Words Do Matter
I started the position of CEO for PATH Intl. with a bucket list of items I hoped to address at some point in my tenure. One of those items some of you may remember from my early communications was the issue of confusing and inconsistent terminology throughout the field of EAAT. This is not a new challenge, but its adverse impact on the field has grown significantly. This negative impact can particularly be seen in the areas of research, third-party reimbursement, and participant/public misunderstanding of what services are offered. Over the years, many subject matter experts have wrestled with this issue and several attempts have been made to gain consensus among the various professionals in this field. Unfortunately, the number of different terms and definitions has continued to increase, along with the growth of the field. As I looked at what had been tried before, as well as solicited thoughts and feedback from a variety of people and organizations, an idea began to develop for an all-inclusive, data-driven process facilitated by trained consultants with the goal of term definition agreement among the major stakeholders in EAAT. PATH Intl. submitted a grant to begin this definition process, and just last month, funding was granted by the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) much to our great appreciation.
PATH Intl. is proud to publicize the receipt of the grant from BWF, which leverages its expertise and collaborative network to find, fund and shape innovative programs that help impacted veterans, service members and their families thrive.
As a nonpartisan leader in the military-veteran community, BWF brings transparency and credibility to its partners and complements their efforts. Receiving a grant from BWF is an honor that recognizes the dedication, focus and effectiveness of PATH Intl. staff, volunteers and supporters.
I am happy to announce that we have therefore kicked off this process. A workgroup has been formed comprised of Joann Benjamin, a physical therapist representing the American Hippotherapy Association, Inc.; Lynn Thomas, a mental health professional and co-founder and CEO of Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA); Wendy Wood, occupational therapist with Colorado State University who is completing a research literature review for EAAT; Michele Kane, veteran and PATH Intl. certified instructor; and me. Our initial task is to gather all of the existing, published terminology in the United States. This information will be compiled and will inform the creation of a survey. In order to understand how terms are being used in the field, the survey will be sent to all PATH Intl. members, members of a variety of additional organizations and other stakeholders.
The workgroup will also be responsible for hiring a professional consultant/facilitator. The consultant/facilitator will be responsible for using the resulting survey data as a basis for designing and facilitating a face-to-face meeting of a larger representation of the EAAT field. The group will be expanded to include representation from the fields of higher education, equine-facilitated psychotherapy and equine-assisted learning just to name a few. Representation bringing an international perspective will also be included.
This process will take the rest of this year to complete. Our vision is that by February 2019, we will be publishing a Baseline Definitions Resource Guide based on major stakeholder agreement. Each of the organizational stakeholders will be asking their members to adhere to the definitions, thereby clearing up the confusion. This consistency will lead to research that can be compared/viewed together because the terms used are uniform. Third-party reimbursement will be clear about what is being reimbursed and at what level. Ultimately, there will also be a better understanding for the participant/public. This consistency of language will help clarify the services individuals should ask for and perhaps how to better request those services. And they will better recognize the services they are currently receiving.
I am very excited to move this item from my bucket list to my in-process list. PATH Intl. has so much appreciation for the Bob Woodruff Foundation's support that is making this possible as well as the willingness of the various stakeholders to come to the table and work together for the greater good.
All the Best,