The Quick Answer
Only if you plan to offer counselling services! If you plan to work as a Learning Professional (LP) in the Equine Facilitated/ Assisted Learning field, or as an Equine Professional (EP) who partners with a Mental Health Professional (MHP), there is no requirement to be a counsellor or MHP. If you plan to deliver mental health services and/or to work with people with mental health diagnoses or needs then yes, you need to be (or partner with) a certified mental health professional such as a counsellor, psychologist or social worker.
Within the broader Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI) field, to deliver Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) you need to be a credentialed therapist. What type of therapist depends on your AAT scope of practice and may or may not be a counsellor. To deliver Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) you do not have to be a therapist.
Note: If you are unsure of any of the terminology or acronyms we are using please refer to our last blog post where we defined and reviewed these terms for you.
The Longer Answer
If you plan to work with clients with mental health diagnoses or needs and/ or to support clients with mental health related goals (such as recovery from trauma or addictions) in the Equine Facilitated Wellness (EFW) field, then this work is defined as Equine Facilitated Mental Health (EFMH). To deliver mental health services you need to either be a certified mental health professional (MHP), or to partner with a certified MHP, regardless of whether you are incorporating animals into your work or not. This helps keep everyone safe, physically and emotionally, including your clients, your equine/ other animal partners and yourself.
This usually requires a minimum of a bachelors degree in a related area with additional practicum requirements and membership within a regulatory body or college, and more often requires a masters degree. For some credentials in some provinces you will need a PhD, extensive practicum requirements, and/or additional licensing testing, such as the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) required to be a registered psychologist in Alberta. Once certified, your specific scope of practice within the mental health field is defined in part by your certification and regulatory body/ies.
Note: The term “counsellor’ became a regulated term in Alberta in December 2018, as the terms psychologist and social worker have been for many years. This essentially requires all who describe themselves as a counsellor to be certified, meet minimum education and training requirements, and hold membership in a recognised regulatory professional body and provincial college. In some other provinces these and other related terms have been regulated for many years, in some there is no such regulation. If you are interested you can find more information on this situation here.
But the Equine Facilitated Wellness field is broad, flexible and varied!
EFW includes the highly valuable and varied area of Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) which does NOT require you to be a counsellor or MHP. This includes EFW work in the areas of coaching, team building, personal growth, skills building, literacy and more. You can also work as an Equine Professional (EP), either focusing on therapeutic horsemanship, or partnering with a MHP or Learning Professional (LP) to offer services in the areas of EFL and/ or EFMH.
There are lots of options and ways to do this work.
Whether the approach being followed in any particular case is EFMH or EFL depends on a number of factor including the needs of the population being worked with and the focus of the work. A key aspect of the Professional Association for Equine Facilitated Wellness (Pro-EFW) approved training process is to help each participant define and communicate their own unique Scope of Practice which defines the parameters for their EFW work and determines the nature of their certification with Pro-EFW.
Your Scope of Practice is unique to you and will reflect and be built upon your life and work experience, your education, and your credentials – with both people and with horses. It will also reflect both the population/s you plan to work with, and the approach/es you plan to follow. At Healing Hooves we help you develop and fine tune this scope of practice throughout your training journey.
In our experience, most people underestimate the wealth of experience and skills they already possess – with both people and horses – which are relevant to what they plan to develop within the EFW field.
We all, regardless of the extent and nature of our training and credentials, need to define and communicate what is we can, should and want to do, with both people and horses; as well as what is outside of our scope of practice. If we don’t do this, we risk doing harm to our clients, our horses/ other animals and ourselves. This includes situations where we define our scope in one area but in reality are stepping into work which is actually outside of that scope. This can apply to both our scope of practice with people and our scope of practice with horses and other animals.
