Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)
We call our highly acclaimed Equine Assisted Psychotherapy program Healing With Horsepower. At Veritas Counseling Center, the therapist, in conjunction with a highly skilled and experienced equine professional, offers Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) sessions as an adjunctive therapy for interested clients who are already involved in traditional office psychotherapy. EAP is also sometimes offered during Weekend Intensive Workshops & Retreats, and various other group settings. While the human professionals design exercises for each client that comes to the arena, the horses frequently step up to change the plan. Perhaps they know things we don't.
The therapist, Shannon Spellman, is a masters level licensed clinician who has been certified in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) by Greg Kersten, founder of EAGALA and of the field of EAP, through the O.K. Corral Series. Along with her over 35 years of clinical experience as a psychotherapist, Shannon has also personally been involved with horses for over 25 years and has been providing EAP and EAL for about 8 years. She knows the power of these beautiful four-leggeds in demonstrating and healing our emotional struggles and sees her own riding as both a therapeutic and a Spiritual experience. A horse can teach us more about ourselves in one session than we can learn in years of traditional psychotherapy. One only needs to show up and be open to the messages that these incredible animals have to give us.
Horses strengthen our self-awareness by reacting to the intentions we present to them in conjunction with our emotional state. Their reactions are sometimes referred to as mirrors of our emotional and behavioral issues in that horses are wired to respond to us from a very basic stance involving our communication with them. Horses have a way of metaphorically demonstrating to us exactly what it is we need to do in order to affect change in our lives. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy can build strength and confidence as well as clarity and determination. And many of us are able to learn things much better through a hands on metaphorical experiential approach where we can watch ourselves in a gentle way to understand our own behavior and resolve our emotional stuck points. In addition, because they are herd-bound animals, they help us to see our own interactions with others in relationships and in groups.
There is nothing like the power of relationship to assist us in finding our Truth. Horses, by their very nature, can assist us in this endeavor through our connection with them. Veritas is taken from the Latin word "verity" and used as a symbol for Truth. At Veritas, clients are gently encouraged to break through any denial that prevents them from seeing the Truth, to seek their own Truth, and work towards becoming their True Selves. Through working with horses individual clients can discover their own Truths gently and effectively and break through many issues of self-sabotage and self-defeating behaviors.
Typical clients who have found Equine Assisted Psychotherapy helpful have included those with addictions, eating disorders, relationship struggles, adjustment problems, grief and loss issues, and abuse and trauma survivors. Challenging adolescents are often helped through Equine Assisted Psychotherapy when other forms of treatment aren't successful. A special program is offered to veterans and their families. Couples, families, and groups can all benefit from EAP by learning new ways of being in relationship that can be immediately applied to current day circumstances.
Equine Assisted Learning (EAL)
Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is also available for corporate and private groups as well as for individuals, couples, and families seeking personal growth sessions. We call our Equine Assisted Learning program Leading With Horsepower. We offer sessions tailored specifically to individual and organizational needs. Whether it's to strengthen communication or provide leadership and development training we design exercises in the arena to help you achieve your personal growth or professional development goals.
The equine assisted sessions are held at a private horse facility in NW Phoenix and at additional Retreat locations for Weekend Intensives. Sessions are also occasionally held at various other equine event centers within Arizona. Read about our Equine Professional and our Horse Consultants below.
The psychotherapist works side by side with one of the valley's most skilled equine professionals in the field of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy & Equine Assisted Learning. Faith Knutson, M.A. has a master's degree in Management Leadership with over 15 years of professional experience in the behavioral health field in both outpatient and residential settings utilizing Equine Assisted Psychotherapy & Equine Assisted Learning. She was first certified by EAGALA in 1999 and has attended more recent EAP & EAL certification seminars through the O.K. Corral Series. She also brings experience in facilitating leadership training and personal development. Faith has over 40 years of experience working with horses and has served as a horse trainer and also given lessons to adults and children most of her life. She has completed numerous horse training seminars with various training modalities. As an equestrian, she's been involved in both competitive riding and pleasure riding. Faith has the ability to decipher just about anything that might be going on with a horse or a person out in the arena and she is adept at watching several horses and several people all at once. We are honored to have the knowledge, insight, and experience that she brings to the arena and to the therapy processing circles.
