Equine-Assisted Therapy

What Is Equine Therapy?

Equine Therapy & Counseling - Brighton & Plymouth MI - nan_and_chaseThe specially trained psychologists at McCaskill Family Services are excited to team up with Brighton Equestrian Club to offer Equine Therapy (also referred to as Horse Therapy, Equine-Assisted Therapy, and Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy).

This type of therapy involves interactions between patients and horses in guided activities such as grooming, feeding, leading, mounting, and riding to improve behavior, thought processes and emotional control. Equine Assisted Therapy is a treatment that promotes physical, emotional and occupational growth.

What is Equine Therapy?

Equine Therapy: An Informational Webinar

What are the Benefits of Equine Therapy?

Studies have shown that equine therapy has been successful in helping children, teens and adults make significant improvements in a short amount of time in the following areas:

  • Confidence
  • Self- Esteem
  • Assertiveness
  • Anger Management
  • Social Skills and Communication
  • Emotional Awareness
  • Empathy
  • Stress Management
  • Flexibility
  • Impulse Control
  • Anxiety Management
  • Problem-Solving Skills
  • Independence
  • Improved Mood 
  • Interpersonal Relationships

Horses are astute at reading human emotions and people often turn to animals for comfort. Horses are by nature accepting and non-judgmental.  They can mirror human emotions and behavior and will respond to negativity, therefore encouraging the client to be calm, open, gentle and aware. 

While working with horses under the guidance and supervision of an equine therapist, equine therapy patients have a unique and effective opportunity to get direct feedback on their pattern of problematic behaviors, self-defeating negative thoughts and actions. These insights and skills then translate to everyday life and people feel happier, more connected and successful.

Who Would Benefit from Equine Therapy from McCaskill Family Services in Brighton?

Children of all ages, Teenagers and Adults with:

  • ADHD
  • Autism
  • Behavior Problems
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Grief/Loss
  • Trauma
  • Attachment Disorders
  • Anger Problems
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Social Problems
  • Inflexibility
  • Addiction
  • Lack of Empathy


"I have been struggling with depression and anxiety and my mom told me about a program called Equine Therapy at The Brighton Equestrian Club.  I had tried going to a counselor a few times, but it didn't seem to help much.  Before I could say no, my parents signed me up for a group for teens.  This experience has completely turned my life around.  I am happier, doing better in school and I can see a future that I could not see before.  Every time my feelings get too much for me, I remember how my horse that I worked with taught me how to get them back in control. Well, the horse helped Dr. Nicole teach me how to actually use strategies that really really work.
-teen girls name kept anonymous for confidentiality
"Through my group at the BEC, I worked with a horse and therapist and I learned a lot about myself.  My horse would not listen and do what I wanted and this really made me mad.  In a few weeks, I had to learn how to control my anger and frustration without yelling, hitting or quitting.  I also experienced what my parents have been going through with me when I won't listen or do what they say.  I learned so much and I am happier and my parents seem happier too."
-teen boys name kept anonymous for confidentiality

I was encouraged to participate in the Adult Equine Therapy program (led by Dr Nicole)in conjunction with my regular, in office, therapy. I had no idea what to expect or how it could help me. It was a life changing experience. The program pushed me to bring together all I was working on in regular therapy and incorporate it into my day to day life.  It challenged my thought processes, it challenged me to let go of anxiety, and it pushed me even farther to really mourn and forgive some scars from my past, and finally live a more authentic day to day life. It gave me mindfulness skills I had no idea I was capable of. Truly, over the course of the program all the pieces came together. Moreover, the coordination between my work in weekly therapy and the equine therapy was seamless.  My regular therapist/doctor and Dr. Nicole were always on the same page, which really help too. Dr. Nicole’s lessons, challenges and compassion translated into amazing weekly growth. I was often stunned at how much my horse was in tune with me, and how the exercises and lessons enhanced and helped me heal. I adore my horse and am grateful for all she taught me.  It was hard work, but I put in the effort and honesty and the rewards were huge.  Lastly, Brighton Equestrian Club is a beautiful facility.  It is clean, modern, joyful and very very nice.  It was a genuine pleasure to walk into their facility.  
Sometimes there are things that are life changing for the good. This program is one of them.
Thank you for this opportunity 
-initials L.A.M.
"Everyone should experience the Mindfulness therapy group at Brighton Equestrian Club.  As a mom, I am constantly stressed and pulled in so many directions.  Once a week, it was my time to unplug and be in the peaceful moment with my horse partner.  The psychologists from McCaskill Family Services taught me strategies to reduce my stress that I practiced with my horse each week.  They really know what they are doing."
-name kept anonymous for confidentiality
"The Equine Assisted Group Therapy program is truly something amazing. It is hard to even put into words the transformations that I have been able to witness first hand. There is something special about horses and their comforting nature that makes you feel so calm and reconnected to the world around us. Dr. Nicole and the BEC do a wonderful job making the environment feel safe and positive. I would recommend this program to anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, grief or anyone just looking to improve their daily life.
-Alyssa Jacobs (assistant to winter 2109 groups)