Rather than limiting us, Scope of Practice empowers us to focus on the areas where we are competent and confident, and to communicate this clearly to our clients. I found defining my own scope of practice to be both reassuring and liberating. It helped me better define to myself, to the agencies I work with, and to prospective clients what it is I am qualified and able to do, and what I am not. It also allows me, when presented with a request to do work with a population or in an area (of either human services or horsemanship) where I do not have enough experience or expertise to say, “I’m sorry, but that falls outside of my scope of practice, let me refer you to someone who has the training in that area.”
And I do.
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Next Question in the series:
Do I need my own Horses and Facility ?
What about you? If you have any questions you’d like us to answer in this series, or questions on any of the above material, please use the comments section below!
Is there not a fine line between ‘personal growth’ within an EFL scope of practice, and counselling?
There is. This is where a well defined scope of practice is so important as everyone’s line will be in a slightly different place and it is key to clearly define and then stay within a scope of practice that fits your experience, credentials and EFW Canada certification. It applies with the MH certification stream too.
I am looking forward to defining my scope of practice more clearly after this upcoming workshop. I remember that this question, for the Exploration Training journal, was not an easy one to answer 🙂
Love this article, and how the scope of practice can empower our practice rather than place limitations on what we can and cannot do.
I really appreciate this outlook! Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
This is still really confusion for as someone who wants to work with trauma but is not a councilor. I do eventually plan on working with a multi disciplinary team but not necessarily when with the horse. It’s like limiting someone who teaches meditation to people without mental health challenges even though what they offer is hugely beneficial. I feel more than comfortable working in my current field with people with trauma (I attract them like flies to a horses eyes) if you have awareness of how this work can trigger people without being a mental health professionals can you not work with them to develop connect and self awareness and also to bridge that self connection to other relationship? Obviously refering out as needed.
This is an area I recommend (and EFW Canada require) a lot of caution, for all sorts of reasons. There may well be times when without MH, and specifically trauma, training you won’t know that, or how deeply, you have triggered a person – they may be very good at hiding it. We can explore this more next week – it is certainly a process to figure out where the boundaries are and is a key part of us defining and communicating our Scope of Practice. As a MH professional there are also boundaries – there have been many times I have referred a client when what they need/ are struggling with is stepping out of my scope of practice. It may feel limiting at first but I have found over the years that it is a great way to keep everyone safe.
Sue, I have a friend who works with first responders diagnosed with PTSD – she wants to accompany a client and stay through the session with me, client and horse. I see it as a team effort. I have limited experience with this level of PTSD and this is outside my scope of practice. Working in tandem with my friend who has the expertise is different. I am comfortable with this. She is able to assess when the client is ready to begin working through their senses and physical body in relationship with others, including horses. She has credentials and specific training in PTSD. What are your thoughts on this?
This sort of team approach can be a wonderful way to expand our Scope of practice – and also to provide longer term support to clients if the professional coming with them has a longer term professional relationship with them. It goes best when the other professional also has some training in EFW.
Is it possible to start training targeted towards a EFL designation but later change it to a MH designation once the appropriate schooling is achieved?
Hi Tara. That would be a question to clarify with the certification organisation (EFW Canada) but my understanding is that yes – you could certify as an EFL practitioner and then add or change it to the MHP designation later once you meet the requirements. Good question!
Thanks Tara, that was something I wondered as well. I also wonder how much extra time and learning it would add to the journey.
I remember when I was thinking of going back to school to do Social Work. I was asking the course counsellor if I should just start with the Human Services Diploma and maybe later go on to earn the Bachelor’s Degree. She said that I could do it that way, but it would add a substantial amount of time to an end goal. She said, “If you want the degree, start plugging away at the degree.” I am so glad I did.
I saw others who did it the way I asked about and they were frustrated that it cost them so much more time. I have this in the back of my mind now when I am thinking about my path to certification in EFW.
Hi Tammy – changing your certification stream with Pro-EFW should not add any extra cost or time (as the core training requirements are the same and you only do them once) provided you meet the pre reqs in each area. The exception is if you add the EP stream as there are a few additional horsemanship requirements for the EP. But more in terms of demonstrating your skills – no extra courses to do!
