For many years, Michelle Walker Sayre, LCSW-C, has worked as a traditional psychotherapist with individuals, non-profit organizations and corporations, but it was not until 2011 that she became EAGALA certified as a mental health provider in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning.
Growing more and more convinced of the healing power of this work, in 2013 she opened Stable Options, LLC and currently practices at Hunting Ground Farm in Whiteford, Md. Today she uses this therapy, and she acknowledges there are those who look askance at the very idea, to treat people suffering from conditions as serious as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to those who wish to improve communication and problem-solving strategies in the workplace. “Both Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning are the most powerful treatment modality I have ever worked with,” says Sayre. “Although this does not replace traditional therapy.”
Sayre notes that in such work, a mental health professional is teamed with an equine specialist and all the work is done on the ground. “We work to set up ground activities with a client who might want to examine obstacles that they have faced in their lives,” says Sayre, who also has a traditional practice in Bel Air, “and they often create an obstacle that they have to move the horse through.”
• Individual & Family Psychotherapy
• Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
• Equine Assisted Learning (Corporate/Organizational Team Building & Retreats)
• Critical Incident Stress Debriefings
• Board Certified Clinical Social Worker
• EAGALA Certified Mental Health Provider
• Level I Advanced Trauma (PTSD) Treatment
• Critical Incident Stress Debriefing
• Circuit Court Mediation Requirements
After that work is completed, the therapist will work with clients to help them identify what is happening to them internally – as she notes, individuals suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety and other disorders often have somatic symptoms, which can effectively be addressed with the experiential modality of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy.
In the case of one organization that was dealing with a number of employees who were having problems working together, the day after experiencing Equine Assisted Learning at the farm she received a call from the group leader, who said, “You probably saved me at least a year of trying to figure out how to get these individuals to work together.”
She credits her background and experience in psychotherapy, as well as her insight into the power and peacefulness that come from being around horses and other animals in a natural environment to the success that she sees in her work. “It really is a privilege and honor to be doing this work,” she says. I95