Our newest equine consultant is Reggie, a Tennessee Walking Horse gelding, born in 2004. Although not a rescued horse, he had a difficult beginning. The scars on his legs are a result of being abused as he was being prepared to be in the show ring. Luckily for Reggie, his trainer was banned from the show world and Reggie has been able to be a well loved family and trail horse for several years now.
Reggie's demeanor is very friendly and playful. He is entertaining and loves all the people and the other horses, too. He brings the gifts of humor and boundaries to those he chooses to work with.
Reggie had not planned on being a therapy horse but has fit right into the program as needed. He and Prince, shown further down the page, are "cousins" in the TWH world both having foundation bloodlines with world champion roots. He is a part-time consultant in the program having a full-time job with the equine professional elsewhere.
Pictured here below out front is Visionheart, a 22 year-old beautiful Quarterhorse mare with quite the history of multiple temporary adoptions, until now where she thinks she might have landed her permanent home. Visionheart has seven years of experience in EAP and EAL. In this photo, she appears a bit confused and even annoyed at not understanding the intentions here in this exercise. She is a beautiful, gentle soul with a strong desire to do the right thing. When she can't quite figure out what that is, she becomes easily frustrated and her trauma based control issues are brought to the surface.
She is well-trained, and an excellent consultant in EAP and EAL, having very polite ground manners and being easily approachable. Her prior experience includes some reining and cutting/sorting cattle on a ranch, and she also likely has some previous competition experience having performance bloodlines. She has also served as a lesson horse and as a trail horse. Visionheart is a fulltime consultant to the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy & Equine Assisted Learning programs.
Our youngest horse is Prince, a nine year-old Tennessee Walking Horse gelding. He is a gentle giant with a child's curiosity, eager to please and sometimes still working at trusting in the world around him. He is experienced in the fields of EAP/EAL, having about 5 years of experience behind him, and brings innocence and entertainment to the exercises. Prince has lots of miles out on the trail and in the arena and is learning new things daily. He is shown here in a younger picture with the psychotherapist.
Prince serves as a fulltime consultant and participates in as many exercises as he's asked to. He gets along well with the other four-legged consultants as well as his two-legged handlers and is always ready to meet the two-legged participants that come to the arena. Prince appears to be still experiencing growth spurts but his body has finally caught up with his legs. He's learned that his head, body and feet are all connected somehow and he is typically sure footed and confident out on the trail. He is playful and powerful in the Equine Assisted activites.
Many of the horses that have served in the program have qualified as rescue horses who otherwise would not have a home. Although we are not a nonprofit horse rescue organization, we value horses for what they can bring to the program rather than what they cannot. We are not always in a position to take on new horses but if you have one that needs a home and a new job, contact us and we'll see what we can do. Due to having lost several very valued horses in the last few years, we are currently interested in finding horses that can serve in the program right now. We look for sound, experienced, young to middle aged horses that have social and emotional stories to tell. We only take in horses when we have the means to care for them in the best manner that all horses deserve. Rescue should not result in more trauma, but instead in trauma resolution and renewal.
Horses at Veritas Counseling Center, together with their two-legged consultants, have a way of making life very real and helping us find our Truth. You will be invited to join us in the arena and to Get Real at Veritas.
Former Horse Consultants
We were deeply saddened to have lost this most incredible horse in the winter of 2015 and we remain honored to have had him in our prgram. This gorgeous tri-colored pinto of mostly unknown mixed heritage pictured here to the right came to us with over 15 years of experience in the field of EAP & EAL and he was trained from the ground up by our equine professional years ago. His name was Maverick and he was born sometime around 1991 and had a history that was as colorful as he was. He was separated from his mother and the herd at 4 months old. Due to living in a pen all by himself, he missed out on all of the lessons he would have gained from being part of a community of others. He didn’t learn about group living and support. He didn’t learn about trust and body language or herd communication. He never got the chance to play with others in the herd as he was growing up. He was left a stallion and un-gentled until he was past 7 years old.
