Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
It is perfectly normal to experience fluctuations in our mental health and wellbeing, this is to be human. At Otra Mas we believe mental illness, trauma and addiction are experiences that can have a resolution and lead to a deep level of self understanding.
We consider the broader context of peoples lives and aim to treat the individual, not just the illness. Our mental health professionals believe that equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP) is a highly effective form of experiential therapy that can be safely administered in an individualized way.
Horses make great companions for psychotherapy because they can mirror and respond to human behavior. Being herding animals, they rely on an acute stream of sensory data to detect safety or danger; they can also hear the human heartbeat within four feet, and research on heart-rate variability indicates that horses have a profound ability to synchronize their own heartbeat with that of human beings. When people are introduced to the herd environment for therapy, horses respond within the same spectrum of physical and emotional responses that
govern their own behavior, allowing therapists an insight into the inner psychology of the client.
We have been successful at reaching a large cross-section of our community; spanning across different economic backgrounds, ages, genders, races and religions.
If you are experiencing life adjustment issues or persistent mood disorders, please do not hesitate to reach out.
There are people—and horses— here to help.
We provide services for individuals and families.
Our programs are designed to address many conditions such as PTSD, mood and anxiety disorders, and life-adjustment issues.
We help individuals enhance self-esteem, build self-confidence, learn to regulate emotions, and move forward in life.
We help families increase understanding and cooperation and develop communication skills.
We offer specialized programs for those recovering from addictions and young adults with special needs.
From our Program Director:
Horses reveal, react to, a mirror what goes on with the physical, emotional, and mental state of people in their environment. Because horses are herd animals, their survival depends on the safety and well being of the herd. They are very aware of nonverbal signals of other horses, animals and humans. Their reactions are lightning fast to any perceived danger.
They relax around and want to be with people who are present, grounded and authentic. They will test boundaries with people, as with their herd members, as they always determine a pecking order. It’s as if they are saying “ Who are you? What are you about and What do you want? I/we have to be safe, so if you aren’t going to step up and be a good leader, then I will.”
In an equine therapy session, we start with teaching the language of a horse—how to be safe around a horse and how to emotionally connect with a horse using their communication rituals. In doing that, the horse and human both relax, and a resonances occurs ( it has been scientifically proven that heart rates of the horse and human synchronize). This allows the horse to become a partner ( or herd member) with the individual or group for the next phase of therapy—doing experiential exercise designed to address a specific issue—such as trust, self esteem, team building, past trauma, boundary setting or relationship issues.
Another part of an equine session is herd observation. Horses, unlike some humans, try to find a place for everyone in their herd. The social structure of a herd provides interesting metaphors for how individuals interact within a group. Who is the quiet one? Who is the leader? Who is the in-your-face one? Who is the loner? Which horse is most like you? These questions can lead to interesting discussions, new awareness, and new acceptance of oneself in relation to others. To horses, all ways of being are valuable.
Carol Caddes LMFT, SEP
Program Director at Otra Mas
A Horse Rescue and Equine Therapy Organization