What is Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP)?
The Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association (EFMHA) defines Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) as an experiential form of psychotherapy that involves a partnership with a client, therapist and an equine. PATH Intl. notes, “The horse acts as a large biofeedback machine, providing the client and the therapist with information regarding the client’s moods and changes within those moods. If a client arrives anxious the horse will act and respond one way. If the client is able to reduce his or her anxiety, the horse’s behavior will also change.” EFP may be used to treat a variety of psycho-social disorders such as anxiety, depression, behavioral disorders, personality disorders and other psychotic disorders as well as post-traumatic stress, grief and loss. The EFP programs at Rocking Horse Rehab are provided by our licensed clinical social worker.
Who Benefits from EFP?
Popular with children, adolescents and young adults, work with equines is ideal for persons experiencing ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, social skills issues, anxiety, depression, mood disorders, self-confidence problems and behavioral issues. Work with horses builds self-confidence, strengthens healthy boundaries, increases respect for others, provides stress relief and develops self-discipline. Social skills are enhanced through the use of teamwork and by implementing appropriate responses based upon feedback from the horse.
What Does EFP involve?
Groundwork with the horse refers to any work done while not on horseback. It is based on one’s relationship with the horse, which begins with an introduction and includes the following activities:
Personal Care and Horse Grooming
How one cares for a horse provides a model for one’s own self care. Grooming activities emphasize the importance of personal time, kindness, cooperation and deep breathing. It is an opportunity to practice respect for boundaries, assertiveness skills and to learn calming strategies to offset mood swings.
Research shows that touch with animals provides calming relief from stress and can reduce blood pressure. T-touch is a proven massage technique that works for horses and humans: it teaches self-soothing behaviors and self-regulation, helps to develop compassion, concentration and patience, increases one’s ability to manage anxiety and stress, and relaxes muscle tension.
Working with a free horse can enhance self-awareness and personal growth. Round pen work provides opportunities to: develop a better understanding of body language, practice problem solving strategies, establish healthy boundaries, identify and manage feelings more productively, and be better able to remain in the moment. This work builds confidence, assertiveness skills and promotes teamwork.
Riding skills enhance communication with the horse, build self-confidence and promote feelings of self-worth and accomplishment. It’s also a lot of fun!