The Outreach Centre is home to many services to aid those facing domestic violence, suicide, homelessness and the effects of poverty. The organization is well equipped to provide housing, to grocery cards, toiletries, and mental health support among several other services. 

Recently, the organization has been piloting equine therapy to some of their clients at Julietta’s Place. The program has seen a lot of success so far. 

“It’s been a really awesome opportunity to provide healing in a different way. It's a completely different modality and what that actually involves is using horses in the sessions with clients too,” said Ashley Ackerman, Therapist with the Outreach Centre. 

Ackerman noted that many of her clients are dealing with complex trauma which can sometimes be difficult to deal with in a regular therapy session. A horse offers a safe and neutral zone to begin building a connection.

“Sometimes those things are stored implicitly and there's a lot of disassociations. Basically, it's hard to recall the event. Really talking about the events, even if you can recall them, is a little bit too heavy and can almost be re-traumatizing. When we're working with things like art, play, and working with horses those are all great ways of being able to access the trauma in a way that's less direct and a little bit safer and a little bit less invasive as well,” she explained. 

The Outreach Centre has partnered with Heritage Ranch to offer the program to their clients and so far, Ackerman is finding it helpful to her clients. 

“What I was noticing for our clients, specifically the ones at Julietta’s Place is they were needing an experience of feeling safe, of feeling calm, feeling regulated and because of the trauma it was sometimes hard for them to connect with myself…Using the horses with our clients has been an incredible way for the clients to really have first time experiences of feeling safe, of feeling calm, of feeling regulated,” said Ackerman. 

Ackerman noted that the horses can be pretty telling on how her clients are feeling as well. 

“That's the thing somebody can talk the talk and maybe even trick me, even though I have studied the human brain and human behavior. But an animal is going to give you a pretty honest reaction for every action you give them,” she added. 

Equine therapy has only been piloted by Julietta’s Place so far but Ackerman is looking forward to expanding the program. 

“We've already seen really vast changes in just even a couple sessions with the clients. I'm noticing it's making a real difference for them. They're just so much calmer when they come into the office sessions with me after and they seem to trust me more too. There's something about if a person is good with animals. We often believe that they must be a good person. So that seems to really help build raport too,” she explained. 

Ackerman says the program is a go for the spring and summer but if some of her clients want to venture out into the snow to greet the horses, she will be happy to take them out. 

Stay tuned to Sunny 94 for A Holiday Hope Radiothon for the Outreach Centre which will be happening on November 15th.  For more information click here.