Nathalie Phillips has started equine assisted therapy counselling using horses.
Nathalie Phillips has started equine assisted therapy counselling using horses. Mike Knott

Horses harnessed in therapy role

NATHALIE Phillips is no horse whisperer - but she does use horses to try to help humans understand themselves.

Mrs Phillips has recently started a business that specialises in equine-assisted therapy, which uses the animals as a counselling tool for a range of disorders including abuse, trauma, substance abuse and relationship issues.

"The horses I've always loved, since I was a little girl - they've probably been in my life for about 30 years," she said.

Originally from Switzerland, Mrs Phillips moved to Bundaberg six years ago and has only just recently opened Horses in Lives.

"I was a school teacher in Switzerland, but in Australia my papers weren't recognised," she said.

Mrs Phillips then decided to study psychology, in which she now has a diploma, as well as two majors - abuse counselling, and child development and effective parenting.

Instead of having a therapy session in a room with a counsellor, the client heads outdoors into the paddock and interacts with thehorse.

"It's ground-based activities only - there's no riding," she said.

"You don't need to know anything about horses."

Mrs Phillips said the use of horses enabled people to bond and interact with a gentle but powerful large animal without fear.

"The horse is considered as a professional - he's part of the therapy team," she said.

"His role is to just be himself - they're non-judgmental and they reflect the way we feel like a mirror."

Therapy activities are tailored to suit each person's needs and issues.

Mrs Phillips said one particular activity could involve a client being asked to build a path that best reflects where they feel they are at at this point of their lives.

"They can put down their obstacles and then they lead the horse through this path," she said.

"With every obstacle, the horse will react by either walking away, jumping over it or ducking under it."

The counsellor said how the horse reacts to the obstacle was then used as a metaphor to how the client may react to an obstacle in their own life.

"(The client) gets an instant response to their behaviour," she said.

For more information about Mrs Phillips's counselling service, email

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