The Quick Answer
There are many certification options in the Equine Facilitated Wellness (EFW) field, meaning this can be an overwhelming and confusing decision at first. The Canadian certification program I usually recommend is through EFW Canada. EFW Canada have a credible and flexible certification approach for people who are seeking certification in EFW as a mental health, equine facilitated learning and/ or equine professional. It is possible to certify in one, two or all three of these areas.
The Longer Answer
This is a lengthy topic with several professional associations, and an increasing number of private businesses, now offering certification programs. Some of these also offer the initial and ongoing training they require you to attain and then maintain the certification, others are independent of those delivering the training. Each programs come with different requirements in terms of both pre-existing credentials and training, and lead to different types of certification. We provide and explore details of the leading options in depth within our Exploration Training program.
We aim to help each individual find the certification and training route which fits best for them and their situation. This is usually most effective as a conversation which takes into consideration your individual goals in EFW and pre-existing credentials and experience. For the purposes of this article I will stick to some guiding principles and highlight some of the options available.
Firstly I believe that a certification program should speak to and assess your training, skills and credentials in all of the following areas:
- The human service you plan to provide (e.g. counselling, education, leadership, personal growth);
- The animal you plan to work with (e.g. horses);
- The EFW approach you intend to follow; and
- with consideration for the population you plan to work with.
Secondly I believe that an EFW certification program needs to have a strong focus on safety and ethics. This is complex within EFW as there are many different needs to consider (including those of the clients, the horses and the facilitators) which can at times seem to conflict, and many different aspects of safety (for example emotional safety as well as physical) which apply. The flexibility and variety within the field of EFW also create different considerations and risk factors. Thus a certification program needs to find a way to be comprehensive enough to be credible, yet at the same time flexible enough to be practical.
Finally, I believe that credible and effective certification is best achieved by an organization that is not also in the business of providing training. This removes the conflicting interests (actual and perceived) of personal gain and ensures that the focus is upon developing standards and certifying professionals that will best serve the needs and protect the interests of our clients and of our horses. This follows International and Canadian best standards that call for the clear separation of certification and training as detailed in ISO/IEC 17024, Conformity assessment – General Requirements for bodies operating certification of persons. The only programs I am aware of following these requirements are EFW Canada in Canada, and PATH and the CBEIP in the US.
The certification program that I have found does all of the above the best in Canada, and thus recommend for most people, is from Equine Facilitated Wellness-Canada.
That being said, I feel it important to provide information about the other options, to empower people to assess for themselves which is the best option for them, and for the situations when EFW Canada may not be the best option. An example of this may be if you plan to work within a Therapeutic Riding program (usually as a partnership between a MHP and a Therapeutic Riding instructor) in which case the CanTRA program may be the better fit for you. CanTRA utilise the exam based program from the US (from the Certification Board for Equine Interaction Professionals (CBEIP)) and certify you for work with one client and one horse at a time.
If you found this article helpful, please share it!
Next Question in the Series: How Long Does it Take, and How Much Does it Cost, to Certify?
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!