We often get asked “what is the difference between coaching and therapy?” The boundary between therapy and coaching is not defined by a set of absolute rules and terms. They sometimes overlap, especially with some contemporary therapy modalities. In general though, therapists are trained to diagnose and treat mental illness and may work with their clients to understand the ‘why’. Coaches view their clients as naturally creative resourceful and whole, and as having their own answers; working in the present and future – “what’s possible from here?…”
Just as there are many different types of coaching there are also many types of psychotherapy and in today’s nourishing conversation you are going to hear from someone who has a passion for helping people in crisis, and about the gentle giants in this partnership, Lynn Thomas, Executive Director of EAGALA (The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association).
What is EAGALA’S vision and mission in the world?
EAGALA is dedicated to improving the mental health of individuals, families, and groups around the world by setting the standard of excellence in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Our vision statement says a lot of what that is, but in essence its about our desire to help people around the world to live happier healthier lives and we know that this is a powerful, effective tool for change. EAGALA provides education, standards, innovation, and support to professionals providing services in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy.
What is EAP?
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) 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 experiential in nature. This means that participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing (or discussing) feelings, behaviors, and patterns. This approach has been compared to the ropes courses used by therapists, treatment facilities, and human development courses around the world. But EAP has the added advantage of utilizing horses, dynamic and powerful living beings.
The focus of EAP involves setting up ground activities involving the horses which will require the client or group to apply certain skills. Non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking and problem-solving, leadership, work, taking responsibility, teamwork and relationships, confidence, and attitude are several examples of the tools utilized and developed by EAP. EAP is a powerful and effective therapeutic approach that has an incredible impact on individuals, youth, families, and groups. EAP addresses a variety of mental health and human development needs including behavioral issues, attention deficit disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, abuse issues, depression, anxiety, relationship problems and communication needs.
We are often asked, “Why horses? Why not other animals?”
Horses are large and powerful, which creates a natural opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence. The size and power of the horse are naturally intimidating to many people. Accomplishing a task involving the horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and provides for wonderful metaphors when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life.
Horses are very much like humans in that they are social animals. They have defined roles within their herds. They would rather be with their peers. They have distinct personalities, attitudes, and moods. An approach that seems to work with one horse, does not necessarily work with another. At times, they seem stubborn and defiant. They like to have fun. In other words, horses provide vast opportunities for metaphorical learning. Using metaphors, in discussion or activity, is an effective technique when working with even the most challenging individuals or groups.
Horses require work, whether in caring for them or working with them. In an era when immediate gratification and the “easy way” are the norm, horses require people to be engaged in physical and mental work to be successful, a valuable characteristic in all aspects of life.
Most importantly, horses have the ability to mirror exactly what human body language is telling them. Many people will complain, “The horse is stubborn. The horse doesn’t like me,” etc. But the lesson to be learned is that if they change themselves, the horses respond differently. Horses are honest, which makes them especially powerful messengers.
What one thing would you want people to know about EAGALA?
I have a deep desire to see people live the most fulfilling lives possible, and this is a great modality for helping people in crisis. Whether it be someone in an emotional difficulty or just wanting to self improve, people can use this to help them in their journey.
What’s new for you?
I’ll be going to South Africa this year. It’s great to see how EAGALA is growing around the world. The journey has been really exciting. We hear from our partners around the world that,” It’s working.”
Thanks Lynn, for sharing your love for people and horses, and have a blast in South Africa!! For anyone wishing to know more about Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and EAGALA please visit their website at www.eagala.org
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