A unique approach to problem solving, Courageous Hearts of Milford is using the healing power of horses to provide psychotherapy, growth and learning opportunities to individuals, families groups businesses and corporations. Rosemary Baughman, a licensed clinical social worker, and Linda Muncy, equine specialist, include a variety of horses and ponies to promote emotional growth and learning through Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP).
EAP is a solution-focused, strengths-based model that incorporates horses experientially in a collaborative effort between a licensed mental health clinician and an equine specialist working with clients and horses to address treatment goals. The focus of EAP is not on riding or horsemanship but involves setting up ground activities that will require the client or group to apply certain skills such as non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking and problem-solving as they interact with the horses.
“We take our clients out of their environment and into the arena with the horses,” commented Baughman. “They react to what the horses are doing and begin to build relationships with them.”
According to Baughman EAP addressees a variety of mental health and human development needs such as behavioral issues, ADHD, addictions, abuse issues, trauma, depression, anxiety, relationships and communication issues. Helping one family resolve communication issues, Courageous Hearts invited a mother, father and kids out to the ranch to interact with the horses. As the children and mother engaged with one horse, another horse stood in front of the father. As the father tried to push the horse out of the way, the horse continued to walk the man back to the barn where the horse calmly created a barrier between the father and the rest of the family. The owners of Courageous Hearts watched as the man acknowledged that he had tried to emotionally push family members around to get his way and that the interaction of the horse helped him to realize that he could not always get his way.
“The horses tell us a lot about the clients by how the clients act with the horses and each other,” stated Muncy. “Through their body language horses can pick up on their heart rate, perspiration and breathing.”
Baughman and Muncy describe Equine Assisted Psychotherapy as “self-discovery with a little guidance”. They have benefited clients with relationship building, teamwork and responsibility. Currently holding three after school sessions weekly, Courageous Hearts is also expanding services to help business, corporations and other groups.
A program that is funded through the Delaware Criminal Justice Council by the Division of Prevention and behavioral health Services of the Delaware Children’s department (DSCYF), Courageous Hearts continues to expand its reach in the Greater Milford Area. Baughman and Muncy are excited about the possibility of engaging more clients and incorporating more horses to promote emotional growth and learning.
“The emotions of the horses mirror human emotions and their massive size does not allow you to push them around,” commented Baughman. “You have to look at your own behavior and change it to interact with them in the way you would like.