Thanks to the generous donations from the Equus Foundation, as well as other private supporters that wish to remain anonymous, Garfield Park Academy is excited about our Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) program.
In order to ensure our mission to help kids learn to self-regulate we offer a program where students participate in Equine Assisted Growth, Learning, and Psychotherapy right on-campus.
The activities in this project are centered around EAP sessions, in which horses are used a as tool for emotional growth and learning. To ensure the emotional and physical safety of the children, EAP is a collaborative effort between a licensed therapist and a horse professional that are certified in EAP. Garfield Park Academy has a licensed therapist certified in EAP who works collaboratively with HorseTime, Inc., a licensed and insured horse professional.
EAP is experiential in nature, which especially for at-risk youths is invaluable. Experiential therapy means that participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then process feelings, behaviors, and patterns. This approach has been compared to the ropes courses used by therapists, but EAP has the added advantage of utilizing horses, dynamic and powerful living beings.
Click here to read more about Garfield Park Academy’s Equine Therapy program in the New York Times.
The focus of EAP is not riding or horsemanship. The focus of EAP involves the use of activities involving the horses that requires the student or group to apply certain skills that are essential to be successful in life and relationships. Non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking, problem solving, leadership work, taking responsibility, teamwork and relationships, confidence, and attitude are several examples of the tools utilized and developed by EAP.
Developing relationships with horses naturally affects people in a positive way. For many youths, just the opportunity to be around horses is moving, and opens them up in ways where other therapies are not effective. Horses are large and powerful, which creates a natural opportunity for some students to overcome fear and develop confidence.
The size and power of the horses are naturally intimidating to many people. Accomplishing a task involving a horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and provides for wonderful metaphors when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life. The horses are a valuable therapeutic tool because they are “safer” then people to talk to or about. This is part of why EAP has been found to be more effective than traditional talk therapy in working with children and at-risk youths. Life patterns and issues tend to surface quickly because EAP relies on non-verbal communication skills with the horses.
Through the relationship with the horses, and the experiences with the activities combined with the processing done with the professionals, EAP provides an effective environment for change.