If you want to change how you feel and think, try do something new and different – this is one of the core lessons from Roca’s cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program. For the high-risk young men and women in Roca’s Chelsea program, an opportunity to do that came in the form of a hooved animal, one that Chelsea rarely sees.
Through a connection with the local high school, Roca was connected with the Ironstone therapeutic horse farm in Andover, Massachusetts. The farm was eager to work with Roca, providing an opportunity for participants to come out and learn how to care for, and eventually ride, the horses at the farm.
The first session of this project took place over four sessions inviting 12 young men from Roca Chelsea to learn the basics of horse care and training. This was a part of the young men’s usual Wednesday class schedule, giving them a change of scenery from the usual classroom.
The first week the men learned the basics of horse care, and the second and third weeks went into more detail about training, grooming, and care for these animals. The final session allowed them to finally ride the horses.
“Because this is a therapeutic horse farm, the staff there works with people who have disabilities or have dealt with traumatic life events, so they understand the population we work with more and wanted to create an experience where you can related to the horses,” explained April Spataro, a Roca program manager.
“We also try to incorporate CBT into this experience, talking about how they felt working with the horses—one of the big surprises is that these young men thought caring for horses was easy, but it’s not.”
Even though this counted as class time, it didn’t feel like it. Over the four sessions, all 12 participants were eager to learn and try out their new skills. Spataro said based on the success of this first group, she hopes to make this a regular course for participants to try.
Roca, Inc. is an organization based in Chelsea dedicated to helping the highest risk young men and women break the cycle of poverty and incarceration through relationships, relentless outreach, and programming. In Roca’s monthly column, we highlight some of the highlights happening from their headquarters.