Equine Facilitated Wellness -Canada was created by a group of competent and knowledgeable professionals in the field of not only mental health but also education and horsemanship. They came together from a need to create a more ethical and safe practice and give credibility to the field of EFW. They developed trainings and a certification program that is comprehensive and allows the integration of skills and knowledge according to one’s own needs, giving students the opportunity and flexibility to complete their certification in two years or more, if needed.
The EFW-CAN certification offers standards and guidelines to the practice that is central to all the EFW-CAN trainers however each trainer has their own methods. This gives students the chance to choose the trainer that fits most with their own needs and preferences. EFW-CAN offers a community of like minded people, joining skills, knowledge and experience for the love of horses and humans.
Here is the Certification story of one of our newest certified professionals, Laurie Cavan. She is an Equine Facilitated Mental Health Professional practicing in Michipicoten River Village, Ontario. She completed her training with Deborah Marshall, EFW-CAN Trainer of Generation Farms in Nanaimo, British Columbia with trainings in both Nanaimo and Lanark, Ontario.
I am someone that believes we need to pay attention and notice as much as possible, whether using the term serendipity or coincidence - either way, my journey to Generation Farms as I was pursuing my MSW at the University of Victoria was timely. I had to spend 10 days on campus in Victoria and took that opportunity to google search any horse workshops in the area. All that presented was Generation Farms and their webpage. I made contact and was told of the Explorations training coming up that fall in Almonte, Ont. And as they say the rest is history.
Finding the “bottom-up approach” was like coming home for me. The ongoing trainings, each one spread out with enough time for my own personal processing and practising allowed me to integrate my new learning into the clinical setting until I was able to facilitate the visit to the horses. Having mentorship and discussing session work were paramount. Initially I brought people to my horses (Sonny, Dyna and Charlie) at my property and my one other horse Foxy living at another property. There I had access to the horse Heidi, and the herd living there (for across the fence work). My first year (2016) was very busy with both reflective and active work. One of my memorable times was when Foxy put the client in the hula-hoop which was the reverse of the client’s intent. I have found this exercise a favourite of the horses! I witnessed so many amazing acts of kindness and support from the horses. And clients never missed their appointments. Last fall (2017) I presented a poster at the annual Family Health Team convention in Toronto. It was very well received. Horses have a natural draw, even in photos. What I am most grateful for from my workplace is that I have been able to provide something very special to the mental health social work program that many people would not be able to access otherwise. It was free of cost. As a social worker I worry about accessibility. The equine program was only in its 2nd year and I believe it was beginning to really take root with the medical community as I was getting direct referrals for it from the physicians, as well as mention of it by the visiting psychiatrists. In time I believe this would have increased even more.
However, winds of change are here, and I have resigned from the Health Team for the end of April. This means the equine program will be leaving as well. I believe it is time for both myself and the horses to step back and recalibrate how to present the EFW program. For myself, I will go to 3 days a week of social work practice at the hospital, and then try to create a private practice. I was concerned that the pressure on my horse and pony was becoming too much, and this was brought home to me last month when my pony came up lame – I decided that morning we needed a change. As well I have been fighting the flu since December. For those of us participating in mental health work in public systems the pressure is huge as the numbers for service are increasing rapidly. In my enthusiasm I was losing sight. This would be my advice to anyone in the certification process, pay attention to your horses as they will tell you your next steps. My pony will be ok, but I now step back and pause, breathe deep and listen for what comes next. This is such an important journey of learning that I encourage all those in process to continue and complete your certification in whatever way you can. It is the practice with mentorship that deepens the work. Belonging to a circle of like-minded-hearted -people is so important. The horses are depending on us to get it right.
Good luck to those of you in process and welcome to anyone considering this amazing journey.
Laurie Cavan, MSW, RSW
Equine Facilitated Mental Health Professional
Michipicoten River Village, Wawa, Ontario, Canada
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