A pair of leading organizations in the mental-health community of the St. John’s region have just completed an inaugural initiative.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) and Stella’s Circle have combined their efforts to complete a six-week equine therapy program to encourage participants to literally take the reins and be in charge of their own lives.
This pilot project, completed at the Avalon Equestrian Centre in Conception Bay South, is a form of expressive therapy that is beneficial for just about anyone who desires to gain greater self-awareness, work through painful emotions and start a healing process from psychological and physical symptoms.
According to its website, Avalon Equestrian Centre Ltd. is an established equestrian facility that offers western riding lessons, horse boarding and equine-assisted therapy.
“Equine therapy has taught me about healthy relationships and setting boundaries, and it has improved my self-confidence.” — Program participant
The EAGALA program, the only one of its kind in Newfoundland and Labrador, helps people deal with emotions, attitudes and behaviours that individuals may not be able to see themselves. It helps them to recognize unhealthy patterns, identify personal strengths and make changes to put new behaviours in place.
Expressive therapies can also be helpful for someone struggling with challenging life issues and may include horticultural, music, yoga and art therapies, to name several.
Stella’s Circle has been adding expressive therapies to program offerings as its funding has allowed. These therapies offer a hands-on approach that encourages participants to be the experts in their own lives, together with guidance from staff who are trained, mental-health professionals.
Residents at Stella’s Circle’s Emmanuel House were thrilled to participate in this ground-breaking program.
“I’ve gained a lot of insight into my abilities,” said one program participant, who wanted to remain anonymous. “Equine therapy has taught me about healthy relationships and setting boundaries, and it has improved my self-confidence.”
Equine therapy has shown to have these positive benefits and more, which include: confidence, self-efficacy, self-concept, communication, trust, perspective, decreased isolation, self-acceptance, impulse control, social skills, boundaries and a spiritual connection, according to equine-psychotherapy.com.
Equine therapy is the discipline of using horses as a means to provide metaphoric experiences in order to promote emotional growth. The horses used in this therapy provide an excellent way for individuals to react when they are otherwise therapy-resistant.
The equine therapists usually teach many lessons on ways in which horses learn, react and follow instructions to the lives of youth themselves.
“Stella’s Circle is thrilled to be working with the RNC and the Avalon Equestrian Centre on this innovative partnership,” Lisa Browne, Stella’s Circle CEO, stated in a news release Tuesday.
“These kinds of collaborations can change traditionally held beliefs about law enforcement and strengthen trust and relationships with law enforcement officials. We are also very grateful to Avalon Equestrian Centre for their expertise and guidance.”
Equine therapy is not about riding horses. Instead, participants learn about themselves and their approach to life by interacting with the horses. The hands-on experience in the barn results in self-reflection and awareness.
“We believe we are the first police force in North America to partner with community groups to offer this kind of program”, RNC Chief Joe Boland stated in the release.
“Officers with the equine unit have been very impressed with the impact that this type of programming can have.”
Stella’s Circle is a leading community organization in St. John's, with programs and services offered to adults who face many barriers from fully participating in the community.
These barriers include mental-health challenges, addictions, trauma, poverty, homelessness, criminal justice involvement, low literacy and long periods of unemployment.
More information is available at StellasCircle.ca.