The PEACH Pit General
The PEACH Pit has received the Strategic Star Award as an agency providing exemplary service and support to Veterans. The award was presented March 19 during the Georgia DBHDD’s annual conference in Columbus, Ga.
The goal of this year’s Department of Behavior Health and Developmental Disability Unspoken Wounds Conference was to increase the “knowledge, confidence, and skills in addressing the behavioral health, criminal justice, and reintegration needs” the state’s Veterans, active duty servicemembers and their families.
While The PEACH Pit Inc. serves the community at large, we’re particularly proud of our service that allows more Veterans to be helped:
- We use of equine-assisted psychotherapy to destigmatize mental health care;
- We believe mental health care is a basic necessity, in the category of food, shelter and medical care;
- We offer low-cost, affordable mental health care to clients;
- We partner with programs that fund Veteran mental health care;
- We partnerships to help clinicians assist Veteran and servicemembers overcome PTSD;
- We host annual free retreats for women Veterans; and
- We offer volunteer opportunities for the military and others in the community.
The PEACH Pit Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation founded by a woman Veteran. It works to help clients help themselves. Its mission is to tap into the naturally reflective nature of horses to help clients overcome obstacles to a happy and healthy life. Its vision is to ensure clients feel emotionally and physically safe enough to allow a horse to serve as part of their counseling and therapy team so they can walk away from the experience feeling more empowered to make changes.
The therapy sessions include very little talking and involve activities where clients interact with horses. These interactions allow clients to focus on the present while healing from the past and looking toward the future. The sessions are unmounted, with clients on a journey of self-discovery with horses.
When participating in hands-on equine-assisted therapy, clients can better understand how their current behavior and pattern may be unhealthy and practice changing those that aren’t working for them. The sessions empower the clients by helping them find their own answers based on their strengths.
The agency’s primary goal is key to its service to the community, particularly lower-income Veterans: to provide low-cost, affordable mental health care to clients. To do this, The PEACH Pit receives donations through various corporate and private supporters.
The agency also partners with other companies that receive funding to work with Veterans; those agencies allow Veterans to receive equine-assisted psychotherapy or other services at no cost. The PEACH Pit also is a recognized charity that receives donations through the annual Combined Federal Campaign. Finally, The PEACH Pit has an “equity payment program” that allows clients to pay what they can – without financial strain. Several Veterans have completed sessions under the program.
In April 2019, The PEACH Pit is partnering with a psychologist to offer training for clinicians who work with (or want to work with) clients with PTSD. Clinicians attending the four-day training, Fundamentals of Psychodynamic Equine Assisted Trauma Therapy, can receive 20 continuing education credits, and will experience innovative applications of equine-assisted psychotherapy to work with people who have experienced trauma, with a specific focus and case examples applicable to Veterans and servicemembers.
Along with having women Veterans as clients, The PEACH Pit hosts annual Horsepower and Heroes Retreatsfor women Veterans to help them realize their best selves. The Veteran’s only expense for the retreat is transportation to and from the farm in Fort Valley, Ga. The Veterans lodge in one of two modernized cabins; each cabin has one bathroom, a microwave, kitchen sink, refrigerator and bedding. The cabins do not have televisions or Wi-Fi or televisions, as the aim is for Veterans to use the weekend to focus on themselves and their needs, and not on technology.
The weekends include vision-boarding, yoga, mindfulness, meditation, horseback riding, individual Accelerated Resolution Therapy, a group equine-assisted learning (EAL) activity in the arena, individual Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, aromatherapy and a fireside talking circle. 2019 marks the third annual Horsepower and Heroes Retreat.
Finally, The PEACH Pit, as a nonprofit, offers opportunities for Veterans and others to give back to the community. The agency hosts at least two volunteer days and demonstrations a year, and Veterans, servicemembers, students and others in the community have participated. The volunteer activities have included:
- Clearing downed trees
- Cutting up downed trees
- Mending/installing fencing
- Marking riding and hiking trails
- Mucking arena/dragging pastures
- Cleaning, refilling water troughs
- Collecting trash
- Grooming horses
- Cleaning saddles
- Setting up for demo
- Feeding horses
- Planting seeds
We don’t do this alone; we count on your support to help others. Thank you for your support.
Video Posted on
What’s the most important basic need: food, shelter, good physical and mental health, clothing?
If you had to give up one, which would it be? Many would keep food, shelter and clothing, until they absolutely had to focus on the health part.
What if you didn’t have to choose?
