Equine assisted therapy referral
As a psychologist with general registration, I offer bulk-billed services for clients on a health care card who are referred under the Better Access initiative. To help you determine whether or not a Better Access referral to this service is suitable for your client, I have provided some information about equine assisted therapy provided by SevenEight Psychology. Our approach is consistent with many of the Focused Psychological Strategies approved by Medicare. Therapy sessions are based on sound psychological principles, and is not simply patting a horse.
Clients are supported to explore thoughts, feelings, behaviours and patterns in an environment that may feel less pressured than sitting in a therapy room. Interaction with the horses provides opportunities for change, growth and healing in relationship with another being.
Referrals can be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 8691 9119.
(including motivational interviewing)
Psycho-education can be incorporated into a broad range of interventions to enhance treatment efficacy. I consider helping a client to understand their experience to be an imperative part of any therapy. Working with horses also provides opportunities to use motivational interviewing techniques enhanced by experiential exercises to facilitate change.
The EPI (Equine Psychotherapy Institute) model includes ‘the way of the horse’ psycho-education. Horses model many healthy behaviours which can be useful for clients. For example, clients learn mindfulness, congruence and authenticity, using feelings as information, confirmation, belonging, and the relationship between thoughts and behaviour.
With sessions conducted outside of the therapy room, clients are moving and getting outdoors, and may feel encouraged to continue this outside of sessions. Parallels can be drawn with mentally healthy horses living in a herd environment, compared to those who are isolated and stabled via ‘the way of the horse’ psycho-education.
Behaviour modification often takes place organically as a result of feedback from, and interaction with, the horses. For example, if a person displays aggressive body language, the horses will likely move away. This provides feedback which naturally leads to shaping of more effective behaviour and communication. The client learns to become aware of their behaviour and makes appropriate adjustments in order to facilitate a harmonious relationship. This is a skill which can be transferred to their human interactions.
The focus on awareness of mind, body and environment creates an ideal environment for successful exposure therapy practice. Exposure therapy can be done within this environment for some disorders, such as specific phobias, social anxiety and panic disorder. For other conditions, psycho-education and skills such as mindfulness are developed and lay the foundation for exposure therapy to be conducted in relevant situations.
Equine assisted therapy facilitates increased awareness of the relationship between thoughts and behaviours. It provides opportunities to identify unhelpful thinking styles and patterns and how these are impacting on the person’s lived experience. New ways of thinking can then be explored in relationship with the horses and psychologist, to be integrated into the client’s life.
Working with the horses provides opportunities for clients to receive feedback from another being in a way that can seem less threatening or judgmental than if it were delivered by another person. Exercises can be tailored to address problem solving, anger management, social skills, communication and stress management. Skills gained by engaging with the horses are then transferred to interactions with the psychologist, and in turn, the client’s broader networks.
If you are interested in other services provided by Amii Larsen please see the SevenEight Psychology website.