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  • Writer's pictureDr Heather Dyson

What is Equine-Facilitated Therapy?

What is Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy

Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFPT) Incorporates horses within the therapeutic process. The therapist will work with the individual (or group) to help them to develop increasing awareness of their mental health issues, and discover new ways of thinking and understanding both their cognitive and emotional experience. The individual is encouraged to reflect on their experiences during their interactions with the equine, and what it means for them. Through this process, individuals develop skills such as emotional regulation, self-confidence, and responsibility.

Equines are uniquely positioned as both prey and herd animals. They are constantly scanning members of their herd, and their environment, for signs of danger or safety. Consequently, they are experts are intuiting the internal emotional states of others even when attempts are made to mask those internal experiences. In other words, equines are able to offer us non-judgemental and unbiased biofeedback to our own internal experiences. They frequently mirror the client’s behaviour or emotions, conveying understanding and connection, thereby promoting a sense of safety and validation. As a result, clients are able to maintain a sense of self-awareness of their internal experiences without fear of rejection or criticism for the first time, allowing them to explore these sensations and problem solve around them.

What happens in an EFPT session?

Following an initial consultation between therapist and client, various in-hand/non-ridden exercises will be utilised to help the client think and behave in ways that they may have previously never considered. Exercises may include simply grooming the equine whilst paying attention to your own internal emotional state, to have to move the equine through a series of obstacles without the use of a lead rope. This type of exercise encourages creative thinking, and supports individuals to consider how their interpersonal interactions impact others.

Following completion of each exercise, the therapist will support the individual to reflect on the experience, drawing out new learnings and understandings that they have taken from the interaction.

Who is EFPT for?

For many individuals who have experienced trauma throughout their lives, forming safe therapeutic relationships with their psychologist, can prove challenging. Without this sense of safety and connection, it can be difficult for individuals to be able to explore their emotional hurt and distress from their traumatic experiences. Equine’s may provide individuals with the opportunity to connect emotionally with another being, who is able to intuitively pick up their true emotional state, without bias or judgement. Equines never take offence at our words, and will not reject us for expressing our authentic emotions. Indeed, when we are truly connected, congruent, and present, equines are in fact much more likely to pay attention to us.

There is increase research around the therapeutic benefits of EFPT for a wide range of mental health disorders. Whilst the research is still very much in its infancy, there is certainly support particularly in the area of addiction, emotional regulation, anxiety, trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and complex-PTSD.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in accessing EFPT, please feel free to contact me (

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