Equine Facilitated Counseling

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About EFC

Horses are natural therapeutic partners because they inherently possess characteristics that help humans learn about their environment, their relationships, and themselves.  As herd animals, horses are naturally social and often accept humans into their herd once a relationship is built based on trust. As prey animals, horses learned to survive by being in tune with their environment and developing non-verbal communication. Horses provide clients with immediate and unfiltered feedback that can lead clients toward increased self-awareness and self-regulation.

In Equine Facilitated Counseling, clients work with a licensed mental health professional, a certified equine specialist, and a therapy horse to accomplish personal goals in support of a treatment plan. Potential benefits include enhanced:

  • Communication

  • Confidence

  • Trust

  • Impulse control

  • Emotional regulation

  • Frustration tolerance

  • Social skills

  • Spiritual connection

Equest’s counseling program is a wellness program. Equest focuses on client strengths and the power of the human-horse connection to facilitate the healing process. Through EFC, clients and their families can increase self-awareness and learn how their interactions affect others. Coupling the power of the horse with the power of therapy allows for rapid movement in reaching therapeutic goals. 

Click here to learn more about how Equest’s Hooves for Heroes helped Navy Veteran Jeff.

 

Meet the counseling program staff

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Equest Counseling Program Manager

Leslie West, MS, LPC-Intern, NCC, ESMHL

Supervised by Amy Dojahn, M.Ed., LPC-S

My relationship with horses began when I was a child. On long visits to my grandparents, I woke up before dawn to either help my grandmother feed horses or help my grandfather at the racetrack. I loved the smell of the barn, being outside, and getting to know the horses. However, I fell off a horse when I was 10 years old and did not get back on for almost 25 years.

I took a chance and reignited my relationship with horses by volunteering at Equest in 2015. I experienced the powerful ability that horses have to help humans communicate, connect, and heal.

The deepest pain humans experience often occurs while in relationship with others. This can cause people to feel anxious, misunderstood, and/or lonely. These feelings may present themselves in seemingly opposing behaviors such as: 

  • Acting out or being withdrawn at home/school/work

  • Impulsive decision making or indecisiveness

  • Jumping in/out of romantic relationships or remaining in less than healthy relationships

In light of the increasing disconnectedness we experience with ourselves and others, healthy relationships – including the therapeutic relationship – are critical to the healing process of people across the lifespan. The horses and I provide a space that fosters safety, a relationship that fosters support, and feedback that fosters change. Through our work together, you will have the opportunity to:

  • Evaluate the underlying cause of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors

  • Practice emotional regulation

  • Further develop your identity

  • Learn how to set and maintain boundaries

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern in Texas and earned my Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from University of North Texas. My specialty is trauma recovery for children, adults, and families who are veterans, military families, and/or survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Related experience includes five years of consulting for the US State Department and two years as an educator in public schools.

 
 
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Equest Program Counselor

Darrell Audas, MS, LPC-Intern

Supervised by Shareen Howard, LPC-S

As long as I remember I have had a heart for our military members. Spending my childhood watching the Vietnam War and its aftermath unfold on the television had an enormous impact on me. This experience gave me a great respect for our active duty military members and veterans; and it influenced my decision to join the Army out of high school. All of this has helped shape who I am today. Before my children were born, I developed a passion for counseling so I embarked on a 10 year journey and ultimately earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling from the University of North Texas.

As a counselor, I take a goal-oriented approach to find a balance between life experiences, cognitive beliefs, and current behaviors. Because of this, I am able to tailor each session to the specific needs of the client. I strongly believe that each individual’s problems are unique, which makes him or her the master of his or her own life. To me, counseling works using a collaborative process through which the client finds healthier thoughts and behaviors, which in turn contributes to a better lifestyle.

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern in Texas. I volunteer as a counselor at the Denton County Jail and find great fulfillment in doing so. My clinical experience ranges from adolescents to seniors. I enjoy working with a variety of clients, but I am especially passionate about helping other veterans in need. 

I love living a full life and greatly enjoy helping others do the same. My wife and I have two wonderful children, a boy and a girl. I was 47 when my son was born and 49 when we had our daughter. They help keep me young and very busy, and I cherish every moment of being a husband and dad. 

 
 

Equest program counselor

Karen Dumas, MS, LPC-S, RPT-S

Starting out I had a love for horses. My grandparents had a retired barrel racing horse that was able to live out the rest of his life grazing in the pasture. At a very young age, I recall my grandmother telling me to take out this smelly bucket full of watermelon rinds and other discarded veggies to feed Sam the horse. And apparently, according to my baby book, my first sentence was "Sam's eating". Sam was not the kind of horse that naturally made you feel safe and secure; he did his own thing and when he was done riding he would head straight back to the barn with or without you. Despite his stubbornness, I had a very unique and loving relationship with Sam. My grandfather and I even had dreams that Sam could talk.

 As a therapist, having worked with children and families for 20 years, I see the incredible benefits from partnering with horses. Even though they can't talk like Sam 😄 horses mirror back to us emotions that we might not yet even be aware of. It is this innate ability that makes partnering with horses so powerful - they help people learn more about themselves, increase self-confidence, and learn to build and maintain interpersonal relationships. I believe that we each have it within ourselves to bring about change in our lives, to tweak the actions and behaviors that aren’t working for us, and learn new techniques and strategies to be our best selves.  I'm excited to combine my experience of working with children and families with my love for horses.

 I received my Bachelor’s in Child Development and Master’s in Counseling from the University of North Texas. My specialty is using play therapy as a means to work with children that are not cognitively or developmentally able to process their life experiences just yet through "talk therapy". I have experience with children, adolescents and families who have survived trauma, including victims of violent crimes, domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, and interpersonal and relationship trauma. I have also counseled families as they deal with a medical diagnosis and navigating the hospital experiences for children. For the last 11 years, I provided services to children with emotional and behavioral struggles at Momentous Institute. Today, I spend my time working at my private practice and Equest, while I raise two really amazing mutts. 

 

Become a client

To become an Equest counseling client, please contact Leslie West at lwest@equest.org.

Fee Schedule

Initial New Client Appointment/Evaluation: $95
50 Minute Individual Session: $95
80 Minute Group Session: $50
Active duty service personnel, members of the Guard or Reserve, or any veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their immediate family members: NO COST