I suspect this is a question for EFW-Can, but perhaps you can briefly address my question. In applying for certification, when an individual indicates their intended stream in terms of single, dual, or tri-certification at the outset of the application, can this be changed? For example, can a person start with single certification and obtain dual or tri-certification later?
In my experience yes, EFW Canada have been open and flexible to adding additional certification streams if and as your scope of practice expands
This was a great article and very empowering. I was really excited to find out that my recent efforts to become a certified counsellor in my field will broaden my scope of practice with regards to my scope of practice with EFW.
I had difficulty defining my scope of practice in my journal and know that through exploration I will have an opportunity to refine it. Exploration will also give me insight into the direction of further training to meet additional requirements if needed.
You are not alone here Frank! At the exploration training level we really just want to get people thinking about scope of practice and how it applies to them. There is certainly no expectation to have it completed. There are lots of opportunities to work upon and refine this, with support from your trainer and mentor, as you continue in training.
The scope of practice discussion is helpful, and I am curious to see whether my interests will evolve from single to dual certification. I look forward to the discussion at the Explorations training.
I feel that with a scope of practice the aligns with your mission and vision statement it should be easier to determine the type of client best suited. I am excited to attend the workshop and define my scope of practice as I’m there there are many factors I am not away of.
I am interested to assess my scope of practice in the explorations training. In many ways I feel like I am better at identifying what I don’t like/struggle with instead of what I want/enjoy. I think this will be a long process for me, but I am hopeful that the in-person component will help provide a little more guidance/third party perspective.
I do think you will find this aspect of things will become clearer for you as you continue in your training. We discuss (and help you apply) it lots both in the workshops and through mentoring!
I found your comment about our Scope of Practice being both empowering and liberating very interesting. I think that is a very strength-based approach to defining what you do, and from what I have read, I believe that translates into your approach with horses, staff and clients. I also find it reassuring that your experience has been that most people underestimate their abilities. Thank you.
I appreciate when you say that its reassuring and liberating to have the scope of practice, because it was one of the issue I was having. I can not wait to elaborate my scope of practice with you.
I found this article helpful as I had some difficulties in developing my scope of practice and what it will look like. I look forward to learning more about this topic at the Exploration training.
Hi Kim! remember that at the exploration stage we just want to get you started thinking about your scope of practice. You will have lots of time – and support – to develop it further later on in the training process!
As someone completing my BSW we often talk about the boundaries of our scope of practice. In practicum, it was important to be aware of our limitations not as deficits, but potential areas of growth and exploration. I think it is critical to ensure you have all of the competencies to practice within a certain scope to not cause harm for all parties involved.
It so wonderful to see that there are lots of options and ways to do this work. I’m not a counsellor, therapist or social worker. My very first question was, “Do i have to be a counsellor to work with my horses and people?” I too am looking forward to figuring out what my scope of practice might be!
It is exciting to think I can define my scope of practice and build on my many years of experience in leadership and team development and leadership coaching:)
It is great that there are so many ways to practice equine therapy. It’s also great that the terms “counsellor” and “therapist” are now regulated in Alberta. As I work towards becoming a registered social worker, I am excited to start exploring my scope of practice in relation to equine therapy.
That is a helpful disclaimer! I’m not sure yet how I’d define the scope I have in mind, but I’m looking forward to digging more into this! 🙂
I am grateful that scope of practice is introduced early so that I can be thinking of this as I start the process. I will be curious how much change there is over time.
So helpful in outlining how EFW may fit into my current scope of practice and over time may broaden and evolve. I have interests and experiences that have help inform the track of my education and hope that EFW might be able to be integrated!
Thank you for the information. I too also am looking forward to defining my practice. I saw one video of a MSW student on your website who was studying eating disorders and equine therapy as a treatment. This is an area that greatly interests me! Are there any other published studies or your take on equine therapy as it relates to eating disorders.
I could put you in touch with the lady who did this research if you’d like?
