experience this non-judgemental feedback to be highly beneficial as they interact with a horse.
Caring for horses involves responsibility, physical and emotional strength, and consistency. For these reasons, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy can be helpful for children or adolescents dealing with behavioral or substance use issues. Individuals experiencing substance use issues, anxiety, depression, self-harm behaviors, or trauma disorders, can also benefit from EAP.