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  • Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Program

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy

Woman in Equine Therapy

To Schedule an Assessment

1-800-332-7156, ext. 8558

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Billings Clinic's equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) program is used to treat a variety of mental health and human development needs. EAP incorporates horses, a mental health professional, a horse specialist, and patients in a joint effort to facilitate emotional growth and learning.

Conditions and needs treated by equine-assisted therapy

What Patients Can Expect

Patients entering this program begin with an in-office comprehensive psychiatric evaluation to assure a good therapeutic fit. The goal of this program is to combine psychiatric medications and equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP) to improve symptoms and allow people to learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then discussing feelings, behaviors and patterns in their lives. Ultimately, the goal of these combined therapies is to empower and change peoples' lives.

Because of its intensity and effectiveness, it is typically considered a short-term or "brief" approach (2-3 months). No riding is involved.

Billings Clinic's Innovative Team Approach

Dr. Walter and Equine Specialist

Dr. Elizabeth Walter and Sheila Buschette,
Equine Specialist

Billings Clinic is the only health care organization in the U.S. that offers this innovative approach to mental health care under the direct supervision of an EAGALA-certified team of an adult psychiatrist and equine specialist.

Our equine specialist has completed over 6,000 hours (equal to approximately 3 years full-time work) experience/hands-on work with horses.

Additionally, an on-site registered nurse with 30 years of psychiatric nursing completes our team. The Equine Assisted Psychotherapy service is provided by Dr. Elizabeth Walter, Sheila Buschette, Equine Specialist, and Patty Yoder, RN.

Equine Specialist Background

Sheila Busette, Equine Specialist, has had a passion for horses her entire life. She graduated from Rocky Mountain College with a BS in Equine Studies. She has had a broad range of teaching, training and equine experience over the last 20 years.

Sheila has taught riding lessons for both youth and adults in English, western, jumping and dressage. She received the United States Dressage Foundation (USDF) certification through first level and is the only trainer in Montana to achieve this distinction.

In 2015, Sheila became an Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) certified Equine Specialist. She is an accomplished equestrian who looks forward to sharing her equine expertise.

Insurance Coverage

Most insurance companies will cover Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Our financial specialist is available to assist you in contacting your insurance company.

Please note: There is an $80 program fee per session in addition to insurance coverage or self-pay.

Equine-Assisted Therapy - Why Horses Are Used

Naturally intimidating to many, horses are large and powerful. This creates a natural opportunity for some to overcome fear and develop confidence. Working alongside a horse, in spite of those fears, creates confidence and provides wonderful insight when dealing with other intimidating and challenging situations in life.

Like humans, horses are social animals, with defined roles within their herds. They would rather be with their peers. They have distinct personalities, attitudes and moods; an approach that works with one horse won't necessarily work with another.

Most importantly, horses mirror human body language. Many complain, "This horse is stubborn. That horse doesn't like me," etc. The lesson is that if they change themselves, the horses respond differently. Horses are honest, which makes them especially powerful messengers.

EAGALA - Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association

The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) is the leading international non-profit association for professionals incorporating horses to address mental health and personal development needs.

Research Supports Equine Therapy

Equine facilitated psychotherapy (EFT) has roots in solution focused therapy in terms of therapeutic orientation (EAGALA, 2001). Therapists who practice EFT ask clients to look into themselves to find solutions to a problem by looking for times when the problem that the client has or has not identified did not exist (Mann, 1998; McDaniel, 1998, 2000). The EFT experience is experiential in nature. That is, success in EFT is not experienced until an interaction between the horse and human takes place. Without social interaction where people are relating to each other individuals are not given feedback on their behaviors and social skills. Without feedback an individual may not see how they impact others and how behaviors can be changed or adapted Russell-Martin, L.A. (2006). Equine facilitated couples therapy and Solution Focused couples therapy: A comparative study. Doctorate of Philosophy, Northcentral University.

In summary, the present study showed that participants reported significant improvement 264 B. T. Klontz et al. / Society and Animals 15 (2007) 257-267 in psychological functioning immediately following an EAET program and that these changes were stable at 6-month follow-up.

Klontz, B.T., Bivens, A., Leinart, D. & Klontz, T. (2007). The effectiveness of equine-assisted experiential therapy: Results of an open clinical trial. Society and Animals, 15 (2007), 257-267.

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