Horses Healing Hearts Hosts Florida Atlantic University’s Counseling and Psychological Services Department
Wellington, Fla. – Sept. 26, 2016 – Horses Healing Hearts (HHH) hosted twenty-six members of Florida Atlantic University’s Counseling and Psychological Services Department for a unique team-building exercise on Friday, August 19. While many participants did not know what to expect as they stepped foot on the grounds of Johnson’s Folly Horse Farm, each member of the department walked away with a new appreciation of self and horse.
“It’s the most amazing experience to watch people transform from the beginning to the completion of a session,” Rhonda Fritzshall shared. “These types of team-building exercises bring out an authentic side of a person. They transform emotionally and physically. They begin to open up, become calm and relaxed and let go of their barriers.”
Fritzshall, the HHH Equine Assisted Learning Director, coordinated the event for the FAU Counseling and Psychological Services Department. The full-day event focused on team building, empathy, safety and connectedness in an equine-centered approach.
“One of our clinicians, Gloria Stuart, LMHC, heard about the organization from a colleague,” Interim Clinical Director, Blaise Amendolace, Psy. D. said. “Upon learning more about the work that HHH does, she believed that our staff could benefit from the hands-on experience provided. She was very impressed with the evidence-based practices employed, and the overall friendliness and flexibility of the staff.”
The group of 26 split into four teams and were assigned a horse. The teams designed an office space using HHH-provided props, then worked together to diagnose the needs of each horse, as well as discuss treatment plans.
The afternoon session challenged the FAU team to build an obstacle course using props that symbolized the upcoming school year. Each participant wrote their goal on an egg and led a horse through the obstacle course. At the end, the department regrouped and talked about the challenges and successes they faced in the exercise that they may encounter in the 2016-2017 academic year.
Fritzshall’s goals included helping participants connect to themselves and each other. Horses are compassionate and patient, and interacting with them helps teach life skills. Those who work with horses often gain confidence and natural empowerment from the interaction.
HHH is a Delray Beach-based 501(c)3 that works with children who have been affected by a family member with addiction. However, their commitment to equine-assisted learning extends to multiple facets within the community, and their sessions can be customized for a unique experience.
“We left our experience feeling closer to one another,” Dr. Amendolace added. “We left more educated regarding Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), and feeling energized for the upcoming school year. The staff at HHH, both human and horse, were incredibly kind, thoughtful, and welcoming. Our expectations were exceeded, and we look forward to referring other departments and teams to check out HHH for group development and overall healing!”