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“The adult survivors of childhood trauma who participate in equine-facilitated therapy sessions are impacted by what they experience in the round pen with a horse on a level that is hard to reach in a traditional therapy office. Many have expressed that they feel more comfortable and safe interacting with horses than they do with humans given the hurt that other humans have inflicted upon them in the past.”
Melanie Marklein, PhD, LCP,
Eponaquest Instructor
from her post, "Healing with Horses".

Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP)

Experiencing growth, discovery, and connection

Equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) can be a profound experience for people healing from trauma and abuse, struggling with depression and anxiety, or recovering from eating disorders or addiction. EFP is an experiential treatment modality that can be a beneficial adjunct to traditional talk therapy. 


Horses are uniquely suited to the role of helping people overcome the residual effects of trauma. As prey animals, horses have evolved to be highly sensitive to shifts in their environment. It is a matter of survival to be able to sense the heart rate, breathing rate, and emotional energy of their herd members and other living creatures in the area (especially predators). They have much to teach humans about how to live in a state of relaxed awareness, ready to respond to threats as they arise without living in a constant state of fear and tension. They also model a form of non-predatory power that can help survivors of abuse recognize and practice assertiveness and power that is not aggressive or violent. 


Horses also make excellent therapists because they are honest and nonjudgmental. They cannot hide their real feelings or lie about their intentions. If the horse is feeling something (e.g., fear, anger, playfulness) he will show it. What you see is what you get. It is also true that we cannot hide our feelings from a horse. Horses can sense our emotions and they mirror back to us what we are communicating nonverbally. A horse doesn’t care how much education, money, or status a person has, or even what happened to us in the past. Horses respond to us based on how we are in the present moment, which helps us become more aware of our unconscious feelings, sensations, and thought patterns, and brings us into closer contact with our authentic selves.


During an EFP session, clients have an opportunity to interact with a horse in the presence of a therapist who is there to observe and reflect, promote safety, guide clients in ground activities with horses, and help clients process whatever feelings and insights emerge. It is not necessary for clients to have any prior horse knowledge or experience. EFP sessions do not include any riding. 


In equine-facilitated psychotherapy, clients will:

  • Practice setting boundaries

  • Develop assertiveness

  • Increase body awareness

  • Increase emotional awareness and emotional agility

  • Learn to access nonverbal information and intuition

  • Enhance mind-body-spirit connection

  • Be in the present moment

  • Move out of “false self” beliefs and behaviors 

  • Experience authentic connection

  • Experience a relationship built on mutual trust and respect

Participation in EFP

EFP sessions are held in St. Joseph, just outside of Champaign-Urbana.

Insurance benefits can be used for EFP. Please see our Fees and Insurance section for more information.

Please contact Melanie Marklein to schedule a consultation.

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