It’s so helpful to have a strong understanding of your scope of practice. There are certain areas that falls within skill sets, knowledge and, experience. For example, I work at Alpha House in Calgary, an intox shelter for people with addictions. Often times our clients are experiencing homelessness and mental health, however, our shelter can only support those who are intox or homeless. Anyone with significant mental health concerns are out of our realm of care because we are unable to give them the support they need. In a perfect world, we would be able to accommodate everybody, however, that’s why we have other resources that can we as professionals can refer to to better support individuals.
I love your reassurance that defining our Scope of Practice empowers us to focus on our strengths rather than our uncertainties. I look forward to exploring!
Great info to better understand scope of practice. I’m certified to work with people with horses, not a counselor or psychiatrist or…. That said, I have a passion to share my passion and look forward to teaming up with other certified personal in their respective fields 🙂
Awesome – a very intriguing and exciting field of expertise!
It is wonderful how many different options there are and this kind of touches on my comment on the previous post about terminology and being honest. The scope of practice is so important to develop, know and understand our own limitations in order to deliver appropriate services. I think when you are able to verbalize that and refer out- it actually builds your trustworthiness and shows you have integrity. Thank you for being such a great role-model and I am excited to really specify my own scope of practice throughout this!
I love the variety of options within this training and certification. I’m looking forward to defining my scope of practice more clearly in the weeks to come!
This is a question I had while I was journaling. I understanding from reading it that I do not need to be a counselor, but I still wonder if my opportunities will be limited because I am not a mental health worker?
Hi Kirsten – in EFW everyone really goes on a scope of practice basis and you define that based on your pre existing credentials and experience (with horses and with people). There are definitely some very successful EFL programs with Pro EFW certified professionals who are not mental health professionals. Some examples to looks up would be Carrie Watson at Whispering Equine and Meagan Saum at Silver Valley Ranch
There are so many terms and certifications that it can become confusing. I feel that my area of expertise will be as an EFL Practitioner and look forward to upping my skills and sharing my knowledge in a school setting with staff and students.
I also found some confusion here initially, and found myself getting discouraged because I’m not a MHP, nor do I have any formal education / degrees, so I wasn’t sure that I was going down the right path. What I have had is 20 years of experience as a first responder, personal experience with trauma because of it, a diagnosis of PTSD, and loads of work to get through/past that (which I am very open about).
I found myself being thankful for having the option to go the EP route, which interestingly enough, I also have very limited experience in.
I know that I will have to be mindful about scope of practice, once I/we have defined it, and look forward to working with a partner/team where it’s clear for us all.
Hi Andrea – you may find that your first responder experience, and what I assume was ALOT of training in working with people to do this job, will provide you with a good foundation for the pre requisites for the EFL certification stream. And your own work will be counted towards the personal growth requirement.
Looking forward to getting a clearer idea of what my scope of practice will be!
Definitely love this article and the light it shines on the importance of clearly stating your intentions and desired scope of practice.
Having practiced in the field of mental health for awhile ,I feel as though I have a fairly good understanding of where my strengths lie. I am curious to see as I learn more about working with horses, whether my interests in terms of clientele may change or whether I continue to work with similar clients to what I do now. I think it is great that there are so many different ways to practice in this field as there are lots of different needs.
I am working on my Master of Counselling Psychology right now, but it is good to know that I can utilize this training in other ways until I finish my degree. Thank you for the information.
This is a very exciting field of practise ! I have worked with injured workers, their families, employers and medical providers for years, and can already envision how incorporating animals in the recovery process would be so beneficial for recovery and rehabilitation.
I appreciate the various opportunities that EFW training has to offer depending on professional credentials and horsemanship skills.
This discussion has been enlightening regarding the multiplicity of paths and approaches to engaging in this field. It helps reassure me that although I have an idea as to the certification route I wish to take- dual MHP/EP, that there will be lots of support in navigating scope of practice, and how our strengths, competencies, and previous experience can contribute to a meaningful place in this field. I look forward to learning more!
