The early adolescent program is thoughtfully designed to best suit the needs of this unique age group. Traditional talk therapy is not always the most effective approach when working with early adolescents, as it requires students to rely on verbal or abstract reasoning skills. These skills are not yet fully developed for many individuals at this age. Creative and play-based activities, on the other hand, are developmentally appropriate treatment modalities that can help early adolescents build important interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.
Through our partnership with Medicine Horse Equine Center, students in the early adolescent program participate in equine-assisted therapy. Medicine Horse Center is a nonprofit organization based in Mancos, Colorado that has been facilitating equine-assisted therapy and social-emotional learning programs for 22 years. They specialize in working with early adolescents and have created the A.W.A.R.E.™ program exclusively for this population.
The beauty of equine-assisted therapy is that it does not rely on verbal or language skills to be effective. Rather, students build relationships with horses by practicing emotional regulation skills, cultivating empathy, confidence, awareness of self and others, and respect. With the horses, students experience how their actions impact others, and learn to build relationships based on mutual consent and understanding. Horses are highly intuitive and aware animals that reflect the energy they feel around them. In this program, students learn to become aware of their feelings and energy, keep themselves calm and present, and develop trust with their horse. In return, the horses act as nonjudgmental partners to the students and provide space for students to work through strong feelings, make and learn from mistakes, and express themselves.
In addition to equine-assisted therapy, Medicine Horse also incorporates drumming, art, journaling, clay, and other expressive art activities into their work with students. Similar to equine therapy, these activities are safe and non-threatening ways for early adolescents to explore themselves and their relationships. By providing unique relational and experiential opportunities, our early adolescent program creates a safe space for exploration, healing, and transformation to occur.