What is Equine Therapy?
Equine therapy involves interaction between horses and those suffering from addiction with or without concurring mental health disorders. We conduct equine therapy by teaching clients how to work with the animals, how to groom them and play with them. During this alternative addiction therapy, emotion and impulse control is cultivated, and a foundation of trust is built. Our equine therapy is one of the most innovative and underappreciated addiction therapies in the world today. Many treatment centers are not aware of the benefits associated with this type of animal and human contact therapy, but we at The Villa Treatment Center believe in this connection that requires no words, only the senses.
Healing through interaction with the animals is helpful for many types of mental illness and psychological trauma. According to the Animal-Assisted Therapy Handbook, this practice of equine therapy has been in use since 1946 in Scandinavia and available within the United States since the 1960’s. Horses are peaceful animals and are very sensitive to the interaction of those they work with as they reflect the emotional responses from the individual. Our clients learn to connect with the horses and test their comfort levels. Horses are somber and beautiful animals that yield a significant amount of strength, but they are calm and soothing creatures.
Equine Therapy and Mental Illness
Anxiety, stress, depression, and PTSD are some of the feelings mirrored through the horse. Horses are sensitive to energy and emotion. Those in recovery working with our horses can monitor the way these animals react to certain stimuli. We learn self-awareness through this interaction as the horse reflects our own energy, making us aware of feelings we may not have realized we were holding. Once we learn to notice the signs the horse exhibits by becoming anxious and stressed, we can find ways to calm them; in turn, we can adapt and use these techniques for ourselves during times of distress in recovery.
Those affected by mental illness and deep-rooted anxieties, depression, and trauma, will get to know their triggers through interacting with the horse, and can learn to reduce stress levels as they do with the horse. These animals are soothing and can help to relieve these symptoms by offering us a safe and comforting presence. Brushing their hair, feeding them, riding them, and learning how they respond to our actions, can show us that anger, frustration, and raised voices–or force–are not healthy or effective methods of expression.
Addiction and Equine Therapy
Equine therapy is applicable to addiction treatment because we learn that only through gentle acceptance of our addiction and human compassion, can we achieve full recovery. When we are stressed and anxious it can be difficult to overcome our fears of recovery and not fall back on our substance dependence. We can rewire our thought processes and learn to focus on our feelings, live within our emotions, and better control our responses to them.
The reason the body suffers during addiction, anxiety, and trauma is that the brain hyper-focuses on the negative aspects of everything we see around us and within ourselves, warping it and magnifying it until it becomes unbearable and we seek relief in drugs/alcohol or other unhealthy behaviors. Equine therapy can help take us out of our cluttered thoughts and bring us into the present moment by focusing on the animal we’re connected with. The gentleness of the horse and the way they respond to us, opens our eyes to the beauty in life.
Equine Therapy Benefits:
- Build trust
- Learn alternative methods of communication
- Develop compassion
- Lowered stress
- Calm anxious feelings
- Learn to be present (in the moment)
- Cultivate patience
Equine therapy can be combined with several different addiction treatments. Our individual therapy sessions will help you to decide the best method/s of treatment, but we truly believe in active participation and encourage each of our clients to be open to new experiences. Learning the power of emotional connections and respect will help you to succeed in recovery. Lower your stress levels and learn about your emotional nature as you connect with these magnificent animals.
If you or someone you love is experiencing concurrent mental health conditions and addiction, please feel free to call The Villa Treatment Center and learn more about our equine therapy program.