By Sandy Baker
Treatment for addiction should be meaningful, interesting, motivating, and healing from the inside out. Holistic treatments can feel refreshing because they can be catered to individual needs. One special form of holistic treatment is equine therapy, using interaction with horses to address emotional health.
About Equine Therapy
At The Ranch at Dove Tree, we offer the opportunity to engage in equine therapy. Many of our clients in our residential drug treatment program in Lubbock, TX, love this inspirational, holistic therapy. Is it right for you?
What Happens During Equine Therapy?
Also known as equine-assisted psychotherapy, equine therapy involves regular interaction with a horse. Working with animals can help some people work through emotional health concerns more easily than they could with a therapist or a group.
Equine therapy is performed in a therapeutic setting, a place where you can relax and not feel like you’re under the spotlight. It is effective for people of all ages. Each day, you will work with the horse to meet its needs. This includes providing the horse with food, water, grooming, and a clean shelter. You’ll be able to bond with the animal as you work with it over time. Most often, equine therapy doesn’t involve riding a horse, but it does mean working to support the horse’s well-being.
What Are the Benefits of Equine Therapy?
A study published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health found that people who interacted with animals through animal-assisted therapy developed a higher self-esteem and level of confidence. They also were able to better cope with the treatment and challenges they faced over time. The benefits of equine therapy differ for each person, but they may include the following:
- A Boost to Self-Esteem
It feels good to be able to take care of another living creature. Many people who struggle through addiction feel bad about themselves. Some feel as though they’ve hurt others through their addiction. That takes a toll on a person’s overall emotional health. Equine therapy can help restore some of your faith in your ability to care for another being. Developing a positive identity during addiction treatment is essential.
- Improved Skills at Dealing with Difficulties
By forcing you to deal with some new levels of stress and discomfort, equine therapy teaches you that you can work through difficult situations. Most people don’t have a lot of experience with horses, so while the work isn’t physically hard, it will force you to be creative in solving problems and to be patient with yourself and the horse as you learn to work with each other. You won’t be able to turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with the stress, so you will have to learn how to manage it in new, healthier ways.
- Greater Emotional Intelligence
Horses have a unique ability to sense human emotion, including anger, frustration, fear, and nervousness. They respond to what they feel – and by responding, they make you aware of it. As you become more attuned to your own emotions, you will be able to accept them and work through them. With the horse providing a sort of emotional support, you’ll gain the courage to look at the source of your emotions and to make positive changes.
- Healthier Interactions with Others
Because they can understand some of your emotions and respond to them, horses help you rebuild your ability to communicate and interact with people. You’ll learn how to open up a bit and, perhaps most importantly, learn how to trust again.
Having a horse as a component of your therapy isn’t going to make the trauma and pain go away. But it will help you ease through these feelings in a more realistic and positive manner. Many people will find equine therapy – which is just one component of our comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment plan – an essential tool in reclaiming their identity and their vision for a better future.