Valkenberg Psychiatric Programme

The aim of The Equinox Trust programme with the Forensic Mental Health Unit at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital is to improve the participants’ ability to work and function in a group, decrease irritability and aggressive behaviours, while improving interpersonal and social skills.


Statement of Need

Forensic patients placed at Valkenberg Hospital spend long periods of time (months to years) receiving treatment and rehabilitation. They are therefore ideally suited to benefit from eight to twelve-week long courses of equine therapy. They are a stigmatised and marginalised population, who are often misunderstood by society. Most of the patients come from impoverished socio-economic backgrounds, particularly in terms of education, and they find it difficult to engage in formal psychological talking therapies. Equine therapy engages patients in a non-threatening and interactive manner, and it has the additional benefit of getting them to be physically active in an outdoors environment. The pilot programme held at Valkenberg Hospital in 2015 and the subsequent two 8-week programmes have showed positive results in terms of improving patients’ social skills, and reducing irritability, and it can be anticipated that future courses will show similar results.

Programme Goals
  • To offer a programme to assist patient’s in developing assertiveness and improving self-confidence and self-esteem
  • To assist participants to shift their outlook towards themselves and others
  • To promote emotional growth and learning opportunities in an emotionally supportive environment
Programme Outcomes
  • To improve the participants’ ability to work and function within a group and to improve group dynamics.
  • To improve relationship building and developing of an understanding of collaborative relationships
  • To improve patience and reduce irritable responses and behaviours
  • To adjust and decrease aggressive behaviours and responses
  • To improve ability of patients to provide spontaneous reflection as opposed to probed reflection
  • To improve assertiveness of individuals
  • To improve verbal and non-verbal communication of participants
Programme Detail
  • Weekly 1-hour sessions
  • One programme is 12 sessions
  • Maximum of 6 participants