From a mental health point of view by Clare Boulton
By soarvalleywestern, Jul 7 2014 04:56PM
As a practicing Psychotherapeutic Counsellor I believe that I have been given a great privilege and opportunity to work alongside Sharon Wood of Horses for Causes at Soar Valley Western Stables.
Here at Horses for Causes myself and Sharon work as a team to offer our clients Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), this is a different and alternative therapy to assist people with differing issues with a varying age range. The people who utilise this service come with their individual problems which are affecting the running of their lives and very often struggle to voice these. Some may be either too ashamed to admit they are suffering or worry of what others might think or say, they may even be confusing this behaviour with their ‘normal life’. Clients may experience the effects of a hidden or unresolved problem in their lives which causes an imbalance on a day to day basis.
Using EAL techniques is perfect for each individual client to find their inner voice and allow them the opportunity and space that they need to move onto a healthier path to achieve their long term goals.
The therapeutic team at Horses for Causes work to set ethical guidelines whilst offering our client a non-judgmental therapy, we endeavour to give each of our clients the much needed time to talk openly and safely about any issues that they may bring to sessions, whilst offering a confidential service.
EAL differs in various ways from standard counselling, firstly- myself and Sharon are working together in each therapy session. We see our clients outside, the ‘counselling office’ being in a field with horses. I personally believe that this setup offers clients a more relaxing session, they are able to become one with the environment, by grooming the horses, being in tune with their breathing patterns, painting them or being set an exercise or task with the horses. All of this is part of allowing the client to understand themselves and the issues or behaviours that they are bringing to their session.
The horses assist the therapy by allowing us to process through observation. A client may come to therapy unconsciously putting barriers up, but whilst working with the horse it enables the client to get a better understanding and learning regarding the issues that are blocking their path. I have been part of some very powerful EAL sessions which have helped the client open up and move forward at a pace they are comfortable with.
Whilst this is very much experiential the therapeutic team work together to build an individual session plan to fit around each and every client, we look at the initial issues and work with their emotions, moods and situation. This plan can and sometimes does change on the day if the client arrives with an issue they feel needs addressing straight away.
Whereas seeing my clients in the therapy room is more of a talking therapy, a client can see the same or similar results with EAL, so for instance if a client has many obstacles in their way, we may set up an obstacle for the client and ask the client to choose a horse to work with. We may even ask the client to name the obstacle, then stand back and observe how the client and the horse work together to get over the obstacle and achieve a goal.
By personal interaction with the horses, clients learn to communicate in a way that the horse can understand. This builds confidence in the client in a relaxed and stress free way by finding new ways for clients to deal with their problems, in many cases they are greatly reduced and others they are resolved. At EAL we are able to liaise with any organisation that wishes to send their clients for our therapy sessions.
We take pride in providing a friendly, supportive, caring and learning environment for the client and carer who can play a key part in their therapy. We do offer initial "consultations / taster" sessions for clients and carers who would like to experience first-hand.
As previously said I really do believe that it is a privilege to be given the opportunity to be a part of each and every client’s individual journey for such a short but yet powerful time. Whilst working as a team together we have seen the differences that this has made to our clients’ lives in a very positive way allowing them the time to unravel their thoughts and concerns.
We can offer EAL to clients who are affected by trauma, domestic abuse, sexual abuse. Clients who need help with anger management, life skills, self awareness and esteem, body image, relationship issues, depression, autistic spectrum and special educational needs. We are helping people from different backgrounds, giving them an opportunity to make changes in their own lives.
Thank you Clare Boutlon