“The biblical view I got at Calvary is the lens through which I look at counseling theories.”
Emily Schmidt graduated from Calvary with her bachelor’s degree in 2010. She went on to earn her certification as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Play Therapist (RPT). She’s putting her degrees to work at Horsepower, an experiential learning program that helps students develop life skills in a ranch environment. Their equine assisted learning—equine assisted therapy when taught by a licensed therapist—focuses on reaching at-risk youth.
Schmidt said, “The program is about seven weeks long, and each week there’s a different theme.” These themes include communication, empathy, and decision making, and they help students develop and translate relational skills with horses to their human relationships.
The ministry at HorsePower appealed to Schmidt because of her long-time love for horses, as well as the integral role horses played in her coming to faith. Growing up with a difficult family life, she said, “I was desperate for a change, so I came up to Kansas City to go to a horse clinic.” She found an opportunity to work at a local horse farm, and through friends there, started going to church and was saved a few months later. She knew she wanted to go to Bible College, and she started her studies at Calvary in 2006.
Schmidt found Horsepower shortly out of college through a friend, and said, “It’s really interesting, because I remember volunteering, and I remember praying, ‘God, these kids need a Christian therapist. Please send them a Christian therapist.’ But I had no idea it was going to be me.” After attempting to start a horse-based program on her own, Schmidt decided to go back to school to become a licensed therapist. She also discovered natural lifemanship, a method of equine-assisted therapy that focuses on the therapeutic and healing effects that interaction with horses can have on psychological and behavioral disorders. Schmidt said many forms of horsemanship focus on controlling the horse, but HorsePower trains students to understand and work with their horse, teaching them a better model for healthy relationships.
With ten years of experience now, Schmidt said, “It’s amazing. We’ve had kids in the past that very clearly had no beliefs, and I got to share the gospel with them. Also, seeing them growing in ways that are going to help them relate to God in the future. We’re not always talking about God all the time, but we’re helping kids learn to have healthy relationships and attachment with humans.” She added that, “When working with kids, you don’t always see the fruit right away,” but the patterns they create prime the kids for a healthier relationship with God.
Looking to the future, Schmidt said her dream is to eventually be part of her own equine assistance program with a vision to “be compelled by love as we create space for relationships that bring hope and healing to a hurting world.” She said, “The biblical view I got at Calvary is the lens through which I look at counseling theories” without getting distracted by misplaced theories. “There are people who’ve dedicated their lives to studying human nature, and what they’re seeing is accurate, but something in their interpretation is wonky because of their worldview. So you can still learn, as long as you know how to interpret it biblically at the end of the day.”