Deborah “Debbie” Utterback is a dual licensed professional. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in the state of Texas and a PATH International Certified Equine Specialist for Mental Health Learning. Debbie began her love for horses in high school and spent a few summers learning and teaching horse handling skills. As a mental health professional, she graduated from Howard Payne University Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Social Work with Sociology Minor. She completed her Master of Science degree at the University of Texas at Arlington in Social Work with a focus on Direct Practice with Children and Families. She has spent her career working with adults, children, adolescents, and their families in the school, criminal justice, community mental health, foster care, and hospital settings. Mental Health and Healing is such a passion of hers that she used PTO to work with Orphan Outreach, Reach Out Honduras, and Identity Mission in 2016, 2017, and 2018 as a consultant and educator. She provided trainings and workshops to help staff members and foster parents work with complicated children and youth. She spoke at Honduras’ Identify Mission’s Annual Conference in 2017. In 2018, She presented at a workshop at her home church for mothers of teenagers and mentors of teenagers on depression & suicide. She has worked on the Critical Incident Stress Management debriefing team at Children’s Health and became a part of the Dallas Area Crisis Response Team. She also presented a lunch and learn for her coworkers at Children’s Health in Plano in fall of 2019 on the topic of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. After the pandemic, she turned her part-time private practice into her full-time gig. She specializes in working with children, adolescent, adults, veterans, and their dependents using equine facilitated psychotherapy. In her experience using talk therapy, she believes that Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is the most time effective method to see progress in a person’s behaviors, emotions, and relationships. Debbie feels her partnership with Jake E’s team was the best decision to further her clients in their journey of healing and restoration.
The science behind equine assisted psychotherapy.
The role of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is to provide guidance that supports the client's own process and create lasting solutions to the many challenges a person (adult, adolescent, or child) may be facing in their current life. The method used at Jake E' s is a model of equine facilitated psychotherapy, which involves a licensed mental health therapist, an equine specialist, and a highly trained horse to provide a unique and powerful experience for the client.
Jake E’s horses are on their second or third career and are very calm animals, however, they are still powerful animals and safety is our priority. The Equine Specialist (ES) is for safety and to interpret what is happening with the horse. All staff members are experts at what they do. The horse is a critically important partner due to their prey nature and intense sensitivity to subtle changes in their environment. Because of their sensitivity to these changes, horses help heal people struggling with their mental health. The horse reacts and responds differently based upon the person's emotional state. Our emotional states cause a variety of responses in us – both psychologically and physiologically. Horses are more at peace when we are transparent and genuine, not necessarily calm; they naturally encourage honesty and mindfulness in us. This type of unique counseling setting allows for organic moments to be shared between the individual and the horse. The horse acts as a large biofeedback machine, providing the client and the therapist with information. Immediate feedback is reinforced by this interaction with the horse which could provide a corrective experience or instigate the healing process. These corrective experiences can’t be planned; in fact the organic ways that these moments happen is the magic, and it’s exactly what us humans to begin a new and healthy way of being. For more information on this you can read Human-animal Relational Theory: a Guide for Animal-assisted Counseling by Cynthia K. Chandler https://doi.org/10.1080/15401383.2018.1486258.
Jake E’s Riding Roundup is licensed through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.). PATH Intl. is the credentialing organization for accrediting centers and certifying instructors and equine specialists. The Kaufman-based therapeutic healing center focuses on improving the lives of individuals with a need to find P.E.A.C.E. (People thru Equines Achieving Courage & Empowerment). Today the non-profit offers services to a variety of clients in the Northeast Texas area including veterans and at-risk youth as well as elderly and special needs individuals. You can find more information about Jake E’s and the programs they offer at https://www.jakeesrr.org/.
All the work is done on the ground with no riding involved. The horse is an equal partner to the team, and is left unencumbered to allow them to freely interact with the client. Our horses are especially picked with your safety in mind. However, some sessions may be completed in office if a client is not comfortable with an equine setting or does not feel this is the right fit for them.