Over the last week, I asked 10 strangers what images came to mind when they heard the words “counseling” and “therapy.” (Yes, this was every bit as awkward as you’re imagining it was to approach people in random public spaces). All of their responses can roughly be summarized through the image of sitting in an office across from a therapist and talking.
There is absolutely value in talk-therapy; it can help us change our thoughts, figure out what’s really bothering us, and offers the opportunity to learn different strategies in a structured environment. However, it isn’t the best fit for all of us – especially people who don’t love talking about themselves, people who process their experiences internally, or people who find actions truly speak louder than words.
At C.H.E.R.I.I.S.H. Counseling, we often find that talk-therapy is best supplemented through some form of experiential therapy – whether that’s expressive approaches like art, play or sand-tray interventions (which our therapists regularly incorporate into their work) or our favorite kind of experiential therapy: Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP). Here are just a few of the many reasons that EAP can help you find hope and thrive in new ways:
- The way you do one thing is the way you do many things. When you share space with horses, all of the ways that you typically build relationships, overcome challenges, respond to stress, or manage frustrations come with you… and horses are incredibly attuned to observing and responding to these patterns, helping you notice what you are doing when you otherwise might not!
- Horses aren’t robots. I know, I know… DUH! But this is a critical piece of the puzzle, so I’m stating the obvious. Because horses are independent beings who are experts at being mindfully in the moment (always!), are relationally-oriented creatures who live in herds, and are constantly responding to their environment, EAP sessions allow you to practice skills in a more natural setting. Because, face it, as much as you want to, you can’t force your parent, your partner, or even your pet to respond in exactly the way you want – so you get to practice how you’ll respond to the unexpected or unplanned in session, while your therapist and the horses are there to support you.
- Horses don’t require you to have the right words. Life can throw some really challenging things our way. Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried to tell someone about a really difficult experience or a really big feeling, and no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to put it into words. (I’m raising my hand right now!) One of the great things about EAP is that you don’t have to explain your experience using words. Because horses don’t speak in human languages, you can release the need to explain things with words and rely on communicating them through your movements and the choices that you make in the session. There is always a chance to talk and share about what happened and what it means to you, but it’s not a requirement.
So, if the thought of sitting in a room and talking about your hardest truths with a therapist seems difficult (no matter how kind, warm, and accepting that therapist may be), then equine-assisted psychotherapy might be a great fit for you. All of our horses are experts at helping people grow and thrive, and they can be part of your support team, too! Call us today at 971-220-2496 or 971-220-1495 to learn more about how equine-assisted psychotherapy can help you, your youth, or your family reach your goals.