I believe the girls we work with at Alpine are diverse, unique individuals. Although certain diagnostic labels may apply, this often doesn’t do justice to their complicated struggles. In treating them as individuals, I also feel there is seldom a “one size fits all” therapeutic approach. Plus, we know teenagers get bored easily! Sometimes DBT works wonderfully with a client at one point in treatment, whereas another might be more engaged and invested in Equine (horse) Therapy. This is why the clinical team at Alpine is so devoted to ongoing education and training.
In a recent EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) training with a few of the clinicians and Doug and Trudy Meacham, our Equine Specialists at Alpine, we were able experience the power of a unique therapeutic modality. Equine Therapy is a projective, client-centered therapy. Instead of focusing energy on interpreting and processing what a girl may be thinking and feeling, the focus is on looking at the horse’s behavior. Specifically, we look for patterns, unique behaviors and interactions taking place with the horse(s); then allow the clients to project their own thoughts and feelings onto the horse(s) and into their session. While it sounds simple, it often requires an “untraining”, meaning that therapists have to learn how to step out of a directive role and be hyper-vigilant about judgmental language or how our own thoughts/feelings can divert session. When done appropriately, you see magic happen in the arena! For example, one girl may interpret a horse as being “rude and stubborn”, while in the same group session, another girl is interpreting that horse as “lonely and grieving”. Here, we see the beauty of the projective material. It is always more powerful to allow clients to connect the dots independently, rather than the therapist forcing connections.
If you are curious about Equine Therapy or any of the other therapeutic techniques implemented at Alpine Academy, please feel free to reach out to me or any member of the clinical team.