Founded in 1999, the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (Eagala) is the leading international nonprofit association for professionals incorporating horses to address mental health and personal development needs.
The Eagala model utilizes a diamond approach to treatment where there are four distinct treatment team members; the mental health specialist, the equine specialist, the horse(s) and the client(s).
The mental health specialists (MH) role is to provide therapy by utilizing evidenced based theoretical modalities in each session and to assist the client with the transfer of skills learned in the arena to everyday life. It is the MH role to provide an environment that is emotionally safe and beneficial. There are many different equine assisted programs available; however, without the inclusion of a therapist or mental health specialist, the sessions cannot be considered treatment or psychotherapy.
The equine specialist (ES) role is to ensure the safety of clients and horses. They are essentially the leader in the herd who is able to understand and translate horse behaviours to assist with client outcomes. They assist the MH in the debriefing process with clients by focusing on the horses movements and non-verbal communication.
Horses are a large, highly intelligent prey animal and their role in equine assisted psychotherapy sessions is to be themselves. Horses are able to read intent of a predator (humans) and as a result, they are able to mirror a humans behaviour. They respond to what is happening internally with a client, which provides the treatment team with the opportunity to drive change.
The eagala model does not include horseback riding or horsemanship skills, which means that all activities happen from the ground. The eagala model's theoretical foundations for facilitating sessions include experiential principles and client centered approaches. During each session clients are given the space to project and analyze their situations, make connections, and find their own solutions. Since the solutions are personally experienced in conjunction with intellectual understanding, they tend to be deeper, more profound, and longer lasting.
Certification in the Eagala model includes a pre fundamentals webinar, 5 day fundamentals training, the post fundamentals exam, and the completion of a personal portfolio. The 5 day fundamentals training includes 28 hours of training in theory and practice with 2 hours dedicated to ethical considerations in practice.
To learn more about Eagala, please visit their website at www.eagala.org
Lisa Wade MSW, RSW