Our Model

(Much of this information is shared with permission from the developers of our model at Natural Lifemanship™)

Horses aren’t just mirrors. . .
Utilization of Natural Horsemanship
Ground Work
Mounted Work
Safety in this model
How does it compare to other models?

What Models of Therapy do you offer?

At Adirondack EAP, our therapists offer a robust, eclectic mix of therapy models including, but not limited to, Somatic Experiencing, play therapy, motivational interviewing, Internal Family Systems, Cognitive Behavioral therapy, Strengths-Based therapy, Solution-focused therapy, and much more! We greatly value and prioritize the relationship between the therapist, the client, and the client’s family. Each of our on-site clinicians is trained in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy as developed by Natural Lifemanship. Please note that clients will engage with their therapist for multiple sessions prior to the therapist considering adding one-on-one horse sessions into the treatment plan. Office-based sessions and walk-and-talk sessions on the farm are highly therapeutic and are mandatory prior to any consideration of horse interaction. This is to allow the clients and their therapist to develop a strong relationship before incorporating another relationship with the horse into sessions.

What is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy?

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is provided by a licensed therapist with the assistance of horses. EAP engages the client to improve their ability to function in their everyday lives through real-life, real-time interactions with the horse and therapist.

EAP addresses many mental health concerns including, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, relationship issues, domestic violence, trauma-related symptoms (difficulty sleeping, difficulty focusing, intrusive thoughts, mood swings, etc), eating disorders, substance abuse and attachment issues.

Horses aren’t just mirrors. . .

The primary reason we use horses for therapy is because a horse will react or respond to a person’s behavior in much the same way that another person will. This is the dynamic that sets the use of horses apart from the use of other animals. A dog, for example, does not respond to our behaviors the way our friends, spouse, employees, employer, or family members will respond. A dog will ultimately demonstrate acceptance regardless of the client’s actions. It is this type of unconditional acceptance that makes dogs and other animals beneficial in many therapeutic settings. Horses are more honest in their responses, which allow the client to take responsibility for the relationship they build with a horse. A horse will not give love and acceptance until the client learns to build a relationship that fosters love and acceptance, the same way they must do in human relationships.

It is human nature to become comfortable with the familiar. Therefore, when building a relationship with a horse, clients re-create the familiar patterns of interaction they have learned throughout their lives. Most clients inadvertently choose a horse that will treat them the way they’re used to being treated or that they believe they can treat in the same manner they treat other people. If they don’t or can’t choose this type of horse, the client will eventually create this type of horse. The horse will help them understand how their thoughts, feelings, and behavior affect the relationship. Horses are able to do this because they live in the present. A horse responds honestly to what the client is doing in the present, rather than what they did in the past or what they may do in the future. A typical human’s response is tied to the past, present, and future which is not conducive to honest, immediate feedback. Once clients understand the things in the relationship for which they are responsible, they can make changes in themselves to improve the relationship with the horse, and then apply those same changes to more complex human interactions. Back to the Top

Utilization of Natural Horsemanship

Adirondack Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, LCSW, utilizes Trauma-Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy as developed by Tim and Bettina Jobe of Natural Lifemanship ™.  The aspects of natural horsemanship are derived from sound principles of equine psychology. If the principle behind a natural horsemanship technique cannot effectively operate in the psychology of people, it is not a method employed at Natural Lifemanship. There are many effective horse training techniques. Natural Lifemanship specifically teaches a model of applied horse psychology that uses only principles that seamlessly transfer to human psychology. Historically, horses have been taught to do the right thing because they were afraid not to. Training techniques were based on fear and intimidation. Our goal is to use humane, psychological techniques to teach horses to do the right thing because they have come to believe that it is the right thing to do, whether from the ground or mounted. The principles used to teach this are applicable in a wide variety of human interactions. The changes people must make within themselves to be able to apply these principles also transfer to many life situations. Back to the Top

Ground Work

Ground work is where any healthy relationship begins. If one hasn’t laid the “ground work” for a relationship based on honesty, trust, respect, and understanding then the relationship is being set up for ultimate failure. If the foundation is not built correctly, each subsequent stage of the relationship will suffer. Setting the “ground work” allows the relationship to be build sequentially. This is easily demonstrated, understood, and practiced in a relationship with a horse. For instance, touching a horse before the horse has asked you to touch it will damage rather than strengthen the relationship. The damaging results may not be felt immediately, but as the relationship progresses, a lack of trust and respect will develop. Developing the relationship first on the ground allows the client to experience the effects of how they have built it before they have advanced to the stage in which they are most at risk of being hurt, both physically and emotionally. This stage is on the back of the horse, as it is the place of greatest risk and often greatest reward. Natural Lifemanship is done primarily on the ground and only taken to the point of riding when it will best meet the goals of the client. The most poignant work often occurs on the ground as the relationship moves toward greater intimacy. Back to the Top

How We Use Mounted Work

Unlike some models, in Natural Lifemanship, we do incorporate horseback riding ONLY if it riding will fit into a client’s treatment plan. We utilize riding only to address very specific therapeutic issues and many clients will not ride because it would not be appropriate to their individual treatment plan. We do not use riding for recreation, to get “buy in” from the clients, or with a primary goal of teaching horsemanship. The intervention of horseback riding is utilized to provide the rhythmic, patterned, repetitive movement needed to reorganize and heal the brain on a cellular level, to help clients learn to self-regulate, and to allow them to further recognize relationship patterns and deepen intimacy. We use riding only when it will be more effective and efficient than anything that can be done on the ground. The same principles that drive Natural Lifemanship when done on the ground are applicable and even intensified when on the back of a horse. If riding will be a good fit for a client, we will discuss this well in advance of any actual riding.

