Emotionally Disturbed Youth
This special population of emotionally disturbed youth includes individuals who have have received diagnoses such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression or other serious mental health problems. Their behaviors include truancy, running away from home, prostitution, self-mutilation, and substance abuse. Their personal and family histories often reflect neglect, physical and emotional abuse, violence, substance abuse, and sexual abuse.
Many of the adolescents who receive equine-assisted psychotherapy at the Eye of a Horse program have been referred by the mental health staff at intensive residential treatment programs, where they reside, go to school, and receive standard psychological treatment, such as individual psychotherapy, family therapy, and pharmacotherapy under the care of the facility’s clinical staff. The residents are transported once a week to Forever Florida to engage in the special therapeutic experiences provided by the Cracker horses.
Our equine-assisted programs for these youngsters, who range in age from 11 to 18 years focus heavily on issues such as anger management, boundary setting, self-awareness, communication, cooperation, flexibility, problem-solving and self-confidence. The majority of the females that we work with are victims of sexual trauma. Many of the young males are perpetrators of sexual abuse.
Many of these youngsters come from other parts of the country, such as Washington D.C., and have never seen a cattle ranch or 4700 acres of “the great outdoors,” or certainly not a Florida Cracker horse. The psychological benefits of the setting alone are profound.
A psychiatrist who works with female adolescents with histories of domestic violence and sexual abuse explains the benefits of equine-assisted psychotherapy for this special population. The experiential therapy sessions are conducted by Dr. Sandra Wise, a licensed psychologist, who is the founder and director of Eye of a Horse Nature-Exposure Animal-Assisted Programs, which are conducted on the grounds of a 4700-acre wildlife preserve in Central Florida.
A young woman participates in an experiential hour-long session of nature exposure equine-assisted psychotherapy focused on issues of trust and redemption. Her goal is to demonstrate that she is trustworthy, through patience and consistency. Her hope is that the semi-wild untrained horses and their new-born foals will come to trust her and, thus, accept her into the herd.
A short clip from a session of animal-assisted psychotherapy at Eye of a Horse, an experiential therapy program utilizing horses and cows in their natural setting on the grounds of a 4700-acre wildlife preserve aptly named Forever Florida, located in Osceola County. With the help of licensed mental health professionals, animals offer a unique approach to addressing emotional and psychological concerns involving shame, guilt, trust and forgiveness.
This brief video clip illustrates how nature and animals can be incorporated into mental health treatment protocols for troubled youth--thus making treatment programs more appealing to this challenging population. The adolescents here are attempting to connect with the horses and to each other by coordinating their drum rhythms in a way that engages these curious, but cautious animals. It is an exercise in communication (including feedback from the horses), coordination, cooperation, and awareness. Eye of a Horse Nature Exposure Animal-assisted Mental Health Programs offer a diverse array of treatment programs for various populations, including adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum, military veterans, and individuals with various mental health challenges. All programs are held on the grounds of Forever Florida, a 4700-acre wildlife preserve in Osceola County.