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Can I Become an Equine Assisted Therapist With a Counseling Degree?

equine-assisted-therapyEquine assisted therapy is increasingly becoming a popular method of treatment and rehabilitation for a variety of physical, mental, and emotional conditions.

The combination of counseling therapies and the use of animals is an effective method, and the medical community continues to recognize and research the many benefits of this medium in counseling.

Equine Therapy for Treatment

Individuals with mental, emotional, and development disabilities often benefit from participation in equine assisted therapy. In addition to increases in communication and general socialization skills, many researchers and therapists have noted improved self-image and self esteem, contributing to the ability to overcome various depressive conditions and help to improve the interaction and communication skills in patients who are being treated for everything from autism to social anxiety disorder. Children and adults with developmental learning disorders are also often able to benefit from equine assisted therapy, improving the skills needed to focus, relax, and succeed in learning environments.

Patients with physical disabilities are also able to take away benefits from equine assisted therapy. For patients working to regain the use of muscle and range of motion, the various positions, mounting, and dismounting all contribute to physical improvement. In addition, this form of therapy can improve balance, muscle use, and respiration, in addition to many others.

Additional information can be found at the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.

Counseling Degree Overview

Students majoring in counseling at the undergraduate and graduate level will complete a number of courses that are helpful in working in various therapy environments and disciplines, including for organizations focused on the use of treatments to assist patients with physical, mental, emotional, and developmental disabilities. A counseling degree is a solid start for individuals who are interested in considering beginning a career in traditional counseling therapies or in assisted therapy positions.

Resource: Top 25 Ranked Affordable Online Counseling Degrees (Bachelor's) 2014

Common courses for a counseling major include clinical intervention, psychopathology, assessment, group counseling, marriage counseling, research methods, diagnosis, treatment planning, and counseling for diverse populations. Most students will also complete a practicum and clinical hours to gain practical experience in working with patients in a therapy environment.

While a counseling degree offers much of the course work and helps students gain the knowledge and skills needed for handling patient care in various therapies, additional degrees, certifications, or course work is likely to be required to enter into the equine assisted therapy specialization.

Equine Assisted Therapy Specialization

To work as a licensed equine assisted therapy professional, it is likely that a candidate will need to complete a degree with a concentration in this specific specialization. There are also certification programs available, such as that offered through the Certification Board for Equine Interaction Professionals. Students complete course work in applied relational horsemanship, facilitating equine therapy, best practices in equine-assisted learning, foundations of assisted therapies, and a professional practicum.

Individuals who are interested in helping others often consider a career in counseling for personal and professional satisfaction. For individuals who also have a passion for horses and non-traditional methods for patient treatment, equine assisted therapy is an option for an even more satisfying and successful career.

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