Studies show that functionality of the brain in people who have experienced trauma such as abuse, neglect, combat, or natural disasters is often compromised due to disorganization of connections in the brain. These people often struggle with emotion and impulse control, which results in the inability to appropriately handle even minimal stress. Natural Lifemanship utilizes the rhythmic, patterned, repetitive movement inherent in riding a horse to increase and reorganize the connections in the brain, thereby increasing the brain’s ability for emotion and impulse control. The horse is able to provide the rhythm required to effectively heal the traumatized brain until the client is able to independently provide that rhythm. In effect, clients passively learn to self-regulate through the use of the rhythmic, patterned, repetitive movement of the horse.

In addition to providing the rhythm necessary to self-regulate, riding also provides a medium through which clients can learn the skills necessary to self-regulate. Riding is utilized to teach stress and emotion management skills and relaxation techniques. Many therapists teach these same skills in the context of a counseling session when the client is in a relative state of calm. They then discuss with the client how to use these same skills in more stressful situations. In Natural Lifemanship, we use horses to provide a safe, yet mildly stressful environment in which to practice these skills. Before the horse will appropriately control himself, the client must first be in control of his/her own thoughts, emotions, and actions. Many clients live in chaotic, dysfunctional environments, and riding helps them realize that in order to control the chaos around them, they must first control the chaos inside them. Many clients are unable to do deeper, insight-oriented therapeutic work until they are able to bring their level of arousal to a place that allows them to gain and retain insight, and benefit from higher level learning. This level of regulation is most profoundly learned on the back of a horse.

The most intimate and vulnerable a person will ever be in a relationship with a horse is on their back. Horseback riding requires a higher degree of trust than groundwork from both the human and horse. This is where the greatest potential for conflict in the relationship lies. The nature of relationships is that the place with the most potential for reward is also the place with the most potential for loss. With a horse, this place is on his back. When building a relationship with a horse, if this place of intimacy is forced before each party is ready, it will damage the relationship and have the potential for emotional and physical pain. However, healthy relationships are always moving forward in some way. If the horse and human reach the point where it is time to take the next step, and either party is unwilling, the relationship will suffer. When clients try to move toward this level of intimacy too quickly, there are consequences, and poignant therapeutic work abounds. The same opportunity exists when the client is unwilling or fearful of moving to this level of intimacy. In either situation this is a pattern that causes problems in their relationships. Therefore, riding, when it is appropriate, is a very important part of the therapeutic process. Back to the Top

Safety is Central to the Process

(This was written by Tim and Bettina Jobe of Natural Lifemanship™ in conjunction with Kim Mills, MA, NCC, LPC from Rocky Top Therapy Center and Horses for Heroes™)

In Natural Lifemanship one of the most important interventions we use is helping the client find safety in every situation. The safety the client finds with the horse during sessions is eventually transferred to other life situations with the help of the facilitators or the therapeutic team. This can evidence itself as physical and/or emotional safety. It is imperative that the client is allowed to find their own safety rather than having safety rules dictated and enforced. Safety in these sessions looks very different than safety in traditional horsemanship or therapeutic riding where the goals and desired outcomes are different.

It is imperative for stabilization, growth, and healing that the client learns to take full responsibility for their own physical and emotional safety and the choices that they make. It is through this process that they are also able to let go of a false sense of safety and control, and begin to embrace an authentic sense of safety and security.

In Natural Lifemanship the team does not dictate or enforce hard and fast rules. Choosing to indiscriminately not trust someone because of the possibility of getting hurt is damaging when transferred to other situations and relationships. In the same vein, not understanding the possibilities and making informed decisions can also be damaging. Many clients need to regain trust in themselves to make the appropriate decisions about their safety and the safety of others. In a relationship based on trust, respect, and understanding there is no place for hard and fast arbitrary rules. The foundation of this work is built on the relationship between the client and their horse. The principles that make this relationship healthy, will work to make all of life’s relationships healthy. Back to the Top

How does it compare to other models

The increased need for effective interventions and the difficulty of working with various populations in the mental health field have resulted in the design of many non-traditional approaches to therapy such as various experiential therapies, animal-assisted therapy, numerous expressive therapies, wilderness therapy, and adventure-based therapy. One intervention that has arisen out of this need is equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP). EAP is a generic term that involves using horses or other equine to facilitate sessions for clients with a variety of mental health concerns. EAP is an emerging therapeutic intervention used in a variety of mental health settings as the primary therapeutic modality or as an adjunct to therapy. As a result, numerous organizations have begun to train and certify Mental Health professionals and Equine Professionals in the use of EAP.

Natural Lifemanship for the mental health field is an eclectic and comprehensive model of EAP that builds upon and deepens the principles, theories, and practices of many of those organizations, such as The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), the Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association (EFMHA), and the Equine Guided Education Association (EGEA). The founders of Natural Lifemanship have extensive knowledge of and experience in each of the previously mentioned models. As a result, their model is not exclusive of any, but inclusive of all. Natural Lifemanship for the mental health field expands on the various EAP models by incorporating sound principles of horse psychology and a focus on the client’s developing relationship with the horse. Natural Lifemanship facilitates a process whereby clients are able to address and move through past or present damaging life circumstances, understand how those circumstances affect their current interactions, and make the personal changes necessary for healthy, fulfilling relationships in the present and future.Back to the Top