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Horses as Healers


Spero Creative Counseling Center, in partnership with Rocky Creek Ranch, provides equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP). 

As defined by PATH Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International), equine-facilitated psychotherapy is, “a form of experiential psychotherapy that includes equine(s).  Equine-facilitated psychotherapy is a treatment approach within the classification of equine-assisted therapy that provides the client with opportunities to enhance self-awareness and re-pattern maladaptive behaviors, feelings and attitudes.”

Do I need a physician referral to become a client?

A physician referral is not necessary. You may contact us at 704-764-1462 to arrange an intake appointment and to begin developing a treatment plan. In addition, if you have questions of a general nature about available programs, please contact us.

What will my sessions at the farm be like?

Every equine-facilitated therapeutic session at the farm will be co-facilitated by Sarah J Williams (licensed professional counselor) and a certified Equine Specialist. This team approach allows us to maximize your physical and emotional safety while working with the animals. Sessions may be individual, couples, family, or group structured depending on your treatment goals. Duration of individual, couples and family sessions are typically 55 minutes and group work is typically done in ninety minute sessions. Again, depending upon your goals, you may come to the farm once or for several months and the content of your sessions will vary. The treatment team will design activities at the farm that will allow you to explore issues related to self-awareness, confidence, boundary setting, interpersonal skills, trust, respect, body image, etc. The activities may include animal observation, leading, grooming, caretaking, groundwork, trick training, riding, and any number of other creative ways that we will guide your interactions with the animals so that you can learn about yourself.

Do I need to have horse experience?

No prior horse experience is necessary. Most of our clients have never been around horses and may never be around them again after completing therapy.

Will I learn how to ride horses?

Equine-facilitated therapy is very different than riding lessons. Our objective is not to teach you a skill to improve your horsemanship, but rather to allow you to gain self-awareness that will assist you in meeting the goals of the treatment plan that has been developed by you and your therapist. You may do some mounted work with the horses if there is a therapeutic reason for doing so.

Is it safe?

Our staff has spent hundreds of hours developing our own horsemanship, selecting and caring for the horses and other animals here. We know all of them very well and carefully choose certain horses for certain clients and activities. The job of the Equine Specialist during all sessions is to maintain physical safety for the participants. That being said, horses are 1,000 pound creatures with the instincts of a prey animal. We will certainly minimize risk, but part of your experience here at the farm is also taking responsibility for your own safety, a subject that we will discuss in greater detail once you are here.

Should I wear special clothing?

When working with the animals, we ask that you wear closed toe shoes and if possible, no dangling jewelry. If we are planning to do mounted work with the horses, we will also ask that you wear long pants and a heeled shoe.

Do you take insurance payments?

Therapy at the farm is eligible for coverage in the way that other behavioral health services may be as nature is simply an alternative setting as opposed to a more traditional office setting; and animals including horses are an additional tool.  Regardless of these differences, we still utilize more well-known treatment approaches including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Solutions-Focused Therapy (SFT), Narrative Therapy, etc. EFP sessions incur two separate charges per session including a fee for the licensed therapist and a fee for the Equine Specialist (ES).  Please note that the ES fee is not covered by insurance.  For more information, refer to our Rates & Services tab.

What are your qualifications? 

Couldn't I go to any farm and call it therapy?

When seeking nature based, animal assisted and equine facilitated psychotherapy, you should be very careful in examining the credentials of a farm that claims to be doing “therapy.” 

At Rocky Creek Ranch, all of our Equine Specialists have received training and certification through PATH and/or EAGALA. We would be happy to provide the criteria for these certifications, which require ongoing continuing education to stay current in this emerging field. The therapist also undergoes certification specific to equine therapy.  The farm holds extensive liability insurance specific to the field of animal assisted therapy. Most importantly, any time that we are providing therapeutic services, the mental health professional is present and is licensed to practice in the state of North Carolina.

How can I get the ball rolling?

Click HERE for contact information and we will help you get started.