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 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.
In this video clip, young clients speak about their responses to equine-assisted psychotherapy.