At the Denim ‘n Dirt Ranch, we teach mental health professionals and equine clinicians how to incorporate Denim ‘n Dirt’s Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) model into their professional lives. Experienced horse handlers are taught how to partner with mental health clinicians as collaborators in this unique EAP mental health team. We refer to this pair as the EAP mental health team.
After 30 years of clinical inside office experience (and still counting) and 8 years of EAP clinical experience, I can say with confidence that the ecopsychology modality of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy facilitates client change and personal growth most effectively and often, more quickly than traditional “in office” talk psychotherapy. At the very least, EAP is a wonderful adjunct therapy for inside office patients. The equine images and experiences are used throughout the inside office dialogue, facilitating deeper understanding, awareness and growth.
Our program is designed for seasoned clinicians who want to learn to integrate their clinical experience, knowledge and clinical style with the EAP modality. Beginning clinicians will also benefit; as my mother, an Olympic skier, once said to me, “Jane, if you want to be really good, you have to ski with the best and most experienced.” We welcome all levels of experience and look forward to learning from everyone!
While I did not pursue skiing at my mother’s level, I have pursued clinical excellence throughout my career and I am here to share with you what I have learned (and continue to learn) from my life experience, my clients and my students. Our training is for clinicians (or future clinicians) who want learn the Denim ‘n Dirt EAP model and to integrate it into their own clinical style. Everyone must start where they are in their professional process. Our work is to help you build confidence as you integrate your clinical style with this new and exciting EAP modality.
We all know that “experience is the best teacher.” Life lessons learned through experience typically impact people most deeply. When individuals experience and then process their “lessons” intellectually as well as through their bodily senses (embodiment of experience), the learning is often profound. This is the essence of EAP and experiential psychotherapy.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is an experiential model of psychotherapy, which means that the client uses his/her unique equine experience to facilitate healing and growth. The team may observe much about the client during the EAP process. The team may point out what they are noticing in the arena; the client will associate to what they are seeing. The mental health clinician will note the metaphor/projection and the therapy ensues from there! Each session is totally distinctive to the client’s personal life narrative.
One of our tasks as EAP practitioners is to facilitate our clients’ personal experience in the arena by using our clinical judgement and mindful awareness in much the same way as we do in in office therapy. The goal is to help the client move forward with awareness
and self-compassion. The clinician’s clinical style will determine how much verbalizing goes on in the session. How healing occurs involves the client, the talent of the clinicians, clinical style, wisdom and the equines, of course.
The Denim ‘n Dirt model brings an eclectic approach to the EAP therapeutic experience. During this training, you will be using much of what your own experience has taught you as a therapist and/or equine professional. You will be incorporating your own clinical knowledge with this EAP training model. Each of you will bring your own set of clinical gifts and clinical wisdom to this process. Our mission is to help you integrate your current clinical skills and knowledge with your newly acquired EAP skills.
Our EAP model applies to patients with a mental health diagnosis. This modality is approved by The American Psychological Association and the cost can be billed as psychotherapy for insurance insurance purposes.
Many elements of the EAP model are being adapted to apply to individuals and groups who are not mental health patients (and do not have a diagnosis) but rather are other clients who want to improve their emotional intelligence and communication skills (Personal Emotional Growth).
All kinds of businesses and individuals find that the equine experience in the arena with a mental health professional and equine clinician helps them build better relationships and improves their work and daily lives. Of course this work cannot be billed as “psychotherapy”. We call this model Personal Emotional Growth (PEG) and we include it in our training program.
I was originally introduced to EAP in 2007 by a colleague. My partner and husband, Steve Nelson decided to get more educated in equine assisted psychotherapy and found ourselves getting certified by EAGALA in following couple of years.
EAGALA opened our eyes to the power of using equines as an adjunct to traditional psychotherapy or as a primary psychotherapy modality. Our EAP experience has been informed by other psychological influences such as ecopsychology, mindfulness and years of traditional talk therapy! All of these paradigms as well as our own experience working with clients in the arena, have produced the EAP model which we teach and employ at the Denim ‘n Dirt Ranch.
The Denim ’n Dirt Ranch program incorporates mindfulness into our EAP work. As the EAP affiliate of The Center For Mindful Living, Los Angeles, we believe that mindfulness is indispensable to a healthy and productive professional life. We incorporate guided meditation into our mindfulness teaching as a powerful tool to empty the mind in preparation for experiential learning.
We incorporate the concept and theory of play into our EAP work. Hanging out with the herd is fun. We incorporate the use props to facilitate the psychotherapeutic process and to make it fun. Exercising the client’s creativity and sense of play is therapeutic for the client and is very effective in facilitating the therapy process and increasing the interest level of both the client and the therapist.
People who live most of their lives in crowded cities and office buildings suffer from what Richard Louv calls “Nature-Deficit Disorder.” We are all genetically constructed to being outside in nature, grounded in the earth. (Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder) Being outside surrounded by natural scents, sounds and touch is healing in many ways. How good it is to smell newly mowed grass or to hear the doves cooing! How good it is to feel the silky or fluffy coat of a horse or donkey! How good it is to hug a donkey!
The EAP modality is wonderful for a clinician’s mental health! It addresses the clinician’s need for self-care by enabling the clinician to work outside in nature while promoting wellness for both the clinician and the client. Playfulness and being outside in nature are antidotes to burnout and compassion fatigue. EAP serves to nourish both clients and clinicians.
We believe that the use of our three consistent and constant herds is a real benefit to clients and students alike. We have two horse herds, a small herd of Mediterranean miniature donkeys and one adopted standard donkey (as of this writing!). One of our horse herds also includes three miniature horses, which are very affectionate and also are great sources of metaphors!
Our knowledge of our equine “co-therapists” increases the safety factor in our work and helps us to facilitate the therapeutic process. Since each herd has it’s own personality and healing gifts to offer, the clinician can use any of the herds according to his/her clinical wisdom.
In my inside office, I have two ongoing groups (20 years plus and counting). I use my clinical wisdom in deciding which group would be best for each patient. Having multiple herds of equines affords me the same clinical decision making in my EAP practice and in training opportunities.
Our goal as “helpers” is to assist clients in gaining new perspectives and to practice new ways of being in the world-without judgment or shame. Equines offer the client the opportunity to do just that. Equines are always honest but never judgmental or shaming. This is the best kind of co-therapist and fellow healer!
Working with equines is fun, engaging and compelling. Being outside in a natural environment employs all our senses in a moment-to-moment way leaving us with a “fully felt” embodied experience. The bundled multi-sensory, visual, tactile, auditory and olfactory imprint (embodied memory) on the client and the clinician lasts for days, weeks, months and years.
WELCOME to the Denim ’n Dirt Ranch Professional EAP Training Program!