Alfred University News

New interdisciplinary program in equine-assisted psychotherapy approved: an intersection of equine studies and psychology

Alfred University’s Division of Psychology recently announced it will work jointly with the Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center, at Maris Cuneo Equine Park, and University graduate programs in Counseling and School Psychology to initiate a revolutionary new interdisciplinary program in Equine-assisted Psychotherapy.

The new concentration was recently approved by the New York State Department of Education, and classes will begin in the Fall of 2024.

Equine-assisted psychotherapy, often referred to as EAP or “equine therapy,” refers to an experiential mental health treatment approach that involves being with horses in their natural environment to improve human functioning. EAP is a collaborative approach to psychological and behavioral health treatments and is conducted under the guidance of a licensed mental health professional and an equine specialist.

All therapeutic work with horses is conducted on the ground and focuses on the learners’ interactions and experiences with the horse(s), rather than horsemanship skills. The therapy is considered a promising practice in the treatment of anxiety, depression, behavioral disorders, eating disorders, trauma, addiction, and relational problems. Individuals who do not respond well to more traditional methods of talk therapy, such as children with ADHD or autism, often experience relief of symptoms and improvements in self-awareness, empathy, confidence, and coping strategies through EAP.

Alfred University undergraduate students pursuing a psychology major with a concentration in equine-assisted psychotherapy will receive coursework blending the knowledge and skills of psychology, counseling, and equine studies with the possibility of equine business management coursework. The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) will provide guiding principles of ethical training and practice, and graduating students will have the requisite foundational knowledge and practical skills to complete the EAGALA certification process for the Equine Specialist role.

Additionally, students may continue their graduate studies at Alfred University in the Counseling or School Psychology programs where they will be prepared to obtain professional licensure as a NYS-licensed mental health counselor or NYS-licensed psychologist. The students would be eligible to complete the EAGALA certification process for the Mental Health Professional.

Organizers of Alfred University’s Equine-assisted Psychotherapy concentration in Psychology say the program could make the University the premier destination for students interested in combining their love and knowledge of horses and interest in the equine business with the desire to be helpers and practitioners in the field of behavioral health services.

“This is huge for Alfred University,” says Danielle Gagne, Professor of Psychology. “The Equine-assisted Psychotherapy program represents an interdisciplinary intersection between equestrian studies and management coupled with the scientific study of human behavior in order to empower the growth and learning of clients who receive this treatment.”

Additionally, Alfred University will regularly host a Fundamentals of the EAGALA Training Course, a five-day workshop required for certification as an EAGALA practitioner. This course will attract professionals from the U.S. and other countries who want to obtain and maintain professional certification as EAGALA practitioners.