Episode 166 - Lynn Thomas: Equine Assisted Therapy

Monday, April 27, 2015, 9:27:38 AM

Image of Lynn Thomas, LCSW

In this episode, our guest Lynn Thomas describes her work with Equine Assisted Therapy (EAP), an experiential approach that integrates horses into the treatment experience. Ms. Thomas discusses what EAP is and is not, and articulates a framework for facilitation and standards for using horses in psychotherapy.

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Average Rating: 4.8 stars (6 listener reviews )

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Average Rating: 4stars  my experience with horses and therapy, Monday, February 08, 2016

By Lindsay :

The discussion on Equine Assisted Therapy stood out to me as especially interesting because during my field placement, I was able to attend a few group sessions with the children in my program as they attended a skill building group with horse’s. I wanted to learn more about using horses when doing therapy. When I first started listening, I was under the impression that the group I attended was Equine Assisted Therapy, but I realized it must have been more of just a type of riding therapy because Lynn Thomas said Equine Assisted Therapy does not involve actual riding of the horses. However, I was able to see how similar my group was to Equine Assisted Therapy, despite the fact that my clients had the opportunity to ride the horses. The team approach part of the model was seen in my groups, and that was one of the interesting pieces that I thought to be very beneficial to the children and everyone involved. It was cool to see how all of the different roles in the group, such as the horse specialists, mental health professionals, and clients worked together. I also was able to see how the children in my group were able to work on building relationships, and how these relationships they build working with the horses were representative on relationships in their lives, and the skills they learned could be carried on. This is similar to what Lynn said with regards to the Equine Assisted Therapy. I never had much of an interest in working with animals and therapy, but this lecture opened my eyes to how beneficial work with horses can be to clients.

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Average Rating: 5stars  the egala model, Friday, February 05, 2016

By Anne A :

As an MSW student as well as a horse enthusiast, I was thrilled to hear about various forms of Equine-assisted therapies! EAP is a reimbursable model with a governing body called Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EGALA). EGALA certification consists of two trainings of three day duration followed by yearly CEUS which are also NASW accredited.

EGALA adheres to not just its own Code of Ethics, but also to standards of care for the animals. EGALA uses an interdisciplinary team of licensed mental health and equine specialists to conform to these standards. It is a solution-focused model in that it sees the client-as expert, wherein the client holds the answers. In addition, EGALA is a replicable model and has had some initial control tests with encouraging results.

EAP is an experiential therapy wherein the client's relationship with the horse parallels the clients feelings, behaviors and schemas regarding the "real world". It entails both the action of the client and the reaction of the animal and as such is a "playing out" of recurring relational patterns by the client. It represents a living, breathing narrative for the client and can be especially good for clients who are less comfortable in traditional psychotherapy methods. Although it can be logistically challenging, EAP creates a connection for clients who feel disconnected from themselves and or isolated.

Horses are ideal animals for this work because they are prey animals who are intently focused on their surroundings while at the same time, less interested in pleasing behaviors as, say, dogs are. Their large size is an asset in that horses can be somewhat unknown and intimidating, again, a metaphor for other issues in life with which the client deals. Finally, horses are herd (social) animals, not unlike humans and as such tend to play out relationship dynamics among themselves as well as with client.

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Average Rating: 5stars  equine asssited therapy review, Tuesday, February 02, 2016

By Erin R. :

When I saw this podcast, I was very interested to learn more about this kind of therapy. I was quick to say to myself I thought horse therapy was only used for individuals with physical disabilities and handicaps. Lynn Thomas was very quick to change what I originally thought about equine assisted therapy and she even mentioned that my thought is everyone's misconceptions about using horses for therapy. I was very interested to learn that the horses can pick up on how clients interact, behave and make relationship and through those actions the horses will then react to the clients. It was also mentioned that they can pick up and are really in tuned with nonverbal. This can help clients learn that it is not just want you say but it is also what you do that can have an impact on others and the relationships that they can have.
My current field placement is at an addiction treatment residential facility for adolescent boys and a few months ago they had the opportunity to participate in equine therapy themselves. The therapists set up the sessions and our clients got to participate once a week for about a month. I never had to opportunity to go with them but after listening to their experiences and this podcast I wish I had made the time to go. Originally, they were not interested in attending at all but after they went to their first session they actually enjoyed the experience and had expressed that they wanted more of the program. It gave them an experience that they could share and fall back on but also it gave them a chance to learn about themselves, their addiction, and their recovery. After learning about this opportunity I'm glad they had the chance to experience it. I am now inclined to do my own research and look into becoming involved in this process.

