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Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is a form of animal-assisted psychotherapy involving the client, practitioner, and the horse/s. It is an experiential approach to psychological intervention and personal development, which means that learning, growth, and change occur through experiences had with the therapist and the horses. The horses, with their unique attributes, act as assistants, supports, and co-facilitators in the therapeutic and learning process.
Horses offer enormous benefit to humans. In the therapeutic or learning setting, they offer a powerful opportunity for learning, growth, change, and healing in clients. Horses do this by virtue of their unique characteristics including their capacity to: evoke emotion in humans, offer relational experiences, offer an authentic and non-judgemental response to humans, provide feedback to humans regarding their thoughts, feelings, behaviours, intentions, and approach, and model healthy behaviour. These benefits can be more difficult to emulate in the client and practitioner relationship alone in a room-based setting.
No. At Open Paddock, there is no horse riding or mounted work involved in any of the services that are offered. Any work with the horses done in sessions is done with you on the ground, interacting with the horse/s in a way that feels safe and right for you.
If you are interested in going on a horse trail ride for pleasure, there are trail rides available at the location through Ryders Horse Riding Tours.
EAP can assist clients of all ages with a range of issues including, but not limited to:
- Regulating emotions (including anxiety, depression, anger, and stress)
- Social skills
- Behavioural problems
- Relational issues
- Building resilience
- Eating disorders
- Impulse control
- Confidence and self-esteem
- Mental health
- Grief and loss
Some common therapeutic and learning goals that EAP can address include:
- Regulating and resourcing clients
- Offering safe experiences in relationship
- Increase client awareness
- Increase awareness of patterns that no longer serve the client well
- Experiment with, develop, and rehearse new ways of being and behaving
- Become emotionally connected
- Learn life skills
- For children, support them to play, express, learn, develop mastery, form relationships, build social skills, increase autonomy, develop self-responsibility, increase emotional intelligence, and teach them how to soothe and regulate their own emotions.
We are located in Labertouche, at the foothills of the Bunyip State Park, 80 kms southeast from Melbourne CBD (about 1 hour by car) and 20km from Warragul. Upon arrival, drive up the long driveway and Alana will meet you. There are plenty of car parks available.
350 Forest Road, Labertouche 3132
Depending on the severity of the weather and availability of under cover facilities, your session may need to be rescheduled. This is to ensure you get the absolute most out of your session/s and to ensure the safety of you and our horses.
Yes. If you are referred by your GP, Psychiatrist, or Paediatrician through the Better Access Initiative, you can have your sessions subsidised through Medicare. Your health provider will conduct a detailed mental health assessment and prepare a Mental Health Treatment Plan before referring you to Open Paddock Equine Assisted Psychology.
We offer Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) through individual counselling sessions and group programs that are either educational or therapeutic in nature.
Whilst clients of all ages and with a variety of presenting issues can be referred to Open Paddock, our special interest areas are with at-risk youth, specifically addressing antisocial behaviour and building resilience, as well as working with adolescence/ school-groups in order to teach them life skills necessary to promote emotional intelligence and cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioural wellbeing.
Open Paddock uses the Equine Psychotherapy Institute Model, which is a unique and comprehensive psychotherapy model with it’s own theory, principles, and practice methodology in line with best practice therapy. It is an Australian model that is relational, ethical, mindful, trauma-informed, effective, deeply respectful of clients and horses, and is founded on psychological and psychotherapeutic theory and practice. The model draws from gestalt therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, Buddhist psychotherapy, and somatic experiencing (somatic trauma practice).
No. Clients do not need to have any prior experience with horses. If you have never met a horse or are even fearful of horses, you can benefit tremendously from EAP. In fact, the absence of preconceived notions about horses can assist in learning and growth. All clients are provided with safety guidelines prior to any interaction with horses and any activity involving the horses will be designed with your level of comfort in mind.
What to expect depends on a number of factors including the purpose of the session (e.g., therapeutic or educational), whether it is individual or group-based, and the stage the intervention is at. You can however expect some of the following:
- Sessions take place in a room, paddock, or round yard (often a combination of these in each session)
- You will be provided with safety guidelines regarding the horses and how to keep yourself and the horses safe
- You will be treated with compassion and respect
- You will be invited to engage in experiences with the horses targeted towards your therapeutic or learning goals
- For groups: In a group session you may be required to participate and share your experiences and engage in activities with other group members and the horses.
- For individuals: There will be a focus in the initial session on discussing your individual circumstances, difficulties, and goals and a plan for moving forward will be developed.
- Prior to your first session you may be required to complete confidentiality and indemnity forms
- Any information disclosed in sessions, case notes, or psychological tests will be kept confidential. If there is any need to disclose your personal information, you will be asked for permission first and will be required to sign a release of information form.
- You may be asked to complete psychological assessment forms to establish a starting point from which to work and track progress over time.
- You are in control over what you share – you will never be made to share something you do not feel willing or able to share
- Have you (or your client) tried room-based counselling and not gained benefit or lasting change?
- Has your client refused to access other services?
- Do you (or your client) prefer a focus on ‘doing’ rather than talking?
- Are you after an intervention that compliments existing treatment?
- Are you more likely to feel calm and relaxed in the natural environment than a traditional room-based setting?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, than EAP could be the approach you need to best support you, or your client, in addressing your learning or therapeutic needs.
Please wear clothing appropriate to the weather including a weather proof jacket if required or clothes that provide coverage from the sun if it is a hot sunny day. You must wear closed in shoes at all times and it is advisable to bring a water bottle with you as well.
Yes. If you need to cancel a pre-arranged session, this must be done with a minimum of 24 hours notice otherwise a cost may be incurred on your behalf.