Equine Assisted Psychotherapy at Rhoden

EAPA&E department has partnered with ACU’s Counseling Center to facilitate the new Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) program.  This is an “experiential” mode of therapy where clients learn by doing.

Last summer Steve Eller, counselor and certified EAP therapist, began talking with Dr. Foy Mills, A&E department chair and professor of agribusiness, about starting this type of therapy program at the Rhoden Field Laboratory. Dr. Ed Brokaw, Bray Cook professor of animal science and Ellice Pierce, A&E farm manager have led A&E’s efforts in collaborating with Eller in support of the EAP program.

“This presents an alternative to coming into a room and just talking,” Eller said.

This program will be a valuable tool for not only the Counseling Center but for A&E as well.Dusty

“I think this could positively affect the A&E department and students because there are many powerful life lessons that can be learned in the sessions,” said Katie Havis, freshman psychology major from Fort Worth, Texas.

This program was introduced to Eller through the organization Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA).  This organization is “dedicated to improving the mental health of individuals, families and groups around the world by setting the standard of excellence in EAP” (eagala.org). 

EAP“This type of therapy reveals a metaphor language in relating the arena to life, helping people more easily identify the problem they are facing,” Eller said.  “If an individual or a group can name the problem then there is a better chance of them overcoming it.”

This type of therapy is 100 percent on the ground.  This is not therapeutic riding. 

The EAP program is also a good opportunity for students to learn other ways to use horses.

“This is another use of horses that many people do not know about, but the more it is broadcasted the more people appear interested in this program,” Havis said.

Havis is the equine specialist for this project.  Her job is to read the horses body language and attitudes in order to ensure the safety of the clients Steve Eller With Horsesand the horse during the session. 

“It’s really exciting during the sessions,” Havis said.  “I love watching the horses and clients interact.  Since I can read the horse’s emotions and reactions easily it’s always interesting to hear what the client’s opinion is of what the horses are doing.”

For more information check out the Web page for ACU’s EAP program at http://www.acu.edu/campusoffices/counseling/eap/index.html.  Or contact Steve Eller by phone at 325-674-2626 or steve.eller@acu.edu.

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