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Average Rating: 5stars  a fantastic model, Monday, February 01, 2016

By Rebecca W. :

EAP is a great example of thinking outside the box. It is a non-traditional approach to psychotherapy that seems to be very effective with some people. People respond differently to various approaches to therapy and for many traditional psychotherapy is not effective. I have some familiarity with the benefits of therapeutic riding but after listening to the podcast I learned that EAP is very different than therapeutic riding. Lynn Thomas explained EAP really well and left me with a better understanding of the differences between therapeutic riding, physical therapy involving horses, and EAP. Ms. Thomas mentions that this type of work is especially useful for involuntary or non-verbal clients. The reason that EAP is so effective with many different populations is that it is a natural setting, and it is solution focused. Since the clients have the best information on themselves they can help lead the sessions in a way that would be most comfortable to them.

What I found fascinating in this podcast was how the horses actually assist in psychotherapy. I was not aware that horses can respond to someone and play out the client’s belief system. How a client acts towards the horses parallels their own life. The example that Ms. Thomas gave of the women involved in a domestic violence situation was fascinating. It appears that the empowerment the clients feel as a result of participating in this type of hands-on psychotherapy has been instrumental in allowing the clients to take ownership of their sessions.

The team approach to this type of psychotherapy is an interesting concept. The mental health processional, the equine specialist, and the client need to work together to ensure not only are the mental and physical health of the client being supported, but also of the horse as well.

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Average Rating: 5stars  eap from a horse lover, Sunday, January 31, 2016

By Alex K. :

I grew up horseback riding and found this podcast especially interesting. As a current student, I have not been exposed to alternative models, like EAP, that are primarily non-verbal. Lynn Thomas does a great job explaining the process of EAP and the benefits it has on a wide range of clients; from individual and family to group and community. I appreciate her testimonial about the patient in a violent relationship that found a link between her experiences with her significant other and her experience with the horse. EAP facilitated a healthy and safe way to address the client’s problems and empowered her to work toward a solution for herself. I think one of the most valuable aspects of EAP is the solution-focused approach that empowers the client to “tell” their story in their own way, whether it is verbally or non-verbally. The horse responds to the client, giving the client a sense of personal control they may not otherwise experience. Having grown up with horses, I can personally attest to the therapeutic and emotional benefits of interacting and working with horses. I am pleased to hear how thorough the EAGALA model is. The group effort creates a well-rounded, safe environment for both the horse and the client. As Lynn Thomas said, EAP can be extremely effective for clients of all types with a variety of back-grounds. I believe this method can promote trauma-informed care through collaboration (between client, horse, and treatment team), safety, empowerment, and trust, as the client builds a positive, responsive relationship with the horse. I am excited to research this method further and I hope to integrate EAP into my future practice!

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Average Rating: 5stars  equine assisted therapy, Monday, December 07, 2015

By Melissa :

A statement that was made that really resonated with me was, "Concept of doing, instead of talking." This is a perspective I would like to implement in my practice in the future. I completely agree with the fact that many clients do respond better to actively being a part of something, rather than sitting in an office and talking. There is something more organic about getting out and participating in an activity, even if it's going for a walk. On a personal level, I hate having to make conversation with someone I barely know. I have noticed that when I participate in an activity with someone, then it creates a more comfortable environment to share your thoughts.
Another point talked about was when a story was mentioned about the lady who had her kids taken away and was interacting with the horses. I found it interesting how the client responded when the horse was biting her and her response was, "It's because he likes me." I am not sure if I would have picked up on a domestic violence situation if I heard someone say something like that in regards to the horse. However, it makes sense now and it's really fascinating to me that something as small as that can lead to a much bigger situation.

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