If you are interested in learning more about the individual and/or group therapy options available through the Equine Therapy Division of McCaskill Family Services, please contact us at our Brighton office location, 810.224.1676.

No riding experience is necessary.  As groups form, we will try to match your child with same-age peers. 8 Week Sessions:

Click here to watch interviews by Dr. Pam on Equine Therapy


Fall Groups start September 21st through November 16th!

Please call the office at 734-416-9098 for more information or to register.

Mondays: 12:00 pm -1:30 pm Adult Mindfulness Ages 18 and up

Mindfulness for Adults

Mindfulness is a meditation based skill that has been found useful for a multitude of mental health issues. The core premise involves becoming one with your environment and living mindfully in the present moment.  It can bring a sense of peace, belonging, and fulfillment to your life. Join McCaskill Family Services at the Brighton Equestrian Club for this 8-week course combining mindfulness techniques and equine therapy. Horses are peaceful animals by nature and respond to their environment and surroundings as each moment occurs. Participants will learn how to become fully immersed in the present moment and partnership with their equine friends, effectively reducing the negative internal stimuli that play a part in depression and anxiety. No horse experience is necessary, only an open mind and willing hands. Groups are 90 minutes long and open to ages 18 and above. Come join in the fun! Close-toed shoes required.

Tuesdays: 11:00 am -12:30 pm - Adult Grief Ages 18 and up

Adult Grief Group

The grieving process is not a one size fits all model. Every individual struggles to overcome loss and bereavement in their own way. If you have recently lost a loved one, a friend, a pet, or are struggling with another type of loss, consider joining McCaskill Family Services at the Brighton Equestrian Club for an 8-week group centered around helping individuals who are struggling with grief and loss. This group will focus on helping you feel less scared, depressed and alone through the development of a bond with your equine partner. The psychologist will guide you through empirically-based therapy approaches that have been proven to be very effective and often used in grief therapy sessions in the office. Horses are incredibly powerful mirrors of human emotion and the horse-human bond is one that can help people people find peace during difficult times. No horse experience is necessary to participate. We will teach you all you need to know in order to bond safely with your equine partner. Closed toed shoes required.

Tuesdays: 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm - Teen Girls Ages 12 - 17

Teen Girls

Do you have a teenage girl struggling with issues of depression, anxiety, self-esteem, or low self-confidence? Equine therapy could be the answer. This 8-week, 90-minute per session group is designed to help young girls gain confidence in themselves through building a relationship with the horse. There is something uniquely powerful about the ability to establish a connection with such a large, sensitive animal. Through use of the horse, group members will learn how to be assertive, confident leaders. This group will utilize a combination of empirically validated Cognitive Behavioral and Dialectical Behavioral techniques, along with the horse, to help individuals build mastery over their lives while challenging negative beliefs.  It is open to girls ages 12-17. No horse experience is necessary.  Close-toed shoes required.

Mondays: 4:30 pm- 6:00 pm - Middle-Schoolers (9-12 years old)


Is your child struggling with the upcoming transition to adolescence or middle school? Are they experiencing issues with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, ADHD, or other problems? Let us help. The late-childhood time is often difficult for children as they learn to navigate new social roles and relationships. In our 8-week coed group, individuals will be paired with a horse to learn skills for managing difficult emotions and life transitions. They will build self-confidence through partnership and activities with their equine friend. Even if your child seems to be relatively well-adjusted and you would like them to have a step-up going into the middle-school years, we would love to have them! This group is 8-weeks long, 90 minutes per session, as is geared toward boys and girls ages 9-12. No horse experience is required. Close-toed shoes required.