At The PEACH Pit, we believe good mental health is as basic a need as food, that no one should have to choose between any of the basic needs.
That’s why we’re a nonprofit.
We use an equity plan, giving everyone the opportunity to have a stake in their care:
- How much is your monthly income?
- How much are your expenses?
- What’s left?
- Of the amount that’s left, how much can you afford to pay each week for services – without financial strain?
Where does the fee balance come from?
Donations, grants, gifts all help us provide affordable mental health care to our clients who may struggle with the choice.
Please consider donating to The PEACH Pit. Every penny donated helps provide a basic need: mental health care.
Video Posted on Updated on
Check out The PEACH Pit’s video for the Combined Federal Campaign Virtual Charity Fair to kick off the 2018 campaign. Please share with current and retired federal workers, and ask them to consider donating to us using CFC #27220.
The PEACH Pit (CFC #27220) is one of more than 20,000 nonprofit organizations worldwide approved to participate this year. Enter our CFC number on the following link to get more information: https://cfcgiving.opm.gov/offerings. Once on that site, donors can simply add us to their donation list.
One hundred percent of donations (ALL OF IT) goes to direct client care.
Don’t want to talk about your feelings? Equine-assisted therapy might be right for you
September 28, 2018 05:36 PM
Updated September 30, 2018 10:37 AM
FORT VALLEY, GA — More U.S. first responders died from suicide than in the line of duty last year, according to a recent report by the Ruderman Family Foundation. Gwendolyn Coley wants to change that.
The Fort Valley social worker is CEO of The PEACH Pit, a nonprofit center where clients step outside of the therapist’s office to work through obstacles. The PEACH Pit, a branch of the Peach County Equine Assisted Counseling and Health Center, offers equine-assisted psychotherapy, in which a mental health professional, an equine specialist and one or more horses all help the client to overcome challenges affecting their mental health.
“We believe that the clients come to us with the ability to solve their own problems,” Coley said. “We just facilitate it.”
On Friday, The PEACH Pit hosted its third event catered towards first responders, who Coley said often struggle with mental health but are wary to ask for help.
And though police-involved shootings garner widespread attention from the media, police suicides rarely make it into the news, Coley said.
At least 103 firefighters and 140 police officers died from suicide in 2017. Researchers estimate those numbers could be even higher because family members often choose not to report their loved ones’ cause of death.
It can be hard for first responders to ask for help, Coley said. When an issue arises, she said, they might hesitate to open up to a therapist.
“They may get to a therapist and say, ‘I’m OK. I’m ready to go back to work. Nope, I’m not having any difficulty sleeping. Nope, my mood is OK. Nope, I’m not drinking too much. Nope. Nope. I’m fine,” Coley said. “Because they want to go back to work and they don’t want to be labeled as being mentally unstable.”
Equine-assisted psychotherapy, overseen by the international nonprofit organization Eagala, offers an alternative solution. Unlike in traditional mental health counseling, the Eagala model involves less talking and more action and observation. Clients can reflect and process without having to say a word.
“It is therapy, but they’re hanging out with horses, so it’s very different. That kind of helps to destigmatize it a bit,” Coley said. “And we’re not asking them to come here to tell us about that event that happened that caused them to come to therapy. We’re asking them to come here and be in the here and now.”
Horses can be easier to work with than people, said Paige Jobe, an equine specialist and owner of Spirit’s Quest in Roberta. Jobe and Coley work together for many of their counseling sessions, with Jobe acting as the horse specialist and Coley as the mental health professional.
“They read body language. They read energy. And they don’t come with a lot of baggage,” Jobe said. “So when you interact with a horse, they give you an opportunity to try out new behaviors that you can’t necessarily — or, it can be difficult to do with the people in your life.”
Anyone can benefit from equine-assisted therapy, Jobe said. She works primarily with children, while Coley focuses mostly on adults. The key, Jobe said, is an open mind. Equine-assisted therapy can help with conditions like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and clients also can attend sessions in conjunction with talk therapy, Jobe said.
The approach is typically short-term and solution-focused. After six to 12 weeks, clients are usually ready to move on.
Shannon Singletary was the sole first responder to attend the first responders event Friday morning. Coley had invited local police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and sheriff’s deputies to a free demonstration, which she hoped might inspire them to come back for a therapy session.
After two hours with the horses, Singletary was hooked. As office manager of Palms Medical Transport in Byron, the EMT spends her days fielding phone calls and navigating emergencies.
