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“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man”
– Winston Churchill
“The horse is your mirror”
– Old Arabian Proverb
Equine assisted therapy is an experiential and solution oriented approach to therapy in which horses are utilized in the therapeutic process. Equine sessions are typically 60-90 minutes and assisted by a licensed mental health professional and equine specialist. Participants take part in activities with the horses and then process those experiences afterwards. Feelings, behaviors and patterns are discussed, allowing clients to express and review their experience while promoting emotional growth and learning. Equine assisted therapy can be applied to individual, couples, family and group therapy. Current literature on equine assisted therapy as a therapeutic intervention supports treating: behavioral issues, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, communication issues, ADD/ADHD, substance abuse, eating disorders, and abuse issues.
Horses are prey animals and are very attuned to their environments. Very much like humans, horses are social creatures with distinct personalities, attitudes and moods. Horses have their own defined role within their herd. They are sensitive to non-verbal behavior and therefore communicate, through body language, clear and direct messages. They are also large and powerful animals and while horses may be intimidating to some, they offer empowering opportunities to overcome fears and develop confidence. Because of their honest and immediate feedback – they are active facilitators for change – we can create a metaphorical space to learn about our relationships and role within our own family herd.
Some people prefer Equine Assisted Therapy over conventional therapy, as it offers a relaxed environment and may be less intimidating than a traditional therapeutic setting. Equine therapy takes place in natural surroundings and the focus is on the process of engaging with the horses, not simply on the “problem”.
Equine Assisted Therapy is facilitated by mental health professionals who apply their own clinical model to the equine therapy sessions. Although Equine Assisted Therapy has received much recognition in the last decade, it is generally considered atheoretical.
As a Family Therapist and in close collaboration with Dr. Shelley Green at Nova Southeastern University, I have been part of developing a model of Equine Assisted Therapy that is informed by the systemic and relational ideas of Family Therapy. Further, EAFT is grounded in a strength based and brief therapy approach, where clients process their experiences as the experts on their own lives. EAFT helps clients identify and utilize their own strengths and solutions. As an EAFT therapist, I serve as a process consultant and help clients connect with their own expertise while discovering new solutions. My focus is on exploring the context and relationships of my clients’ lives that are significant to them and helping guide them to find and create their own change.
If you are interested in an EAFT session for yourself, with your partner, and/or your children, please contact me for more information and pricing. All sessions are held in Davie, FL (Broward County).
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Dr. Olivia Schläpfer Colmer offers individual, couples and family therapy in Miami, FL. Her office is located at 4770 Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 1440, Miami FL 33137.
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