Eastern Shore Psychological Services, Kent Youth and Bridges at Worthmore partner to provide Equestrian Assisted Psychotherapy to at-risk youth.
With support from a grant from Kent Youth, Inc., Eastern Shore Psychological Services (ESPS) has partnered with Bridges at Worthmore located in Worton to provide Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) to youth with behavioral health needs. Barbie Glenn, Assistant Regional Director for ESPS’ Mid-Shore programs explains, “We are very excited about this program. EAP provides an opportunity for the adolescents to work with the horses as they work through complex emotional, familial and behavioral problems. We have seen remarkable outcomes that were not available with traditional talk therapy." Glenn further explains, "Equine-assisted work often helps clients change and grow more effectively and quickly than traditional clinical and psycho-educational approaches because people typically learn best by doing. Life lessons take deeper root when individuals both understand them in their heads and experience them in their bodies."
The young men and women do not ride the horses in EAP, but do ground-work. This allows for the horses and clients to be themselves and not have to act a certain way. This creates a space to explore, be ourselves, and build relationships on equal footing. Pam Kuster, Program Director of Bridges at Worthmore notes, “The horses have an extraordinary ability to sense emotions. As an EAGALA certified Equine Specialist, it has been a great opportunity to work with ESPS therapists who understand the potential of this program to truly help young people.”
EAGALA sessions are facilitated by a certified team which includes a licensed mental health professional and equine specialist who hold the space for clients and horses to interact. Life stories begin unfolding symbolically in a safe and supportive setting. As the horses play out scenarios, clients gain insights and begin to see and feel change in themselves.
Bets Durham, President of the Board of Kent Youth, Inc. notes, "We are pleased with the results of this partnership. The outcomes we are seeing is very much in keeping with the mission of Kent Youth." In 2014 the Kent Youth boys home had to shutter its doors. The number of adjudicated youth being referred to group homes had dropped significantly. Since that time, KYI repurposed its mission to become a funding agency for organizations providing worthwhile programs for our population of at-risk youth. Durham notes, “The ESPS and Worthmore partnership is a prime example of a creative and effective community based program reaching out to our youth in need”