Nicole Long, Wild Hearts Therapist


Wild Hearts Barn & Land Photo credit: Margaret Bellafiore


Plymouth resident, Nicole Long, has been a practicing therapist for almost five years. Her work with Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) is newer and done exclusively for Wild HeartsTherapeutic Equestrian Program. she said.

“Horses just have the ability to allow us be real, allow us to establish a sense of trust,” she said. They also help clients “become more confident.”

In an office she said, “You can talk over and over and over again,” but that doesn’t always allow a person to change a pattern.

“You need to experience the skills to address an issue,” she said, “It’s hard to do in an office.” However, at Wild Hearts, the relationship with a horse provides immediate feedback. The horse provides an “instant reward,” she said.

“In a quicker amount of time,” she notices changes in people. Plus, she said, at the barn, they are (in the) here and now and experience the opportunity to be strong.”

People question their strength after trauma, Nicole said, and with the horses they can “develop (a) sense of self. Sometimes with trauma or TBI or life transition, there’s so much grieving and thinking about (the) self they once were and ‘how do I start all over?’ – here, they are having experiences that help create new self that they can love and be confident in. it takes time but that’s the process.”

EFP can be used by anyone and with various presenting issues or conditions. Long said, it’s an “experiential form of psychotherapy” and a known and accepted form of clinical work.

And what she does with Julie at Wild Hearts, “that I absolutely love,” she said, it “bring natural horsemanship” skills to people.Wild Hearts 1

Nicole brings the clinical counseling piece to her work at Wild Hearts, working with her clients separately to “identify goals for counseling.”

She consults with Julie to customize activities at the barn to address the skills a person wants to work on. It’s a process “that I absolutely love,” she said.

The expectation and hope is that  a person will take what is learned at the barn and “integrate that experience into daily life.”

Nicole explained how hard it can be to “talk to someone hypothetically about panic/anxiety because of PTSD” where discussions about mindfulness and breathing are helpful but don’t necessarily help a person when they leave the office. Being in the “stable working with horses, we can have experience where they have to practice and they….. in that moment….. experience relief,” Long said. “They have a positive experience and have motivation to do it on their own alone. So they can continue on in everyday life.”

Nicole described Julie as “extremely passionate, open, kind. When you come on the farm you feel safe and secure. You can be who you are. It’s the person she focuses on not where they’ve been, or diagnosis, but working with that person and meeting their need.”

As for the horses, “They’re awesome. They all have their own personalities. They are all very kind. Playful. Very unique. People should feel comfortable around them.”Wild Hearts 2

  • Nicole stressed that the Healing through Horsemanship is a group program, completely FREE to veterans based on Julie’s fundraising. “Julie does constant fundraising to make that happen. She’s always accepting donations. Goal is to offer as much as needed. The VA doesn’t pay, insurance doesn’t.”

Making the program accessible is important to everyone at Wild Hearts including Nicole.

Insurance: For private work at Wild Hearts, Nicole accepts Tufts which requires a $25. co-pay. For those who don’t have Tufts, a sliding scale of about $45. to $65. an hour is available.

‘We’re all committed to making financial not be a hold up,” said Nicole.

For more information about Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy, visit the National Center for Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy  

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