Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) Training in Utrecht, Holland — Abigail Alfrey

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In July I travelled to Utrecht for a week of psychotherapy training, networking, and sight seeing. The training was provided by the Equine Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), an organisation that promotes the use of horses as co-facilitators in human psychotherapy. The horses play a role a little like a paintbrush in art therapy, but with the added benefit of being dynamic beings capable of action, reaction, and interaction. The Principal’s go Abroad Fund made real the possibility of experiencing first-hand what the EAGALA model stood for and how it could be applied in therapeutic settings to facilitate human growth and potential.

 I chose to undertake the training in Holland in the hopes that it would present a multicultural learning experience and networking opportunities across Europe. I was also excited to learn more of the Dutch culture and explore a city I had until recently never heard of: Utrecht. When applying for the scholarship, I saw the training and the cultural aspects of the trip as quite separate, but in fact the two were inextricably entwined. For example, 11 nations were represented among the 24 individuals in attendance. English was the common language, but for the vast majority it was a foreign tongue. Owing to this multilingual group, I quickly realised the extent to which the nuances of language could impact a therapy or learning session. Thus, not only were my hopes and expectations met, they were exceeded, as I raked in benefits of going abroad I had never anticipated.


Learning the method: 24 delegates representing 11 countries. Photo credit: EAGALA.

 I will long remember my experiences in Holland I all I learnt there, both in and outside of the ‘classroom’. Foremost, of course, I learnt a great deal about EAP and the EAGALA model, which I shall take forward into postgraduate study and research. I also learnt a little of Holland’s history and culture, primarily courtesy of a rainy day and the wonderful Utrecht Centraal Museum. I discovered their celebrated architect, Gerrit Rietveld (his Rietveld-Schröderhuis is pictured below), and the COBRA group’s avant-garde art, which idealised the child at play. I found that these examples of artistic expression complemented my understanding of the EAGALA training, demonstrating how self-determination can lead to growth and flourishing.


The Rietveld-Schroderhuis, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Utrecht, Holland.

This was my first experience of travelling abroad independently, and I was unprepared for the sense of gratification and achievement that lay in being the solo navigator of such a journey. With an acute awareness of my inexistent Dutch language skills, coupled with a notoriously bad sense of direction, I was aware that the trip could present hurdles. I think that the real growth came from the realisation that up close, these hurdles were not so big. So, in close, my sincere thanks to the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund, and all those who made my trip so wonderful – I have returned home with a valuable qualification, but moreover, with invaluable experiences and friendships.

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