Equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP) is an experiential treatment modality used to help a person’s psychological health through directed interactions with a horse. While the idea may seem a little silly on first blush, it actually has a growing research base to suggest its potentially beneficial effects for those who engage in it. You can learn more about equine assisted psychotherapy here.
In this interview with Anna Mott — owner of Alo Horses, an Equine Gestalt Coach, and a Karuna Reiki Master — we learn more about a form of equine assisted therapy called the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method.
Tell me a little bit about what you do.
I am a Certified Practitioner of the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method, a powerful, co-active coaching approach where the client benefits from a partnership of two coaches — one Equine and one human — as they explore and resolve “unfinished business” and limiting beliefs that are holding them back. Together, the Horses and I create a sacred space for our clients to become more grounded, mindful and aware; to connect with and hear the messages from their inner spirit; and to receive powerful healing from the horse that releases energy blocks and promotes harmony within.
What is the difference between coaching and therapy?
There can certainly be some overlap between coaching and therapy – both involve a professional who confidentially holds space for a client to support them in resolving emotional issues and improving their mental well-being. However, a therapist has additional specialized training that allows them to also make a diagnosis of, and prescribe treatment for, mental health issues (as listed in the DSM V manual) and to work with a medical specialist to address brain chemistry imbalances. I am trained to recognize a situation where a referral to a professional therapist is needed and I do have a resource available for that.
The coaching work I do focuses on creating and holding a safe space for my clients and supporting them through their self-exploratory process with appropriate questions and observations. The Horses make such great coaching partners because they, too, create and hold space energetically, and because they support the process by interacting with the client in ways that show support, agreement or making it clear when the client is not in integrity or alignment with their truth.
Who is equine therapy good for?
Equine Gestalt Coaching is for anyone who is searching for ways to improve their life. If you are open to exploring areas in your life where you feel stuck, and want to get unstuck — in relationships, health, finances, spirituality — then Equine Gestalt Coaching and Equine Guided Mindfulness is for you. At Alo Horses our focus is to assist people in finding their inner gift so they can live their passion and life purpose.
What kind of benefits have you seen with people in their interactions with horses?
When people interact with horses in my round pen, there is often a powerful A-ha! moment that leads to clarity around what to do next. I have also seen the relief they experience, emotionally and also from physical discomfort. Those heavy feelings in their chest will dissipate while with the horse; their shoulders come down from around their ears… and when they leave the round pen, they feel light, grounded, at peace.
How often does it need to be done?
The small group sessions are on-going and I see a lot of people come once a month to enjoy the horses’ energy. Every personal experience starts when they sit in the chair whether they make it into the round pen or not. These small group sessions are important for those who would like to learn and experience what the work is about. For deeper work on a specific issue or area of their lives, private sessions are best. I find that having at least 6 sessions — starting with every 2 weeks and then moving to once a month — brings the best results. For private clients who have regular sessions, I also offer a weekly telephone coaching call to help the client stay on track and provide support between equine sessions.
There is a national list of Certified Practitioners of the EGCMethod program on their website.
What advice would you give to people that want to explore this as a career?
If you are attracted to energy work and horses, I couldn’t recommend a better program. Melisa Pearce offers a 2-year program through her company, Touched By A Horse, that teaches the methodology including Gestalt philosophy and tools, Equine 101 basics of working with horses, marketing and more. In addition to class calls, text books and exercises, students attend a minimum of 8 intensive CORE workshops where they put into practice what they’re learning by providing and receiving supervised coaching. The program requires you to do your own personal work to resolve emotional issues, address limiting beliefs and shift behavioral patterns, so it’s life-changing for each student as well as their future clients.
If someone wanted to work with you and horses from afar, is it possible?
A lot of the power in this work is the experiential nature of it, and the ability to physically connect with the horse – the impact of being in the horse’s energy field can’t be overstated. For that reason, people will travel to the right coach. When people travel to work with my horses, I absolutely ensure they get the most out our time together. And of course, as I mentioned before, telephone coaching support is also available for private clients between their sessions with the horses.
What is the most memorable interaction you witnessed in your work?
I don’t have just one. I know my horses well and what their gifts are for this work, yet every time they blow my mind in the ways they support my clients: whether it is rocking with motherly love the person who didn’t get much time with mom as a child, pushing gently into a client’s back when they are making an important step and feeling fear about it, or getting “a glass of water” by dragging the water bucket to the client who asked for a glass of water. They are amazing beings and powerful coaches, and I appreciate them so much.
Anything else you want to add?
Come and experience the work! We have small group experiences in Equine Guided Mindfulness, a Women’s Connection Circle, as well as a private 4-week intensive group experience and, of course, private sessions for individuals and couples. Check out our website for more details.