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PBJ Connections provides professional behavioral health therapy for children, adults and families through horses, counseling and nature and is one of just a handful of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) providers Ohio.
Headquartered in Pataskala, PBJ has two full time employees in Holly Jedlicka, Executive Director, and Erica Lewis, Assistant Director. The organization contracts with licensed mental health therapists and trained equine specialists. Because they partner with four locations, the program works with upwards of 45 equines. Home base, though, is in rural Pataskala, an ideal location offering serenity and peace as well as ease of access from anywhere in central and eastern Ohio. This location houses nine horses and two donkeys.
PBJ Connections is modeled after EAGALA model of therapy, which uses a team of a licensed mental health professional, an equine specialist, and the animal (horses or donkeys) for mental health therapy. The model follows a strict code of ethics, and contrary to popular misconceptions, the model is completely non-riding.
“Horses are honest and completely reactive to their environment 100 percent of the time,” Holly explained while referencing other common household pets. “Compare it to a dog or a cat – which make great pets, but they are natural predators that hunt, and there has to be a bit of deception in the hunt. Horses don’t have that; there is no deception. It’s immediate, honest feedback.”
Horses seek three things – “Safety, Comfort, and Companionship, in that order” she explained. So the response of the animal to the environment and the signals that are being presented by the client are key to the therapy sessions. “We get to observe the client’s interpretations of what they’re seeing and feeling from these animals,” Holly explained, before adding “The interpretation of the horse’s actions and demeanor are absolutely key to the experience.”
PBJ Connections’ clientele comes from a variety of sources. Holly indicated that word of mouth has been incredibly important, but community partnerships and referrals from insurance companies are as valuable as it gets. As a non-profit entity, there’s little budget for traditional marketing channels. So they do what they can online, like a fantastic website and periodic electronic newsletter, and they’re active on Facebook, from which they do get referrals. You can even keep up with client favorite, Rocky the Horse.
Recently, PBJ has partnered with The Ohio State University on an ongoing research project, providing intervention services for the study while OSU collects the data. Multiple research papers will be published as the project moves forward. With Holly and Erica’s background with Ohio State (Holly and Erica both hold degrees from the school – Holly with her Masters in Social Work and Erica with her BS in Agriculture), connections through other community partners, and the positive reputation of PBJ Connections, the partnership with OSU was a natural fit.
The amount of additional programs offered by PBJ Connections is staggering. The CONNECT Program provides Equine-assisted Psychotherapy for youth ages 6-18 and their families as well as adult sessions. The A PONY Program partners with school systems and serves at-risk and high-risk students in ten week sessions. Family Coaching offers six week sessions for the entire family, covering communication skills, coping strategies, problem solving, and more. ON MISSION partners horses with veterans and is free to Franklin County Veterans struggling with substance use through the Access to Recovery Grant. There group sessions for youth in the PEERS program, offering group sessions on a quarterly basis, and Summer Group sessions.
The aforementioned partnership with Ohio State is not the only instance of their working relationship; they also partner with them in the James Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Survivorship Program, offering family equine therapy sessions. And as if that’s not enough, there is the PBJ@WORK program, which PBJ Connections offers “a rich set of corporate leadership and teamwork options that are suitable for work and social teams of all sizes.”
While the EAGALA model of therapy that PBJ Connections follows is non-riding, they commonly co-refer clients looking to local therapeutic riding programs if that is the appropriate fit.
Even with all of this going on, they’re still in the midst of putting the finishing touches on their biggest event of the year – the annual “Helping Horses Help Kids” Charity Event, which celebrates “the many Great Pairings of PBJ Connections and our community.” This year’s event is a special one, as it’s the tenth annual edition, and will again feature a huge silent auction featuring some exclusive one of a kind items and experiences. The event is open to the public and will be held on Thursday, September 21, from 6pm-9pm at The Annunciation Banquet and Conference Center at The Greek Orthodox Cathedral at 555 N. High St. in Columbus. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are still available, so check out the website for more information.
Holly said her passion for her work is rooted in her own upbringing. “I was one of two children who grew up in a good home. We had horses, but my family worked really hard to make that happen. My father insured that we knew what we had and that we appreciated it, and he’s convinced that’s what kept me out of trouble. And I just wanted to share that passion and responsibility and that’s kind of how this came to be,” she said.
To learn more about many of the topics discussed, please view the list of links below. Additionally, PBJ Connections is always looking for passionate folks to join their loyal team of volunteers. They can be contacted at 740.924.7543 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PBJ Connections: http://www.pbjconnections.org
PBJ on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PBJ.Connections/
Rocky on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rocky.of.PBJ.Connections/
Helping Horses Help Kids Event: http://www.helpinghorseshelpkids.org/