I’m actually quite surprised that the term “counsellor” was only defined in 2018. I guess I’m wondering why it took so long?
There is actually quite a process involved in things becoming regulated terms! It happened sooner in some provinces and for other terms (e.g. psychologist). But there are still some provinces where it is not regulated and anyone can call themselves a counsellor
The work on the kind of practice is a big step in itself. It is really important to take the time to do it properly.
I really enjoyed reading this. I work in the Mental Health field and am very aware of my scope of practice. It can be very easy to get pulled outside of your scope of practice if you are not mindful of what you are doing because you want help someone.
It feels like such a grey area between working with mental health and life coaching, social skill development, ect. I don’t know how a person could tease those things out. I know I would feel more comfortable working with a licensed mental health professional who understands how all these factors impact one another.
It certainly can be a grey area! On the EFW side we address this by asking everyone to figure out, support with credentials, communicate and then stay within their scope of practice in the work – with both horses/ other animals and with people. I believe some of the AAT professional bodies follow a similar process.
I love the implementation of scope of practice in this work. As a social worker, I am required by ACSW to receive appropriate education, training and supervision in psychosocial interventions/therapeutic modalities to practice them.
My Master of Social Work clinical specialization was in infant, child and adolescent mental health. However, as a recent graduate I do not feel confident about providing mental health services independently yet. Am I able to begin practicing by offering EFL that focuses more specifically on boundaries, communication and empowerment before diving into mental health treatment (that I hope to do in the future as I gain more experience in my field). What are the implications of me providing EFW as a registered social worker if I specifically outline that I am not providing therapy in sessions focused on EFL?
HI Jessica – this will come down to how you define your scope of practice. With an MSW and as a member of ACSW you can apply for certification with Pro EFW in the MH stream but you would then define your scope of practice in a way that fits within the scope allowed by your credentials and training (thus within the scope as defined for you by the ACSW) and also with regards to what you want to do in the field. Pro EFW do also ask that you have 2,500 hours of experience working in your field but this is what you have at the time you submit your certification requirements – so after completion of all of the Pro EFW training by which time you may have those hours in place. You could also apply for dual EFL/ MHP or start off with EFL and add MH later if you don’t have enough MH hours. There is lots of flexibility and we explore this a lot more, and help you apply it to your specific situation and goals, in the second part of this course, during more advanced trainings and during mentoring sessions.
I really appreciate this article. Hearing that defining your scope of practice was liberating and helpful makes me feel better. I like how you focus on the fact that we all have different life and work experiences which when recognized could come to define our scope of practice. I really need to think on this and get some direction from you Sue, as I move forward with the certification.
Hi Jacqueline – we have a section coming up in the course which discusses scope of practice plus we return to it at every training. It’s a process which often feels confusing at first but in time starts to make a lot of sense and I find really helps folks better define and communicate what it is that we do, and are qualified and want to do, in this field.
The exploration course has led me to want to do this to the best of my abilities. Here I come Masters all while completing my Pro EFW certification!
I love how there are so many different ways for professionals to offer equine facilitated wellness. When I consider myself in this context, I know there could be many different reasons why I might approach one program over another.
I’m happy that I learned about scope of practice early in this journey as I was able to pursue my interest always keeping in mind, my limits and boundaries, and informing clients of the same.
It is interesting to learn about the different roles in EFW work and is nice to know that its not limited in what there is to offer. Scope of practice is very important to keep everyone safe and I am excited to continue to define this.
Taking these first steps towards EFW certification has really given me the push I needed to finally pursue a degree! Having such a clear scope of practice as set out by the EFW process will be incredibly important to ensure that I stay within my scope of practice, now and in the future as the scope expands.
Working away at my scope of practice with horses and people is liberating and exciting. I am slowly getting a clearer picture of what it is I want to do.
that is great to hear!
I feel like scope of practice will be hard to define for me. Or I feel like it is right now. Eventually when I complete my Masters and have a regulatory body it may be more clear.
