Animal assisted and equine assisted therapy
Why do we work with animals?
At Epona Brae we work with an “I-thou” approach. This means we work with every client as a unique individual, we see you, we hear you, and we care and respond to who you are. Animals do this by nature, and every contact is an opportunity for growth, change and learning.
The therapeutic alliance in an animal assisted session involves the client, the psychologist, and the animal or animals working with and supporting that client. Feelings are evoked as this is a dynamic process, and we can work through and manage emotions in real time. Supported by the animals, environment and a highly qualified psychologist, clients can work on a “felt sense” of what could be, and how to change ineffective life patterns or thought and reactions in session with the support of the animals.
And…. because the animal are working with us, inside, outside, or in a play situation – therapy can be enriching, engaging and fun! It may not even feel like therapy, but it is…
Why do we sometimes work with horses in particular?
Horses support our capacities for contact because they are innately predisposed to engage with others. Contact with horses has the capacity to trigger and evoke strong feelings, and provides an opportunity for a deep yet supportive connection with another being that can help us move away from negative, impersonal, or isolating patterns in our lives. Healthy horses like the therapy herd at Epona Brae are sentient beings, they are aware of their surroundings and the emotions and responses of others, they react spontaneously, they live in “the moment” and can let go of the past, and they are survivors who are good at getting back to “equilibrium” and a safe space. They are also social and playful animals, who can awaken these aspects of the client. With horses we can work on social awareness with the herd, and emotional regulation and awareness of self and others with individual horses or the herd, and in individual therapy or with other humans in group therapy. Clients can then learn to generalise learning’s into their human social world to positively impact well being and quality of life.