Around 7 ½ years old, he was purchased and promptly became a therapy horse. He was trained by our equine professional from a wild stallion into the gentle confident consultant that he became. His job was to teach others who came to know him to trust, just as he was learning to trust. He also had to learn to live in a herd, and his lessons helped others to learn to live in their own community. Through the years, Maverick was transformed from a fearful, un-sociable, untrusting horse, to a bold, trusting, playful horse who delighted in the company of 4 legged and 2 legged friends. He continued to be an amazing therapy horse, working with a variety of people of all ages. He even spent some time at a guest ranch and was the favorite mount of many-a-visitor. (There are rumors that a famous person from Hollywood actually tried to buy him, but he was there to remind us that there are SOME things that money just can’t buy). Clear to the end he still held onto some of those old fear-based behaviors, but only to remind his human companions to be confident and brave, with good communication and boundaries. He was very forgiving of people and their own fears, but he would turn his tail and playfully run from anyone who tried to treat him without the respect he deserved. Maverick had much to teach us. Beyond his physical beauty and obvious strength, Maverick was living proof that through positive relationships, healing and happiness are definitely achievable.
We were taken by surprise at the loss of this beautiful horse in the fall of 2014. She had been a fulltime consultant in the program and her name was Mystic, an elder mare in her 20's of unknown mixed breed. She had a varied history with having had numerous babies and also serving as a barrel racing horse and a trail horse in her past. She was a gentle and well-trained horse, and obviously a horse of a different sort with her mixed background resulting in a beautiful blend of several coat colors. Mystic was initially a bit timid in her new home but adjusted well to her new stall mates and owner. She came to us in grief having to be given up as a result of a terminal illness in the two-legged family she resided in, forcing the re-location of horses due to medical and financial hardships. Her former mother is an equine massage therapist who loved her very much and wanted to find a home for her where she could have a purpose to live out the rest of her life.
She was first offered to a therapeutic riding program that works with physically handicapped children and Mystic did great except for being spooked by some of the props which would have made it unsafe for the children to be riding her. Mystic had the opportunity to confront her fears of those same types of props here in the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning programs but she did so with only ground work when those props are being used so as not to re-traumatize her or cause trouble for the participants. Mystic was utilized for both ground and mounted exercises and had over 5 years of experience in the Equine Assisted programs. She got along well with others, both two-legged and four-legged, and typically was reserved, shy, and passive in the herd. Mystic helped numerous clients through a variety of issues and had been an excellent horse consultant serving individuals, couples, and groups.
This horse, also the same animal pictured at the top right on this page is Desiree'. She served as an elder at the equine facility in EAP as primarily a retired equine consultant. She is pictured with the psychotherapist, Shannon Spellman. Desiree' was a 25 year old Quarterhorse mare who suffered an accidental permanent knee injury years ago. Although she was well-trained, she intermittently suffered from chronic pain and could be difficult at times and rather rude and bossy in the herd. She carried years of untreated control issues along with extreme abandonment issues. For those sessions that Desiree' was able to participate in, she provided life-changing experiences to the clients that worked with her. She brought wisdom, strength, and attitude to the EAP program after having served many years as a trail horse and companion. It is with much grief and sadness that we said goodbye to Desiree' in the fall of 2011 when her chronic pain became too much for her and she let us know that she was ready to crossover the Rainbow Bridge where she is now running with new knees pain free. To honor her years of service, the therapist chose this picture to be the company logo.
In the second paragraph on this page above, we have Caspian. Caspian was a previous horse consultant that was a 15 year-old gelding of Quarterhorse crossed breed. He was very experienced in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy with 12 years behind him in the field. He also had over 14 years of experience as a lesson horse with both children and adults and had been trained in English, Western, and jumping. Caspian was a part-time consultant with a full-time job in the field elsewhere. It is with much sadness that we had to say goodbye to Caspian in April of 2011 when he died unexpectedly at his home. He will be missed.
In the third paragraph on this page, underneath the photo of Caspian, we have Maggie, also a former part-time consultant, who is a 16 year-old Quarterhorse cross mare who brought us credentials of 2 years prior experience in EAP & EAL. She had 14 years of other experience and served as a lesson horse for adults and children for over 7 of them. She is gentle and calm and typically gets along well with others, both the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds. Maggie has moved on in her life having been purchased in 2011 and taken to another state.
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