People often wonder just what happens during a session of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, and from the expected equestrian point of view, it is pretty difficult to explain. EAP is experienced in the moment. It is pretty much non verbal, and what happens between horse and client is private and personal to them both, partly because it involves feelings and non verbal communication. The facilitating team of mental health professional and equine specialist, might see interactions, might even hear the client relaying what has happened for him/her. Obviously the horse can’t relay their experience verbally, so like many facets of life, the results, both short and long term give the answer.
Several years ago a client came for an intensive 8 day programme. This client had lifelong issues and knew that these issues were holding them back from a happy and fulfilling life. The client spent much of the first 4 or 5 sessions telling the therapy team the long and painful history of their life and of the many years of therapy they had had. The therapy team listened, at intervals trying to redirect the client towards the horses and what was happening in the herd. Eventually after several sessions like this, the team, decided to ask the client to create a safe space out of pieces of equipment in the field, that would represent a haven that they might share with a horse of their choice. At this point the client panicked and began to hyperventilate. The team calmly repeated the task, assured the client that they were safe and that the team was there for them. After quite a time of this the client stood at the top of the field, and a pony who had been grazing in one corner raised its head, looked at the client for a moment or two, and the quietly began to walk towards them. No fuss, no hurry, just ambled over and stood quietly looking at the client, sniffed the client and gently nudged them with its nose. Then just as gently and nonchalantly wandered off. By this time the session was just about over so the client and the team walked back and the client left the centre. Several more sessions followed, but no big breakthrough appeared to happen. At the end of the 8 sessions the client thanked the team, said that it had been interesting and returned home. Nothing more was heard from the client, and the team were none the wiser, not expecting to see them again. A year passed and to our surprise, the client booked another intensive 8 day programme. The same therapy team were involved in the sessions, really not knowing what to expect. But the client who arrived for the first session was hardly recognisable. They were confident, outgoing and eager to relay all the achievements, both personal and professional of the last 12 months. No longer just a continuous relating of terrible and traumatic, but instead how all the things they had always wanted to do, but never had, had happened. Their personal and social life had blossomed and the client was a different person. And all because one small white pony, in the middle of a panic attack, had wandered over, checked them out, seen beneath the panic that they were OK and so had wandered off to graze. So you see in this case, actions really did speak louder than words. ..