Equine facilitated Counseling
EFC & Play Therapy
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. All sessions are unmounted, ground activities.
Potential benefits include enhanced:
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.
Leslie West & PTSD on WFAA
EFC Testimonial - Angela
EFC & Veterans
EFC Testimonial - Joe
All mental health professionals are licensed through the State of Texas and each specializes in a different area.
Equest Counseling Program Manager
Leslie West, MS, LPC-Intern, 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Acting out or being withdrawn at home/school/work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.
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.
Equest Program Counselor
Courtney Utter, M.Ed., LPC-Intern, ESMHL
Supervised by Christina McDonald, M.S., LPC-S
My love for horses sparked when I was eight years old. I have been riding and competing in English Hunter Jumper and developing my horsemanship skills ever since. I have experience conducting both small and large animal therapies.
I take a holistic approach to counseling and have a true passion for people, horses, healing, and helping. My education, clinical experience, and equine background all come together to teach and connect client's experiences with the horse in a theoretical therapeutic approach.
My personal core beliefs are rooted in love, positivity, open-mindedness, and genuine compassion. I believe we are in charge of the energy we give and the energy in which we receive. I am genuine in my approach and know not everyone fits into one box or category. Every activity/intervention is intentional and tailored for each individual. Just as each individual is different, so is each horse.
Humans and horses are born with an innate desire to connect. Partnering with a horse is powerful and takes mutual trust. It heightens self-awareness, allows the individual to overcome fears, develop trust, self-regulate feelings, and so much more. Since horses are so direct, their responses are immediate and honest, providing excellent feedback. In equine therapy, you cannot force anything to happen. This has not been easy to learn, but making a fifteen-hundred pound animal do something you want just will not work. It is all about establishing a connected relationship and building that trust before a partnership is created. I have witnessed how this partnership has changed many lives.
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern under the supervision of Christina McDonald, M.S., LPC-S. I obtained my Masters of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Texas Christian University (go frogs!). I am also a PATH Intl. Certified Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. I know the power of healing found through partnering with horses and look forward to sharing this discovery with others.
Become a Counseling Client
To become an Equest counseling client, please contact Leslie West at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Initial New Client Appointment/Evaluation: $95
50 Minute Individual Session: $95
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