When her office decided to send a representative to the event, Singletary was curious. She had never heard of equine-assisted therapy before and didn’t know what to expect. By the end of demonstration, though, she was ready to bring her kids and co-workers for a session.
“It works,” Singletary said.
Coley and Jobe led Singletary through a series of activities to reduce anxiety. Singletary held her palm to a horse’s ribs to feel its breathing. Then she made a path with pool noodles meant to represent a normal day at work, and tried, without success, to guide a horse through the winding maze.
Singletary didn’t expect the experience to be so emotionally intense, but at times she felt a lump forming in the back of her throat. Singletary doesn’t like to talk about her feelings. With the horses, though, she could work through her emotions without bearing her soul.
“In a sense, you’re beating around the bush, but you’re still getting it out,” Singletary said. “You’re feeling those feelings again. You’re processing those feelings, but you’re not actually having to say what it is that’s going on.”
‘A mirror for their emotions’
Equine-assisted psychotherapy has been around for about two decades, and the field is growing, said Laura Murphy, manager of the equestrian center at Wesleyan College.
Wesleyan offers a minor in equine-assisted therapy, taught by mental health counselor Susan Jung. Now in its second year, the program has three students, who all hope to incorporate horses into their therapy practice.
Jung and her students spend about half of their time in the classroom and the other half out in the arena, getting hands-on experience with the horses.
“I know I personally always feel, like, less stressed and more centered after the sessions,” said Samantha Camp, a Wesleyan senior studying psychology and equine therapy. “And it just really reinforces the idea behind it.”
Jung, who also practices traditional psychotherapy, thinks equine-assisted therapy is the most effective form of mental health counseling she’s ever used. She got her Eagala certification about 18 years ago, and she’s seen firsthand the life-changing impact it has had on her clients.
“I think people don’t realize how effective that this work can be — that the horses can create, kind of, a mirror for their emotions and help them sort through a lot of their issues in life,” Jung said.
She once watched a child stand paralyzed in the arena, unsure of how to create an obstacle course, as Jung had asked her to do.
“Then all the sudden, the horse came over and started moving things around the arena, and then went back and stood by her,” Jung said. “And she looked back at me and said, ‘I guess I should ask for help more often,’ and that was her — that was her learning for the day.”
Coley wishes more people knew about equine-assisted psychotherapy because she thinks it would help them prioritize their mental health. She said people don’t hobble around and refuse treatment when they break their leg, so they shouldn’t put off mental health care, either.
Mental health should be thought of as a basic need, like food and shelter, Coley said. That’s why she works with patients to ensure that payment never inhibits anyone from getting the care they need.
The PEACH Pit doesn’t accept insurance, but Coley offers what she calls an “equity payment plan,” which allows clients to pay what they can — even nothing at all — based on their insurance status and income.
“We don’t penalize anybody because they can’t pay,” she said.
Coley’s determined to help others, especially groups whose mental health often gets overlooked. She served for 25 years in the Army and Army Reserve and is particularly interested in bringing equine-assisted therapy to other veterans.
“It’s just my way of giving back to a community that has supported me for decades,” she said.
Like first responders, veterans often suffer from PTSD and other mental health issues but are reluctant to seek out therapy.
“I know the power of these horses in helping people,” Coley said. “I want to use this to help.”
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member and reports for The Telegraph with support from the News/CoLab at Arizona State University. Follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/samantha.max.9 and on Twitter @samanthaellimax. Learn more about Report for America at www.reportforamerica.org.
The PEACH Pit is partnering with Cathy Woods Yoga and Enrichment Programs to offer Renew and Reconnect: a restorative horse and yoga self-care women’s retreat through Body, Mind, Equine.
This fundraising event is April 12-14, 2019, at The PEACH Pit Georgia, Fort Valley.
Register today to use yoga principles to improve horsemanship and life in general. Experience rich, heart-connected time with yourself, others and the spirit of the horse, through meditation, yoga and optional saddle time.
All levels welcome.
Lodging is shared in one of two 12×32 lofted cabins. Each cabin can sleep up to eight, but we will reserve space for only six in each: three sleeper sofa/chairs downstairs and three beds in the lofts, which are accessible by ladder and have sleeping space (not standing room). Each cabin has a shared bathroom (shower, toilet, sink).
The rate includes five meals (light dinner Friday; breakfast, lunch and dinner Saturday; brunch Sunday).
Cathy created this nationally acclaimed program and has been featured in Forbes; Western Horse and Gun; Equitrekking; and Yoga Digest.
Learn more about Cathy Woods Yoga Body, Mind, Equine.