Most children enjoy coming to Peacefield for psychiatric appointments more than they like seeing doctors in a clinic, and it gives our clinicians to see youth in a less "institutional" location. Often the youth are less anxious, and better able to engage—though sometimes the kids are more excited!
Some parents have asked “why do you see patients in this setting?” During the last several years in clinical practice, Dr. Jenna became frustrated by the limitations of the most common treatment interventions that we have to offer. Pharmacotherapy, Individual, Group, and Family therapies, Home-based therapies all have the potential to help children and their families improve their ability to cope and function with life’s challenges.
Something still seemed to be missing. Dr. Jenna wanted to find some way to assist children and families practice problem-solving and gain a sense of self-efficacy and self-management in real time, with a therapeutic presence for support, rather than having to “report back” to a therapist in an office several days or even weeks after attempting, successfully or unsuccessfully, to manage a challenging experience. After exploration and study, Dr. Jenna found that equine assisted therapy is an excellent way for children and families to develop a sense of self-efficacy and self-management, to utilize their strengths and overcome their limitations, and to become optimistic about their capacity to cope with real life challenges.
So CAPC is on a ranch, in a barn, where Dr. Jenna collaborates with a team of therapists and equine specialists at the program, H.O.R.SE.S. T.R.E.A.T., LLC. (Human Optimism Resilience Self-Efficacy and Strength Through Responsive Equine Assisted Therapy)
Few of us would choose to be cared for by a physician who studied medicine only in books. we prefer that trainees practice new procedures and skills under the supervision of an experienced clinician who guides them. I believe that patients will be more successful at replacing maladaptive behaviors in their repertoire with adaptive ones when given the opportunities to practice skills–such as coping with frustration, managing confusing or anxiety-provoking situations, or interacting healthfully with family members or peers– if they have the opportunity to practice these skills while guided by a therapist in real time.
Some equine therapists speak of the effects that a horse’s spirit and emotional responsiveness can have on promoting emotoinal growth and awareness in the humans they work with. The horse can be a motivator, while the patient and therapist can form a trusting alliance, set goals for horsemanship, and work together to problem solve and process the patient’semtional and behavioral responses, with real-time feedback.
The horse is an asset when creating real-time challenges for a patient needing to develop frustration tolerance, problem solving skills, impulse control, anger management, and social skills. We can design tasks to challenge the development of flexibility, persistence, and responsiveness.
For many children, the desire to succeed with the horse inspires the patient to persevere and tolerate frustration, and to encourage the development of emotional and behavioral self-management. Equine assisted therapy can encourage explorations of feelings and behaviors to promote human growth and development.
For youth who do not seem able to "open up" or use words to express their thoughts and feelings, or to talk about their experiences, the horses can be a useful way of utilizing metaphor for an improved understanding.
For those who have a history of trauma that occurred when they were not yet able to process it in words (i.e. early childhood), equine assisted therapy can help a person connect their nonverbal/emotional experiences with their cognitive/language centers to help them work through these issues.
I also believe that clinical care cannot occur separate from advocacy at within our political and legal systems. I am a vocal advocate for mental health, and the health and well-being of children and families.
I also provide forensic psychiatry consultation for legal cases including those involving juvenile offenders and young adult offenders, custody and adoption issues, abuse, trauma and attachment, and civil law matters that are relevant to child and adolescent development.