Heartland’s newly renovated, one-of-a-kind equestrian program has long been loved by residents and offers a unique way to heal. Time and time again, we have seen residents bond with their equine counterparts, providing therapy that goes beyond words. Heartland follows the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association model, which requires a co-facilitating team that must include a licensed mental health professional and an equine specialist professional in each session. Heartland has a level 2 certified team that works with children to develop and practice new behaviors and attitudes.
Recent renovations to Heartland’s 5,000 square-foot equestrian center include a new barn, updated stables and indoor/outdoor riding areas.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) incorporates horses for emotional growth and learning. EAP is experiential in nature. This means that residents learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with horses, dynamic and powerful living beings. Horses act as excellent mirrors, reflecting back to people who they really are. Residents then process feelings, behaviors and patterns.
EAP utilizes a solution-focused therapy approach. The focus is on what the resident wants to achieve through therapy rather than on the problem(s) that made them seek help. This approach does not focus on the past but instead, focuses on present and future. The licensed mental health professional uses respectful curiosity to invite the resident to envision their preferred future. To support this, questions are asked about the resident’s story, strengths and resources, and about exceptions to the problem. By helping the resident identify the things that they wish to change and maintain in their life, the mental health professional aids the resident in constructing a concrete vision of their preferred future. The mental health professional helps identify times in their current life that are close to this future and examine what is different on these occasions.
People don’t change unless they are challenged, and the most lasting change occurs when people find their own answers to questions. When immediate gratification and the “easy way” are the norm, horses require people to be engaged in mental work in order to be successful. With horses, residents can practice new behaviors in a therapeutic environment and learn that in changing themselves, they do have the power to change the world around them.