Our aim is to combine the highest quality clinical therapy with the unique benefits provided by interaction with the horses using Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP). All clinical staff members are certified by EAGALA.
LEAP’s professional staff first conducts an intake with the prospective client and/or parents to determine the potential benefit of EAP for the client. Consultation with any referring provider or other practitioners involved in the patient’s treatment will follow. LEAP’s clinicians complete an assessment in order to develop a treatment plan that is specific to the patient’s needs and goals.
Each session consists of a task and objectives for the patient to accomplish with a horse. Attempts to accomplish the task reveal characteristic behavior patterns. The therapist assists the patient to see how their behavior and experience with the horse parallels similar experiences in their real life. The result is that the patient develops insights into how this same behavior affects day-to-day living. The ultimate goal with each patient is to develop more effective patterns of thinking, feeling, behaving, and relating in real-life situations.
The following example of a therapy task illustrates the LEAP process:
One child, with significant anxiety and aggression was asked to lead Sugar, one of our therapy horses, through an obstacle course. He was very passive and Sugar did not respond to his requests to follow him. He was ready to give up within just a few minutes. The therapy team linked this behavior to his real life, where he felt very ineffective and overwhelmed, often giving up and feeling badly about himself. The team engaged the child in a discussion of assertive behavior. The child was able to try out different levels of assertiveness with Sugar and learned how to be more successful communicating with her.
More importantly, the following session, the child was immediately able to lead Sugar around the arena and through another obstacle course. The child exclaimed “This is cool! This is easier this time!”
When asked what was different, he stated that he was less nervous and more sure of himself. His mother noted that after the first session he had become demonstrably less anxious at home, more direct in his communication with the family, and had even kept his anger under control.
A noticeable level of change from dysfunctional to functional behavior frequently occurs within the course of every LEAP session. With the help of the clinical team, this experience then generalizes to the problems experienced in the patient’s day-to-day living. As patients learn to resolve conflicts or to enact new behaviors, they begin to recognize the utility of seeking healthier alternatives to problems in their lives.
With the horses as our therapeutic partners, we are able to work through change-resistant negative behavior patterns to help each individual develop his or her potential to be healthy and successful. This is our prime objective and informs our entire treatment plan.
Traditional therapies do not reach everyone. Many children, adolescents, and adults have difficulty addressing problems that have resulted from trauma, abuse, neglect, combat stress, and/or mental illness. Working with horses helps people overcome obstacles to communication and work through their problems and traumas.
LEAP programs accomplish behavioral change and translate the new, positive approach into everyday life because they employ a combination of powerful therapeutic forces:
- A non-threatening approach
- A highly skilled team of professionals
- Captivating and attention holding activities
- An immediate cause and effect dynamic in which negative behavior produces negative results and positive behavior produces a sense of accomplishment and smiles all around
- The ability to rapidly defuse defense barriers
- The ability to see and modify ineffective or unhealthy patterns as they are happening
- Shifts from dysfunctional to successful patterns of behavior that immediately translate into daily life
LEAP is sometimes confused with therapeutic riding programs. LEAP’s program does not use riding or teach horsemanship. LEAP’s activities take place with the patient ‘on the ground’, engaged in purposeful activities with the horses that are designed to facilitate an understanding of patterns of behavior in the patient’s day-to-day life.
Periodically, LEAP hosts ‘Days of Discovery’ where other professionals and those from the community may visit the LEAP facilities and have a chance to observe how Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy works. Please contact us if you would like us to notify you when our next ‘Day of Discovery’ is scheduled.