By Dr. Linda Pucci, Inner Resource Center LLC (innerresourcecenter.com)
I’ve been practicing in the equine assisted psychotherapy field for the past 5 years and as a therapist for almost 30. I’ve found experiential work with clients and horses to be astounding in terms of its power and ability to bring about significant change in a short period of time.
At the same time, I’ve noticed that there are limitations to the equine assisted psychotherapy approach in other contexts. As I’ve moved into providing more coaching and work in business settings, I’ve discovered that corporate teams don’t want to delve deeply into their feelings. They want to increase their ability to work as a team in order to increase productivity and customer service. They have a limited tolerance for the sort of frustration we invite in an equine assisted psychotherapy session.
It has become clear to me that a “one size fits all” approach to equine experiential work isn’t practical or particularly effective when working outside the context of psychotherapy.
Business clients bring totally different expectations to the arena. It behooves (no pun intended) the equine experiential practitioner to speak their language and address their needs. They haven’t come for psychotherapy or deep emotional work. Typically, they come to increase their effectiveness in the work place. While their approach in the business world may be affected by patterns of behavior and personal issues, their major concern is how they can function better at work.
Clients referred by educational institutions also require a different approach. Whether they are “at risk” children or a leadership group, they haven’t come to the arena for therapy. In fact, we’ve found that many school systems are leery about any appearance that an intervention is therapy. Can they benefit from equine experiential work? Absolutely! But in the context of school sponsored programs, delving into the morass of psychological and emotional issues is not only unnecessary, it is uncalled for.
In both contexts, it really comes down to the definition of the types of services you are providing, the needs that are specific to that context, and what your goals are. In our experience, businesses and schools aren’t signing up for psychotherapy–with horses or without.
Being able to address the specific needs and goals requires different language and a different approach to equine experiential work. That’s why we’ve been really excited about the philosophy and approach of the Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A). (See http://www.e3assoc.org/)
My partner and I find the E3A’s approach to equine experiential work fits the contexts of business and educational institutions much better than a model which requires a psychotherapy team. The E3A model offers a different style of facilitation in equine experiential sessions, but one that isn’t limited to emotional issues.
We recognize that equine assisted psychotherapy (as an approach different than therapeutic riding) really helped to put all equine experiential work “on the map,” and made an incredibly important contribution to the field. And, we like the idea of the profession expanding further, and moving into contexts outside the mental health realm. We suspect that there are many people out there who recognize what the horses can offer, and are looking for a way to carry equine experiential activities forward in their communities. We think that E3A shows the promise of becoming a professional organization that can make that happen.
Linda Pucci, Ph.D. is a psychologist, life coach and trainer at Inner Resource Center, LLC in Maryville, TN, http://www.innerresourcecenter.com/. Her equine experiential businesses, Resources With Horses, and Business Resources With Horses provide training and workshops geared toward personal and professional growth.