Families who come to Child And Adolescent Psychiatry Consulting are often pleasantly surprised by its location. We have renovated a tan pole barn and within it, Dr. Jenna sees patients in a cozy room, with heated floors, French doors overlooking a pond, and a soothing, earth-friendly paint on the walls. While driving to the address, and parking in front of the building, you may see our Boer goats, our donkey, and several of our horses. When you park your vehicle, you may see our barn cats, and you may even be greeted by our barn dog. We have a fully functioning farm, so if you can avoid wearing your best clothing here, you will be more comfortable.
Most children enjoy coming to the farm more than seeing doctors in a clinic, and it gives Dr. Jenna an opportunity to see children in a less anxious state—though sometimes the kids are more excited!
Some parents have asked “why do you see patients in this setting?” During the last several years in clinical practice, I have been frustrated by the limitations of the most common treatment interventions that we have to offer. Pharmacotherapy, Individual and family therapies, home-based therapies, and group therapies have tremendous potential to help children and their families improve their ability to cope and function with life’s challenges.
Something still seemed to be missing. I wanted to find some way to assist children and families practice problem-solving and gain a sense of self-efficacy and self-management in real time, with a therapeutic presence for support, rather than having to “report back” to a therapist in an office several days or even weeks after attempting, successfully or unsuccessfully, to manage a challenging experience. After exploration and study, I discovered that equine assisted therapy is an excellent way for children and families to develop a sense of self-efficacy and self-management, to utilize their strengths and overcome their limitations, and to become optimistic about their capacity to cope with real life challenges . So CAPC is in a barn, where Dr. Jenna also collaborates with her husband, Troy to provide equine assisted therapy, through their program, H.O.R.SE.S. T.R.E.A.T., LLC. (Human Optimism Resilience Self-Efficacy and Strength Through Responsive Equine Assisted Therapy)
Few of us would choose to be cared for by a physician who studied medicine only in books. we prefer that trainees practice new procedures and skills under the supervision of an experienced clinician who guides them. I believe that patients will be more successful at replacing maladaptive behaviors in their repertoire with adaptive ones when given the opportunities to practice skills–such as coping with frustration, managing confusing or anxiety-provoking situations, or interacting healthfully with family members or peers– if they have the opportunity to practice these skills while guided by a therapist in real time.
Some equine therapists speak of the effects that a horse’s spirit and emotional responsiveness can have on promoting emotoinal growth and awareness in the humans they work with. The horse can be a motivator, while the patient and therapist can form a trusting alliance, set goals for horsemanship, and work together to problem solve and process the patient’semtional and behavioral responses, with real-time feedback. The horse is an asset when creating real-time challenges for a patient needing to develop frustration tolerance, problem solving skills, impulse control, anger management, and social skills. We can design tasks to challenge the development of flexibility, persistence, and responsiveness. For many children, the desire to succeed with the horse inspires the patient to persevere and tolerate frustration, and to encourage the development of emotional and behavioral self-management. Equine assisted therapy can encourage explorations of feelings and behaviors to promote human growth and development.
I also believe that clinical care cannot occur separate from advocacy at within our political and legal systems. I am a vocal advocate for mental health, and the health and well-being of children and families. I also provide forensic psychiatry consultation for legal cases including those involving juvenile offenders and young adult offenders, custody and adoption issues, abuse, trauma and attachment, and civil law matters that are relevant to child and adolescent development.