What is Eagala?
Horses have been used to help humans in different contexts for millenia. However, a structured approach with certification and professional association with oversight review is a newer concept. In 1999, Eagala was founded in Utah as a nonprofit professional association to focus on equine-assisted psychotherapy. The model first involved working with troubled youth in residential programs. Since its founding the model has evolved and expanded worldwide.
Eagala addresses the need for resources, education and professionalism in the fields of equine-assisted psychotherapy and equine-assisted learning. The association has set the standard for professional excellence in how horses and humans work together to improve the quality of life and mental health of individuals, families and groups worldwide. Eagala has more than 4,000 members in 49 countries and continues to grow
What is the basis for the Eagala method?
- The Eagala model is an experiential modality. According to the Association for Experiential Education (see http://www.aee.org), the principles of experiential practice are:
- Experiential learning occurs when carefully chosen experiences are supported by reflection, critical analysis and synthesis.
- Experiences are structured to require the client to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for results. Throughout the process, the client is actively engaged in posing questions, investigating, experimenting, solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning.
- Clients are engaged intellectually, emotionally, socially, soulfully and/or physically. This involvement produces a perception that the learning task is authentic.
- The results are personalized and form the basis for future experience and learning.
- Relationships are developed and nurtured: client to self and client to others.
- The client may experience success, failure, adventure, risk-taking and uncertainty, because outcomes of the experience cannot be predicted.
- Opportunities are nurtured to explore and examine personal values.
- The facilitator’s roles include setting suitable experiences, posing problems, setting boundaries, support, ensuring physical and emotional safety, and facilitating the learning process.
- The facilitator recognizes and encourages spontaneous opportunities for learning.
- Facilitators strive to be aware of their biases, judgments and pre-conceptions, and how these can influence clients.
- The learning experience design includes the possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes and successes.
To these experiential principles, Eagala adds the dynamic of horses, which provide various benefits in the process.
Is there any research to prove this model works?
The Eagala model of EAP is solidly grounded in well-established and researched theories of psychotherapy including Gestalt psychotherapy, solution-focused psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral psychotherapy and experiential psychotherapy. The Eagala model is a clinical advance on these established practices where the incorporation of horses in psychotherapy is a deliberate, principled, thoughtful and professional catalyst to change. As with many advances in clinical practice, clinical success precedes systematic study.