Mondays 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm - Teens Boys Ages 12 -17

Teen Boys

The teenage years can be an incredibly stressful time for both teens and their parents. Adolescents who struggle with the challenges of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ADHD, and other behavioral issues often find it difficult to navigate their environment successfully while maintaining important relationships. This 8-week group combines Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, an empirically validated treatment for struggling teens, and equine therapy to help your teen learn prosocial behaviors. The horse is an incredibly powerful and sensitive animal that only responds to respectful, confident interaction. Your teen will work with his equine partner to establish a healthy, cooperative relationship, building skills that can be utilized outside the barn as well.  Topics such as respect, communication, teamwork, leadership, empathy, and compassion will be at the forefront of each group. This group is 8-weeks long with each session running approximately 90 minutes and it is open to boys ages 12-17. No horse experience is required.  Close-toed shoes required.

Teens who have lost a loved one: Call for more information

Teens Who Have Lost/are Losing a Loved One

The loss of a parent, sibling or a close friend is a terrible tragedy. Parents or a surviving parent may feel confused and unsure of how to support their children, while also suffering from their own grief. Consider allowing McCaskill Family Services to assist your child by joining our 7-week group at the Brighton Equestrian Club for teens who have lost a parent, sibling or friend. The group will concentrate on allowing the individual to bond with his or her equine partner while moving through empirically-based therapy techniques proven effective for grief. Horses are incredibly powerful mirrors of human emotion and the horse-human bond is one that can help people find peace during difficult times. No horse experience is necessary to participate. We will teach you all you need to know in order to bond safely with your equine partner. Closed toed shoes required. Although designed for teens ages 13-17, exceptions to age limits may apply based on group composition.  Please call the Brighton office and speak with our staff to discuss options. 810.224.1676.

Veterans: Call for more information


Are you a veteran struggling to manage the physical and mental injuries left behind by combat related trauma? Veterans all over the country have been finding great benefit from Equine Assisted Therapy. McCaskill Family Services and the Brighton Equestrian Club are partnering together to offer an 8-week group for veterans suffering from the symptoms of PTSD. Horses, by nature, are incredibly peaceful animals, but they also mirror human emotions closer than any other domesticated animal. This group will focus on allowing individuals to build a powerful connection with their equine partner to overcome the anxiety, hypervigilance, and other difficult symptoms associated with a trauma-related condition. The group will be a combination of both riding and groundwork designed to help group members increase confidence, build coping skills, and reduce stress. No riding experience is necessary. We will teach you all you need to know! Closed-toed shoes required.

Adult Stress Reduction:  Call for more information

Stress is a part of everyone's daily life. If you are experiencing stress, it simply means that the demands of the current situation are not matching what you are reasonably able to handle at this time. Although stress is normal, chronic stress can result in cognitive impairment such as memory loss, poor concentration and focus and medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. If you are looking for some help with stress management, consider joining McCaskill Family Services at the Brighton Equestrian Club for an 8 week group centered on helping individuals who are struggling with stress. Through the use of the horse along with a specially trained psychologist, group members will learn methods to help manage and reduce stress. There is something uniquely powerful and calming about the ability to establish a connection with such a large, sensitive animal. We will work with you to develop an individualized stress management plan and will teach you specific, highly-effective techniques to reduce your stress. You will feel better and will be much more effective and efficient in your work and daily life activities. No horse experience is required. Close-toed shoes required.

Each group runs for 8 weekly sessions for 90 minutes each session. Each 90 minute session is billed as a therapy session with a Licensed Ph.D. Psychologist. Insurance companies reimburse this the same way they do group sessions in an office setting. So, if your insurance pays for out-of-network providers, they will reimburse in a similar fashion for this too. We will provide you with receipts that you can submit to your insurance company.

Listen to our Radio Interview with Dr. Deanna Lites on WWJ Newsradio 950

Accepting new patients via Telehealth for all Michigan residents and in-person for both Plymouth and Brighton locations!