So, you want to be an Equine Therapist or Equine Assisted Therapist, or Equine Assisted Learning Facilitator and you want to help people, but you don’t want to be a counsellor.
Equine Assisted Therapy or EAT is an amazing career, you get to work with horses and help people at the same time. It is deeply rewarding, satisfying and fulfilling, you get to work with people from all different backgrounds and of all different ages and you get to see these people change, grow and heal.
In my experience working as a therapist in this field, people deepen quickly and their stuff comes up, they get emotional and triggered in both good ways and bad ways when they get close to the horse. They will talk to me about stuff that they have not shared with anybody else and I need to know how to support them and keep them safe as they share from that emotionally raw place. I want to know what to do when they tell me that they are feeling suicidal, for both their safety and for my own peace of mind! I may not be able to save every person, however, it helps to know that I did all that I possibly could.
This is where the skills I have learned through studying Counselling and Psychotherapy are invaluable, I am able to guide and support my client through their emotionally rocky and sometimes terrifying terrain and help them to come out the other side with more understanding and insight into themselves and their issues.
This is what EAT is about, supporting our clients to become more aware of themselves and their issues and assisting them to build the inner resources and skills to live a happier, healthier life.
Without these skills the client is often un-supported and can actually be re-traumatised; another person that they trusted and relied upon cannot understand them or provide the safety and support that they need.
Counselling skills are especially important when you work with certain client groups like people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, PTSD, eating disorders, anxiety and depression or anyone from a background of abuse and trauma. It is amazing how common these issues are even in high functioning clients, that live ‘normal’ lives.
It is important to have an understanding of what may be going on for these people and then to have the skills to help and support them.
In a counselling or psychotherapy course you will learn how to support your client and also how to support yourself. Developing counselling skills gives you the tools to deal with all kinds of issues and the awareness of when to refer your clients on to somebody else. You also develop the skills to support your practice so that you are less likely to burnout and you are more able to engage with people without taking their stuff home with you.
Studying counselling or psychotherapy also gives your EAT practice a standard of professionalism that is recognised and trusted. Other professionals feel safe in the knowledge that you have done the study and that anyone that they refer to you will be in good hands. As the field of EAT grows, having a mental health qualification and horse handling experience will help you to stand out from the crowd.
The more skills that you have as an equine therapist the more rewarding and satisfying your work becomes, you are able to support yourself, your client and your horses and enjoy great outcomes for all.