Grant Helps Provide Critical Services and Equine Therapy for Abuse Survivors

07-07-2017 8:34 AM

The Community Alliance Against Family Abuse (CAAFA) in Apache Junction, Arizona, is using the 2016 shelter grant from The Mary Kay Foundation℠ to provide comprehensive support services to crisis shelter residents.

Horse-assisted therapy is one of their most effective programs. CAAFA serves a large, mainly rural area where the old west cowboy culture still remains.

“Horses are tied to our community’s culture, so it is very fitting to integrate them into the care we provide,” remarks Danielle Webster, grants manager for CAAFA. “We see our clients make great progress when they are involved with the equine program. It helps open their communication styles, increase self-esteem and build self-confidence.”

Each week, licensed professional counselors from The Heart of the Matter bring horses to CAAFA’s shelter for facilitated equine-assisted psychotherapy sessions. Participants learn about themselves and others by taking part in activities with the horses and then processing or discussing feelings, behaviors, and patterns.

Children and adults heal from abuse and witnessing domestic violence as they feed, lead, pet and talk with the horses.

“These are big, beautiful, majestic animals, and they are safe to be around in this environment,” explains Abigail Poyer, director of programs for CAAFA. “Some survivors of abuse may not trust at all or may isolate themselves. But over time, through interacting with a horse, they become more communicative and trusting. Then they begin to talk about what they are feeling.

“At the core, the experience helps deepen self-awareness, which builds self-confidence. Adults and children may have a negative life perspective based on their past experience. But through interacting with the horses we see that go from negative to positive as they learn how to express feelings and feel safe.

“When parents and their children then interact together with a horse, it creates a safe place to build a bridge and strengthen their bond, which may have been strained due to trauma.”

Since receiving The Foundation grant in Oct. 2016, the shelter provided critical services to 49 adults and 20 children in a six-month period. Here is a snapshot of services provided during that time:

“CAAFA focuses on making personal connections, building authentic relationships and meeting the individual’s needs,” adds Danielle. “We cannot do this alone. We are grateful The Foundation grant is making a life-changing difference!”