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The Role of Mirror Neurons in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy





At Strides to Solutions, located in the peaceful moshav Sitiryya in central Israel, I, Esther Adams-Aharony, Psy.D, a licensed Israeli Social Worker and Certified EMDR therapist, specialize in a unique and transformative form of therapy: Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP). My approach, deeply rooted in the biophilia hypothesis, leverages the innate connection between humans and animals, particularly horses, to facilitate emotional and mental healing. This blog delves into how I utilize EAP at Strides to Solutions, with a special focus on the intriguing role of mirror neurons in this therapeutic process.


The Therapeutic Role of Horses at Strides to Solutions: Deepening Emotional Insights

At Strides to Solutions, my therapy horses are more than just animals; they are co-facilitators in the healing process. These majestic creatures possess a unique sensitivity, enabling them to engage in profound non-verbal communication, which forms the cornerstone of my therapy sessions.


A Language Beyond Words

The horses at my farm communicate without words, offering immediate and honest feedback that is often more telling than spoken language. This form of communication is especially therapeutic for clients who may find traditional verbal communication challenging. The horses' ability to sense and respond to human emotions creates a dynamic and reflective environment where healing can begin.


Mirroring Emotions for Deeper Understanding

One of the most remarkable aspects of my equine partners is their ability to mirror the emotional states of my clients. This mirroring goes beyond mere empathy; it is an intuitive reflection of the client's inner emotional landscape. As clients interact with the horses, they often see their own feelings and behaviors mirrored back, providing a clarity that might be elusive in other settings.


Uncovering Hidden Emotions

The horses have an uncanny ability to detect and respond to emotions that clients themselves might not be fully aware of. They act as a barometer for hidden emotions, bringing them to the surface in a gentle yet powerful way. This process helps clients to confront and understand their innermost feelings, often leading to breakthroughs that might not be achieved in a conventional therapy setting.


Building Trust and Emotional Safety

In my sessions, clients learn to build trust with the horses, a process that can be deeply symbolic of their relationships and struggles. As clients navigate the process of earning a horse's trust, they often gain insights into their own issues around trust, vulnerability, and emotional safety. The horses, with their non-judgmental presence, create a safe space for clients to explore these themes.


A Catalyst for Change

The interaction with horses at Strides to Solutions is not just about the time spent in the therapy arena; it's a catalyst for change that extends beyond our farm. The lessons learned and the emotional growth experienced in the presence of our horses often translate into improved relationships, better emotional regulation, and a deeper understanding of oneself in the clients' daily lives.


Mirror Neurons: Bridging the Gap Between Horses and Humans

One of the most fascinating aspects of my EAP program is the potential involvement of mirror neurons. These neurons, which replicate the behavior and emotions observed in others, could be key in explaining the profound connection between my clients and horses. As clients interact with horses, their mirror neurons might activate, fostering a deep sense of empathy and understanding. This neurological mimicry can lead to breakthroughs in therapy, as clients see their emotions and behaviors reflected in the horses.


Biophilia Hypothesis: Underpinning My Therapeutic Approach

My work at Strides to Solutions is underpinned by the biophilia hypothesis, which posits an inherent human tendency to connect with nature and living beings. This connection is therapeutic and essential for mental well-being. In my EAP sessions, I witness daily how this natural affinity between humans and horses facilitates healing and self-discovery.


EAP in Action at Strides to Solutions

In my therapy sessions, horses play various roles – from reflecting clients' emotions to confronting them with their authentic selves. These interactions, carefully observed and interpreted by me, help clients gain insights into their mental and emotional states. The non-verbal communication and behavior of horses, combined with the empathetic environment I create, allow clients to explore and address deep-seated emotional issues.


Conclusion

At Strides to Solutions, I am proud to offer a unique and effective form of therapy that harnesses the natural bond between humans and horses. The potential role of mirror neurons in EAP adds a fascinating dimension to my understanding of this therapeutic process. My approach not only aids in emotional and mental healing but also enriches our appreciation of the human-animal bond. I invite you to experience the transformative power of EAP at my serene farm, where healing and self-discovery are journeys we embark on together with my clients and horses.

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