Experiential therapy uses horses for emotional growth

Mon, 07/27/2009 - 8:35am
By: The Citizen

Straight from the horse’s mouth – what exactly is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy?

The term Equine Assisted Psychotherapy may conjure up images of depressed ponies pouring out their childhood past in the minds of many people. “The true practice of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is a little less imaginative, but still extraordinary,” said Flying Change Founder and Executive Director Lissa Corcoran, “Flying Change uses horses to improve people’s lives.”

Founded in 1996, the Flying Change program features horses as partners in emotional growth and learning in order to foster emotional, social, spiritual, and psychological growth. Conducted by a team of licensed counselors, horse professionals with specialized training in the field of equine assisted mental health, and horses, each psychotherapy session uses proven interactive experiences to address a broad range of issues including depression, addiction, eating disorders, ADD/ADHD, recovery from childhood abuse, and more. As one of the first programs of its kind in the US, Flying Change has developed a national reputation as a leader in the use of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy to help individuals, families, and groups learn, heal, and grow.

According to recent studies, 82 percent of teens showed more improvement in just five sessions of Equine Assisted Therapy than in they did in years of traditional therapy. Unlike traditional therapy, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is experiential. This means that people in the program, or clients, are allowed opportunities to try different problem-solving techniques in real-time with the support of counseling professionals as they actively “rehearse” solutions for different situations. In Equine Assisted Psychotherapy sessions, clients practice healthy life skills by partnering with horses in a physically and emotionally safe environment. Over time, clients effectively develop the confidence to apply the skills learned in therapy to their everyday lives.

“Practicing skills and taking steps are easier when I am engaged in an activity rather than curled up on a couch,” said Flying Change client Jenny Millkey, “Experiencing and applying skills help motivate me to recognize and move past hurdles in my life.”

For most clients, interaction with the horses combined with time spent in a natural environment promotes healing and relaxation. Bonds develop between the client and their therapy horse. This all-important bond helps make therapy feel less threatening and more enjoyable.

“With Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, the process of therapy becomes a friendship that develops rather than a daunting series of steps yet to take,” said Millkey, “When friends are exploring and learning together, healing is able to happen without judgment being passed. By looking at the ways in which I approach each relationship, I learn lessons about what I do and/or could be doing in the world outside the barn.”

Horseback riding can also be tremendously beneficial for mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Horseback riding lessons, another service offered at Flying Change, are a wonderful way to develop balance, strength, coordination, and stamina. In addition to the physical benefits, learning horseback riding and horsemanship also includes developing a trusting, respectful relationship. Through the riding program at Flying Change, students effectively learn life skills such as confidence, communication, empathy, leadership, and healthy boundaries. The joy, confidence, and infectious sense of accomplishment gained from skills learned in the saddle then transfer to everyday life.

Nestled between Fayette County, Coweta County, and the rolling hills of South Fulton County, Flying Change has recently found a second home at Fruition Farm. Also located in Atlanta, Flying Change is now able to provide much-needed services on the south side of Atlanta. Services for individuals, families, couples, and groups are available by appointment. In addition to Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, Fruition Farm also offers a spectrum of services including, personal growth retreats, team-building programs, and riding lessons that foster character-building and life skills.

For more information about Flying Change and Fruition Farm, please contact Lissa Corcoran, Executive Director, at 404-512-0834 or visit their websites at www.FlyingChange.com and www.FruitionFarm.com.

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