SHF Staff Member Attends ESMHL Workshop Thanks to Harold T. Sumner Professional Education Grant

Oct 25, 2022 | News

Shining Hope Farms is grateful to have received a Harold T. Sumner Professional Education Grant from the Gaston Community Foundation. The grant made it possible for Shining Hope Farms staff member Cindy Demers to attend an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning workshop. Attending the workshop has prepared Cindy to work in our Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, or EAP, sessions. Having additional staff to support the growth of our counseling services at all three locations has been an incredibly important priority for Shining Hope Farms.

If you’re not familiar with Cindy, she currently plays a vital role in our organization. She is the Mt. Holly farm’s barn manager (which means she takes care of our equines, other animals, and barn in general) and she helps out in a similar capacity at our Conover location. She is also our volunteer coordinator which means she conducts our volunteer trainings and gets new volunteers onboarded. She is incredibly dependable and is always taking initiative to make sure things are done properly. In addition to these roles she also horse leads in our therapy sessions (currently physical, occupational, and speech therapy). Getting her trained as an Equine Specialist or ES was a natural next step for Cindy.

Shining Hope Farms recently started offering EAP, which is defined as an interactive process in which a licensed mental health professional working with, or as, an appropriately credentialed equine professional partners with suitable equine(s) to address psychotherapy goals set forth by the mental health professional and the client. In order for us to conduct this therapy we need not only a licensed mental health counselor, but to meet the standards of our governing organization (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International – PATH Intl.) we are required to have a certified PATH Intl. Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning (ESMHL) be part of the session. This person ensures the safety and well-being of the equine participating in the session and serves as the equine expert during equine-human interactions. The ESMHL works alongside a mental health professional.

In order to be certified as an ESMHL you must go through the proper training. The training and certification process consists of:

  • Completing an online course and exam
  • Completing an online history Video
  • Completing 20 hours of education and 60 hours in EAP sessions
  • Attending a PATH Intl. on-site Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning workshop
  • Completing a horsemanship skills test

Now that she has gone through the training (thanks to the Gaston Community Foundation’s Harold T. Sumner Professional Education Grant) Cindy is now qualified to fill this role!

We can’t thank the Gaston Community Foundation enough for making this important contribution to our Equine Assisted Psychotherapy program!

About the Harold T. Sumner Professional Education Grants

Harold Townsend Sumner demonstrated in words and actions his belief that good citizens working together through independent charitable organizations are critical to improving quality of life in Gaston County. He was a co-founder and constant leader of the Community Foundation’s efforts to effectively assemble and manage long-term charitable funds on behalf of local philanthropists and the operating charitable organizations. He also pictured the Foundation as a role model in encouraging philanthropy.

The Foundation sees this plan as a permanent tribute to Mr. Sumner’s service that is consistent with his vision for the community and the Foundation’s own mission.

The Program: Harold T. Sumner Professional Education Grants are given to independent non-profit organizations in Gaston County. The grants are awarded to independent charitable, cultural, or educational organizations that seek financing for professional training/education for a key staff member with at least one year of service in the nominating organization. Preference is giving for training that is local / in-state.

Here are some photos from the ESMHL Workshop last month.


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