As part of a curriculum that offers the latest in innovative therapeutic techniques, Miami’s St. Thomas University (STU) graduate degree program recently offered a course through the Department of Social Sciences & Counseling titled “Introduction to Equine Assisted Psychotherapy.” Offered for the first time, the course was an elective for graduate students seeking a master’s degree and future licensure as professional mental health counselors, school guidance counselors, and marriage and family therapists.
The 30-hour, three-credit graduate level course combined classroom lectures on theory with hands-on experience at the stables. The instructor, Lisa Baugh,
designed the curriculum to provide an introductory yet comprehensive overview of the field of equine-assisted psychotherapy, emphasizing its innovative and effective experiential approach that incorporates interaction with live horses to treat human emotional, behavioral and psychological issues. Students explored the application of equine-assisted psychotherapy as a technique that can be used to treat individuals, couples, families and groups for a wide range of issues.
At the first meeting of the class, students were given an online research assignment. Through their research, students identified Winning with Horse Power (WWHP) as a premier website devoted to highlighting all aspects of equine-assisted activities related to human emotional growth and learning. Upon hearing of the class research, WWHP president/CEO Eileen Tighe commented, “St. Thomas University consistently demonstrates insightful leadership and innovation, as evidenced by this graduate level course that includes equine-assisted psychotherapy as a therapeutic resource.”
Other topics covered in the course included the history and development of equine- assisted psychotherapy, key figures, the variety and variations of techniques, philosophical and theoretical differences, client demographics and the various organizations and certifications available in this emerging field. The time at the stable included several hours of interaction with live horses where students could both observe and experience first-hand the powerful effects of the technique.
The course received unanimously positive feedback from students, faculty and university administrators. Discussions with STU university administrators about repeating the program next year are already underway.