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Court looks at equine program

By by Robert Blankenship
Special to The Advance
Officials with the Escambia County Drug Court were presented a program Friday introducing them to a psychotherapy program that involves interaction with horses. The program is being used to help participants of the drug court.
Nonie Linder and Sally Kapusciak are licensed therapist and horse professionals who combine their professional skills and their hobby to help drug addicts and others identify and deal with problems. They presented their program to local court officials who were able to take part in several exercises with the therapists' horse, Harley.
The program is sponsored by the Southewest Alabama Mental Health Agency. The therapists are licensed through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EGALA). EGALA is the leading organization in the growing field of Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) which has gained popularity in recent years.
In terms of the drug court, the program allows participants to interact with horses in specific exercises designed to teach them about themselves and human interaction. Judge Bradley Byrne said after watching the presentation that he can see the value of the program.
The program in not about riding, but rather using the reaction and emotions of the horse through non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking and problem-solving, leadership, work, taking responsibility, teamwork, relationships, confidence and attitude. In fact, 90 percent of EAP takes place on the ground. The therapy may be compared to ropes courses that implements the emotions and reaction of a living animal.
Through involving a horse in psychotherapy, therapists are able to challenge clients in a non-threatening manner, break down defensive barriers, provide immediate cause and effect situations, captivate and hold attention and promote change from dysfunctional patters to successful ones.
During the presentation, Linder and Kapusciak shared several example of how equine therapy can demonstrate to a participant their own attitudes and habits.
According to Byrne, the equine therapy has been utilized with the drug court's womens group and some of the men have also taken part.