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Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)

EAP is an experiential modality of mental health
treatment that involves setting up activities with
intent and purpose. Verbal and Non-verbal
communication, assertiveness, creative thinking
and problem-solving, leadership, work, taking
responsibility, teamwork, relationships, confidence,
and attitude, are several examples of the tools
utilized and developed in EAP sessions. EAP is an
effective therapeutic approach that impacts
individuals, youth, families, and groups with a
variety of mental health and human development
needs, such as behavioral issues, ADD, substance
abuse, eating disorders, abuse issues, depression,
anxiety, relationship problems and communication
needs.

It is a collaborative treatment team of a mental
health professional, horse professional, and the
horse. Together they provide an emotionally and
physically safe environment wherein a client can
grow, learn, and heal experientially in the process.

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) done through
the EAGALA modal incorporates horses
experientially for emotional growth and learning. It
is a collaborative effort between a licensed therapist
and a horse professional working with the clients
and horses to address treatment goals. EAP is an
experiential modality in which participants learn
about themselves and others by participating in
activities with the horses, and then processing
thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and patterns.

Experiential learning occurs when carefully chosen
experiences are supported by reflection, critical
analysis and synthesis. They are structured to
require the client to take initiative, make decisions
and be accountable for results. Throughout the
experiential learning process, the client is actively
engaged in posing questions, investigating,
experimenting, being curious, solving problems,
assuming responsibility, being creative, and
constructing meaning. Clients are engaged
intellectually, emotionally, socially, soulfully, and
physically to produce a perception that the learning
task is authentic. The results are personal and form
a basis for future experience and learning.
Relationships such as client to self, and client to the
world are developed and nurtured. Through the
process the client may experience success, failure,
adventure, risk-taking, and uncertainty due to
outcomes of experiences being individual and not
always predictable. Through the process the client
has the opportunity to explore and examine
personal values and beliefs. The primary roles of
facilitators includes setting suitable experiences,
posing problems, setting boundaries, supporting
clients, ensuring physical and emotional safety, and
facilitating the learning process. The facilitator
needs to recognize and encourage spontaneous
opportunities for learning while being aware of their
biases, judgments, and pre-conceptions, and how
these influence the client. The design of this
learning experience includes the possibility to learn
from natural consequences, mistakes, and
successes.

EAP adds the advantage of utilizing horses, dynamic
and powerful living beings that enhance the
experiential process. Working with horses one
recognizes the power of the horse to influence
people. Horses naturally provide the benefit of the
work ethic, responsibility, assertiveness,
communication, and a healthy relationship. A horse
being large and powerful creates a natural
opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop
confidence. Their size and power are naturally
intimidating to many. Accomplishing a task
involving this powerful animal creates confidence
and provides for wonderful metaphors for life’s
challenges.

Horses require people to be engaged in physical and
mental work to be successful. They are herd
animals with defined roles in a herd. Much like
people they would rather hang out with their
friends, have distinct personalities, attitudes, and
moods. Each horse is unique, can be stubborn or
resistant, yet enjoy having fun. These and many
other metaphors used in activities and discussions
are effective techniques when working with the
client. Horses are sensitive to non-verbal
communication and respond to what messages the
clients give them in the moment. These responses
give clients and the treatment team information
that brings awareness of current patterns and
motivates change to new ones. Clients learn that by
changing themselves the horse responds differently.

Horses are beneficial to a person mentally,
physically, and spiritually. EAP offers benefits to
individuals, groups, and families that specifically
address mental, emotional, and behavioral issues.
The focus is on human skills and is about the client
being themselves. The treatment team consists of a
horse professional, and a clinician and this team
ensures emotional and physical safety in the
session. Specific treatment goals, objectives, and
interventions are identified and documented and
sessions are structured to facilitate and to address
the reasons clients come into therapy. Activities are
designed to best create metaphors to real life to
provide for metaphorical learning while ensuring
physical and  emotional safety.

Sessions are done 100% on the ground. Not only is
it safer but ground work provides for richer therapy.
Unmounted decreases the need for instruction and
enables the session to be more therapeutic in
nature as well as client directed. This is not a
recreational activity. Though it may be fun at times
serious work is going on "in the moment" with the
individuals involved. It is therapy. Benefits to being
on the ground extend to the horses involvement.
Being on the ground allows the horses to act more
naturally and be themselves. This puts them in a
better position to confront and engage with clients.
They can run, move away, ignore, kick, eat, or get
distracted with their peers. Clients have their own
best solutions if just given the opportunity to
discover them. Change is uncomfortable and people
tend to grow when challenged. EAP re-creates
difficult life situations through the work with horses
in a therapeutic environment wherein clients can
work through their struggles, problem-solve, and
practice experientially new ways of living.

The horse task is set up for the client to work
through. The facilitators focus on the process not
the outcomes of the task. Using observation
statements, reflective listening and questions
facilitators encourage insight through metaphors.
Facilitators must be able to let go of control and
rescue needs by responding and trusting the
process even when client is experiencing failure,
frustration, discouragement, and success with the
horse.

Activities are designed to be experiential,
incorporating the horse as an active facilitator for
change, and create a parallel to the clients’ lives.
Structural activities involves focusing on the
treatment plan, goals, and needs, and then being
deliberate, creative, and flexible in every detail of
the design, set up, and facilitation of the activities
to best meet those needs. Picking an exercise is
done by the horse professional and mental health
professional discussing the client’s issues, treatment
goals, and level of readiness.

There is several benefits humans experience from
touching animals. These advantages include
lowering blood pressure, relieving stress, and
releasing endorphins. The greatest reciprocating
response is the giving and receiving of love.
Animals, when allowed, love unconditionally. This is
a healing experience in and of itself, helping clients
experience love while setting boundaries and/or
limits.

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy works with any
theoretical orientation and with almost every
psychological diagnosis. Theory aids in the
processing portion as well as structuring sessions to
bring about goals.

We are currently taking appointments Please call our office at
706-881-2141 Our hours will be posted with further
information regarding our EAP program.

To watch the progress of the construction click our
facility. To
read donation opportunities available click
donations.

Contact: Leigh Ellen Ertle
Address: 649 Butts Mill Rd. Pine Mountain Ga. 31822
Phone: (706) 881-2141
Email: lelittlebear@yahoo.com
Progression photos of a group EAP
session.
Individual session photo of EAP session.
More photos of EAP sessions.
All rights reserved to Leigh Ellen Ertle.
Contact: Leigh Ellen Ertle
Address: 649 Butts Mill Rd. Pine Mountain Ga.
31822
Phone: (706) 881-2141
Email: lelittlebear@yahoo.com

We are currently taking appointments
Please call our office at 706-881-2141
Our hours will be posted with further
information regarding our EAP
program.

Fees are available by Phone.

Contact: Leigh Ellen Ertle
Address: 649 Butts Mill Rd. Pine
Mountain Ga. 31822
Phone: (706) 881-2141
Email: l
elittlebear@yahoo.com