New ACU program: Marriage counseling - with horses

Posted April 20, 2010

HorseSo... your marriage is in a rough patch. You and the spouse just aren't seeing eye to eye. You've read books; you've talked to your minister; you've experimented with couples counseling. Ready for something different?

How about Equine Assistance Psychotherapy, or EAP?

"I can't explain it. You just have to try it,' says Steve Eller, a university counselor and certified EAP therapist.

The University Counseling Center has been offering this one-of-a-kind program since the beginning of January 2010. It makes use of the power and healing that comes through a connection to horses as an alternative to traditional therapy.

The counseling center has partnered with ACU's department of agricultural and environmental science to provide the resources for the EAP program. The horses at ACU's Rhoden Farm provide counseling and learning opportunities to groups, departments, individuals, families and couples.EAP is currently available to any ACU staff, faculty, student and their dependents.

"Horses are prey animals, meaning that their survival instinct is to run away to a safe distance whenever they encounter perceived danger. This relatesto humans when we are faced with a dilemma," says Eller. "They are metaphors to the human instinct when it comes to dealing with intimidating and challenging situations in life."

Couples engage in some rather interesting activities: catch and halter, equine baseball, equine billiardsand equinecheckers. (Don't ask.) Couples don't engage in horse riding; rather, they stay firmly planted on terra firma. Eller says every exercise is designed to bring couples closer, not to make them experts in horsemanship or riding.

"Couples learn each other's tendencies while at the same time improving their mental health and behavior," says Eller. "The possibilities are endless. In addition, you get to spend some time interacting with a bit of nature and God's handiwork."

EAP also can help families work through their differences.

Find more information about Equine Assisted Psychotherapy here.


Did You Know? ACU's trailblazing iPad app for The Optimist has been downloaded over 600 times in more than 25 countries within the first 10 days after its release. This is an exciting global opportunity for ACU as the number of international downloads continues to grow. Learn more about the app here.