Our highly trained team treat a number of mental health disorders in children, adolescents and adults, working with individuals, families, couples or groups in the peaceful and scenic Samford Valley just 35 minutes north west of the Brisbane CBD.
Horses have evolved as prey animals. To survive they had to develop exquisitely finely tuned senses, to the degree that they can even read our heart beat and breathing rate. Their native language is body language. Therefore they are experts at reading our non-verbal cues, even when we are not aware we are giving them. This gives horses the natural ability to sense the emotions of others around them. They tend to respond giving immediate feedback, thereby reflecting the emotions like a mirror without judgement. This can bring even subconscious or suppressed emotional struggles into our awareness. With the help of our psychologist or psychiatrist one can then access and process the emotions, make sense of them and file them into memory. The turmoil eases and emotional healing can occur.
We use the EAGALA model of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy www.EAGALA.org
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy occurs on the ground without riding, but with hands-on contact with the horses. We believe the client has the best solution for themselves and endeavour to provide a safe and fertile space for our client to explore and find their best solution.
In the EAGALA model we work as a team consisting of a mental health professional working with an equine specialist and of course the horses.
Horses have finely tuned senses such as hearing, smell and touch. Their senses are so acute that they can even sense the aggression of a predator lurking in the bushes. In a herd, horses sense each other's feelings and naturally mirror this to each other via body language. This helps the survival of the herd.
Horses can also sense our emotional state, even when we are not aware of it. This natural ability of horses is used by introducing a person or a small group of people to a small herd of horses. This is not about horsemanship or dominating the horses nor about riding, but about becoming a guest member of the herd. Horses will then naturally reflect to the person what is going on for that person emotionally at this time. Our (provisional) psychologist Marthe or psychiatrist Dr Anja can help them make sense of this experience. The experience occurs without words and therefore there is no risk of miscommunication via spoken language. This is very effective.
Emotions that lie under the surface tend to bother us humans more than the ones we are aware of and can work through. When horses in EAP reflect our feelings to us, it brings our subconscious emotions to the surface and we can think them through, make sense of them and file them into memory. They then don't bother us so much anymore. People often progress with EAP in less sessions than traditional in office therapies. EAP can even help those, who don't want to or can't talk about their problems, as EAP is not talking therapy, but based on experiencing the relationship and interactions with the horses, who give immediate honest feedback free from judgement. The person relates to horses rather than people, which can be easier for some people, such as those who have experienced interpersonal trauma as those often find it difficult to trust and relate to others, as their amygdalae, their brain's alarm system might switch on and lock in the fear response when faced with human relationships, but a relationships with a horse can switch off the fear response and increase trust through release of oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone, not only for human bonding, but is also released in human-animal interactions.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy uses the innate ability of horses to mirror emotions, thereby assisting people to access and process subconscious emotional struggles, leading to healing.
Another aspect of our practice is Equine Assisted Learning - using the natural wisdom of horses for personal growth, learning and improved communication. This is done with clients individually or in small groups such as team building for work and corporate groups or working with youth at risk. This form does not go as deep therapeutically as individual psychotherapy.