Faith Deeter is Her Name and Counseling is Her Game

Life moseys by on the back road of Santa Rosa while the grape vines, bare and vulnerable, struggle against the afternoon gust. Urban matters seem irrelevant at Well Spring Stables as the 40-plus horses keep a watchful eye and the old dog kicks up dust with the heaviness of his arthritic limp.

But nonetheless it is here, sandwiched between the cabbage field and rolling green hills, that Marriage Family Therapist Faith Deeter couples her passion and love for horses with her will to uplift others through Equine Facilitated Mental Health services—an alternative for patients who find the traditional 50-minute setting mundane.

“Everyone is getting old around here at the same time,” Deeter says, while patting old Rufus. Her compassion for life is mirrored in this simple interaction.

“I love this line of work; giving people the opportunity and ability to improve their quality of living,” Deeter says. As a native of Santa Ynez, she remembers how horses played a role in her own development.

“(They) were always interwoven into my life,” she recalls. “I remember in high school having the idea of creating an occupation out of pairing horses and children. But I didn’t know I could do it.”

Though Deeter worked as a part-time riding instructor during college at UCSB and participated in Pony Club, it wasn’t until after opening a private practice in Santa Ynez in 1999 that her idea took flight.

In 2004 she began offering patients the opportunity to involve horses with psychotherapy after sharing the idea with a friend who offered to house Deeter’s new business venture at Well Spring Stables.

“Being around horse’s helps some people open up and start talking,” Deeter says. “People who might not otherwise want (or accept) therapy.”

About 30 percent of her clientele participate in this unconventional therapeutic approach. The process entails Deeter first getting to know the patient and discovering what may benefit him/her, then creating a program that fits the client and finally implementing it. If a client has issues with boundaries it might prove beneficial to have the person lead a disrespectful horse, Deeter says, while giving examples of different programs.

“We spend a lot of time on the horses back,” she says. “And I don’t know what it is but people just start talking.”

Though she probably can’t picture herself doing otherwise, as her name implies, her journey into the field of Psychotherapy was not always evident.

As a young adult Deeter aspired to be a model and it wasn’t until after being blindsided by the debilitating cancer Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which annually affects about 4 percent of the U.S. population, that she decided to become a therapist.

Though there was no family history of Lymphoma, the then 20-year-old Deeter reported not being surprised by the doctor’s diagnosis in an earlier Valley Magazine article. Deeter underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatment for six months before the cancer went into remission.

“Even when I was sick the horses gave me a reason to get out everyday,” she says, referring to her horse Fifo. “After that I decided to do something meaningful with my life,” she says. “(The experience) connected me with myself and disassociated me with many of the external aspects of my life that had previously defined me.”

“It didn’t take my soul and spirit to be pretty, but it does take both those elements to do what I’m doing now.”

The sessions have at least three benefits, Deeter says. First, the connection people make with animals is immeasurable. Second, it really benefits kids who may have behavioral or attention problems, because they get to practice changing behavior instead of only talking about it.

Thirdly, most of the qualities needed to create a partnership with a horse are some of the same we need when developing and maintaining healthy relationships with people.

Today life continues to be dynamic for Faith. She remains cancer-free and continues to be a pillar of hope for those in need by participating in outreach programs for at-risk youth. Her determination to “not make mountains of molehills” nurtures her relentless determination to keep adopting diverse approaches at conventional issues.

“I don’t quit easy,” she says. “and sometimes to my own detriment,” And other times, to the benefit of her patients. For more information about Faith Deeter’s services call (805) 350-1693.