What is EFPL?

HEAL Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy & Learning

Through her work at HEAL, Leigh Shambo developed a specific model for Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy – EFP – an experiential psychotherapy built around live experiences with horses. EFP is effective for treating mental and emotional difficulties in humans of all ages, including anxiety and mood disorders, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The HEAL Model™ is also a great educational framework for Equine-Facilitated Learning —EFL— including personal growth learning programs for youths and adults. Such programs are not therapy, yet they provide many beneficial experiences & outcomes for growth and resilience in clients of many ages and diverse backgrounds.

Horse Dancing at a HEAL Personal Growth Workshop

“[The class] was brilliantly facilitated by Leigh- who gave a wonderful blend of theory, practical sessions, role modeling, acceptance, trust, rapport, and just enough magic to leave me feeling I had been to a special place, on an amazing journey, and met some wonderful souls.”
~ Kris C., OR

HEAL Founder Leigh Shambo, a horse expert and licensed counselor, has been a pioneer in the field of EFPL since 2000. She developed the HEAL model to be clinically effective and reliable for therapy, and equally useful and engaging for personal growth education and groupwork. As well, she developed it to help humans understand the mostly silent “language” of horses.

What is the HEAL Model™ of EFPL?

The HEAL Model™ uses a set of interrelated principles for understanding and managing emotion in ourselves and others, that we call “Six Keys to Relationship”. Each “key” provides a strategy for solving the most common interpersonal dilemmas, such as poor boundaries or negative self-esteem. The scientific research behind the HEAL model focuses on the brain neural circuits. These circuits, specifically devoted to social-emotional learning in humans, are powerful predictors of whether people can truly thrive.

HEAL Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy and Learning (EFPL) activities serve as a living relationship laboratory. The HEAL Model™ teaches specific skills for management of emotion, the capacity for connection, and stress regulation. The strengths of the HEAL Model™ of EFPL and make this model more suitable for clinical populations, especially those with a background of trauma.

Jenn Oikle introduces Leigh Shambo and the HEAL Model™

Leigh Shambo started HEAL in 2000. After completing promising research on her method of using EFPL to treat complex PTSD, Leigh began teaching EFPL practitioners in 2006. She started the HEAL Facilitator Training certification program in 2008, with Kathleen Ingram of the Epona Center. The HEAL FTP continues today, with many practitioners in the US and abroad. HEAL Facilitators are experienced professionals in therapy or education who also completed HEAL advanced trainings in EFPL to effectively employ horses in the service of human emotional and social Learning.

Can HEAL Psychotherapy/learning programs involve riding?

Human Equine Alliance Director Leigh Shambo with Horse at Human Equine Alliance

At HEAL, riding can be part of an individual client’s or student’s plan when it makes sense given treatment goals and is beneficial for the horse as well. Leigh Shambo offers consultation for practitioners related to the specific uses of ridden work in the treatment of PTSD and other disorders. Overall, ridden work is utilized for approximately 10% of our clients or students. For the majority of participants, the richness and safety of non-mounted exercises offers a more accessible learning experience, and the strongest foundation for later mounted work in EFPL.

Why choose the HEAL Model™ of EFPL?

As powerful as our equine partners are, ultimately it is the human participant who benefits most from the HEAL model. The model with its “6 Keys” helps clients understand the attachment basis for both horse and human needs and behaviors. For the facilitator, the HEAL Model helps in defining the direction and scope of a sessions or a course of therapy. The HEAL Model gives practitioners confidence as, together with the horses, they move customers toward desired outcomes.

HEAL has developed one of the most clinically useful models of equine-facilitated psychotherapy and learning (EFPL), as described in the book The Listening Heart by HEAL founder Leigh Shambo, MSW, LPCC. The HEAL model, with a core progression built around Six Keys to Relationship, is especially adapted for complex trauma and overlapping clinical issues; it is also suitable as a curriculum for educational or coaching interventions. It has the advantage of being widely adaptable for age and type of participant. Plus, HEAL offers a ‘research ready’ model, which has already achieved promising results in small quantitative and qualitative research pilots.

“I was able to keep developing the skills gained in the workshop over the days and weeks following… and developed robust enough tools to keep up the work.”
~ S. Lorenson, WA