By Trisha Prickett
Ascent 121 is delighted to partner with Agape Therapeutic Riding Resources to provide equine therapy for girls in the Impact Program. This therapy is entirely funded by charitable giving. If you’d like to donate toward this program click here and select Equine Therapy from the gift designation options.
Girls in the Impact Program have the opportunity to participate in equine therapy. Each week there is a different focus. One recent topic was communication. Agape leaders talked about the various types of communication: passive, passive-aggressive, assertive, and aggressive. They had the girls discuss examples of each including body language, tone, demeanor, the type of message each type of communication sends to its recipient, etc. Then the girls were able to put this to practice with the horses by getting them to walk around the arena in a circle.
I believe equine therapy is beneficial because it provides an experiential way for the girls to put into practice what they are learning. It isn’t just something they learn cognitively; rather,they put it to use tangibly. This experience allows them to see the benefits first-hand. For example, what I teach them in group therapy, they are not always able to practice using immediately. At Agape, they discuss it and then immediately execute what they learn. It gives it the ability “to stick.”
Some of the girls are fearful at first. The staff encourages them to brush the horse, allow the horse to get used to them, talk to the horse in an assertive tone. By the end of the sessions, they each have a “favorite” horse. I think it’s evidence that even though something can initially feel foreign, fearful – if you give it authentic effort and don’t give up, you’re able to see the benefits of it. It’s kind of similar to treatment. I notice once they quit fighting it, that’s when you can see things begin to click with them. They start to want it for themselves.
It was so beautiful to see them smile and laugh wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, it can be rare to see that during residential treatment. So often they are depressed or morose because of what has happened to them. With equine therapy, it’s almost like they discover they are able to breathe with new lungs. I see God at work by offering hope, especially when they are able to get the horses to do what they wanted by using assertive communication. It is exciting to watch!
Trisha serves as a therapist on the Ascent 121 team. She has been working with human trafficking survivors for two years, providing direct services to clients and their families. Her specialties include trauma-informed care and providing services unique to the needs of this population.