Seeking relational recovery
They say that nature does about half the work, according to Joyce Korschgen, the director at Heron Hill.
Robinn Rudd and Korschgen run a 60-acre Canby eco-farm that uses eco-psychology as a form of therapy for children and adults. Eco-psychology involves the relationship between people and nature and, in therapy, it is used as a way to heal.
Korschgen has been a therapist for more than 30 years and it all began with just an office and few clients on the farm. They started acquiring horses with the intent to breed them. But when they heard about a different type of therapy and training program called EAGALA, Equine Assistant Growth and Learning Association, they decided to purse that instead.
Afterwards, they got a three-year contract with Indian Health Services, which initiated their growth.
Now, they have a contract with Health Share of Oregon and have been operating the farm for eight years.
On the farm, there are 20 horses, some donkeys, goats, and pigs. Also, there is a small garden with a pond and a Native American tipi, which will soon be replaced by a new one.
There are about 300 patients at Heron Hill and 20 employees, which include therapists, staff, training professionals and interns.
There are different treatment plans, but sessions are usually an hour long. Korschgen said that families are encouraged to come in at least once a month, so they know what is going on with their children.
"It's not recreation, it's not a camp, it's a psychotherapy model using nature," said Korschgen. "On this amount of property, this many staff and this much diversity, it's really hard to duplicate."
They help many people on this farm, from children with autism to adults with PTSD. When the patient is assigned to a therapist, they are always doing something therapeutic on the farm. It can include spending time with the horses, painting rocks, archery or going to the garden.
The plan is to add music and dance therapy soon, as well as hire more people to expand the farm.
One misconception about the eco-farm is that people get to ride the horses. Jessica Budea, who is a clinical manager at the farm, said, "The powershift changes. It's no longer you're working alongside the horse as a partnership, but you're telling it what to do. We feel the model that we use is more effective to not incorporate riding."
At Heron Hill, therapy usually lasts anywhere from six to 12 months.
Budea said that the therapist are constantly assessing and measuring how the patients are doing, if there are needs that need modifications, or if they are at a place where they can transition out.
Korschgen said that there is no other program like this in the country that she knows of; eco-psychology therapy is relatively new, but it seems to help many people.