Why I feel it’s complicated as I plan to do LP but I will most likely be doing sessions with a MHP.
We will keep supporting you Denay so you will get there! LP and EP can be a bit more complicated as it’s usually not defined for you by a regulatory body but on the plus side it allows you the flexibility to define your own scope of practice based on your experience which can be quite wonderful
Great to know I don’t need to be councilor to be doing this. I think a lot of people ask that question when you tell them I am doing Equine Facilitated Wellness people automatically think of therapy or counseling but EFW is so much more than that.
Thank you for a great article. As I read further, I began to think of more areas that I can include in my scope of practice. Thank you for the gentle push.
Thank you for clarifying all of this!
Such an important discussion! Thanks for so beautifully articulating how to redirect people ” that is outside my scope of practice let me direct you to someone who can help.” I love how succinct and eloquent that is!
Thank you for this article. It again helps to clarify things!
A very inspiring article Sue, thank you. I particularly liked your words around our scope of practice not being a limiting factor, but rather a liberating one!
you’re welcome Amy!
Thank you for this article.
Similar to the comments above, I really appreciate how you’ve linked scope of practice with empowerment! I’m finding there’s also an increase in self-confidence as I begin developing my professional identity and areas of interest to pursue.
The need for a clearly defined scope of practice is even further supported through this article. Initially, I was worried about the prospect of writing it. Now I see how it brings awareness to oneself as well as potential and current clients around expectations and possible limitations.
Absolutely – the intent of scope of practice is to inform and empower us, and to help us cpommunocate clearly with our clients
Scope of practice is so important!
This article reminds me of how important it is to work within our scope of practice at all times. It’s so crucial so we do not cause further harm trying to be who we are not. We can refer out for anything beyond our knowledge, training and credentials.
Thank you Sue!
well said Alanna!
I found this article helpful, in that I need to start reflecting on what exactly I can and want to bring to this line of work. By creating that scope early I can really narrow what my passion and strengths are and master them.
That’s a great way to approach things!
This is one of the reasons I really like the ProEFW approach as the area you certify in is within your scope of practice! I think it’s great because AAT is commonly used amongst counsellors but so many other professions can benefit from implementing it into practice!
Yes – it can be such a broad field which is wonderful, and the scope of practice piece helps to ensure that we all work within our individual scope which helps to safeguars our clients, horses and ourselves while also hopefully ensuring our clients receve the best level of service possible
I agree Emily. It feels good working towards certification under a governing body that is working hard to uphold high standards of practice in the field. Yet at the same time they make the process of registration reasonable in the streams they provide.
The flexibility and different options available are reassuring for those who want to enter the field and practice competently…..understanding the differing scopes of practice is very helpful!
Lots to think about here, and good to know about the different routes available under PRO-EFW.
I like the idea of defining our scope of practice as being helpful, not only to increase our confidence in the services we are providing, but also to safeguard our clients and ensure we refer on to other professionals when this is in their best interest.
Providing services that fall within an individual’s scope of practice is what I consider to be the ethically responsible approach. As I have become more familiar with AAT and equine facilitated work, I can see how multifaceted it is and I can only imagine how this could be very confusing for the consumer. Unfortunately I live in a province where the counselling field is not regulated provincially as of yet (hopefully soon!!). This is just one more reason why we need provincial regulations in place!
Scope of practice should be at the forefront of what we do, yet many people who are practicing AAI don’t know. You don’t know what you don’t know.
This article helps to differentiate between Learning Professional (LP), Equine Professional (EP) and Mental Health Professional (MHP), while outlining the various avenues and ‘scope ‘ that can be offered – thanks Sue!
you’re very welcome Selina!
Looking forward to continuing learning and defining a scope of practice.
Great! We look at scope of practice a little deeper and more comprehensively in every training so lots more to come!
Respecting and understanding one’s scope of practice is crucial to maintain an ethical and safe program. I look forward to learning more about EFWs varied approaches MHP, EP, LP and how I can work within my own scope of practice