Horses help heal
A BULLSBROOK counsellor has combined her passion for helping people and her love of horses to help treat people with mental health issues and drug addiction.
Louise Atkinson from Whispering Sands Equine Assisted Counselling is working with Bullsbrook-based recovery program Tenacious House to help those struggling with addiction or mental health issues to claim back their lives.
The partnership has been running for the past two years and has been successful. The equine program teaches patients about boundaries and helps empower them.
Former patient Robert Andrews said the program helped him recover from his addiction issues.
“At first it was a bit daunting, which is normal, but once I got to know the horses I became more confident with them and with myself, and was able to apply what I learned to life,” he said.
“Each horse has an individual personality and communicates through body language on how they felt about a situation.
“It helped me learn about boundaries and how to communicate by reading body language, which I was then able to apply to other situations and relationships with people.”
Ms Atkinson said she became an equine assisted counsellor after spending 20 years working as an instructor of natural horsemanship.
She said she became a qualified counsellor to help make a difference. The horses were her partners in the process and chose to take part in sessions.
“The horses really pick the person they want to work with and if they don’t want to participate they don’t,” she said.
“The horses offer such unique feedback and authentic relationships. People have to learn how to say no to the horse without upsetting the horse and once they’ve done that they can apply that to real life and once they learn how to say no it’s very empowering.
“Horses are also a good conversation starter. People who don’t want to do counselling come here and it doesn’t really feel like a counselling session.”
She said the experience of watching horses help heal people was powerful.
“There is no riding in the sessions, it’s all about handling the horse, touching them and learning from their body language,” she said.
“My passion is to make a difference in peoples’ lives.”
Counsellor Louise Atkinson and Robert Andrews with Zebedee the horse, which is being used in the Tenacious House recovery program.