There are many ways of treating someone with an addiction to help them rehabilitate from substance abuse, including both medical and alternative treatments. Everyone responds to drug and alcohol treatment differently and so it’s always important to find the best therapies for each individual concerned. Equine therapy offers patients an alternative route for drug and alcohol rehab that has proven to be extremely effective as a part of the overall treatment of addiction disease.
What is Equine Therapy?
A relatively new factor in the world of drug and alcohol rehab, equine therapy – also known as equine-assisted psychotherapy –allows a patient to interact with a horse to help them work through their psychological and emotional issues that traditional therapy may not address. Equine therapy adds another dimension to traditional treatment programs that enable patients to better understand their addiction issues while learning to care for a living creature.
It is through developing a bond with the horse that patients can find themselves learning how to care for themselves. When someone with an addiction has responsibility for the care for an animal, they grow to be people that can be depended upon by others. Many individuals struggling with addiction issues find themselves becoming withdrawn and isolated from those close to them and equine therapy encourages patients to develop better communication skills that assist them in recovery.
The Benefits of Equine Therapy
Although working with horses is a fairly recent development in the field of animal-assisted therapy, studies have shown it to be extremely effective in the treatment of psychological issues. Patients receiving treatment for mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, panic disorder an anxiety are particularly responsive to equine therapy and generally report higher levels of self-esteem and increased the ability to cope with their condition.
Equine therapy is focused on teaching patients how to interact with horses and develop a bond with them. Horses are herd animals and they have an excellent capacity to sense and respond to other creatures’ emotions. Horses are able to detect when a person is scared, nervous, happy or sad and they adapt their behavior to respond accordingly. By learning the ways in which a horse’s behavior reveals how the person they are interacting with feels, patients are able to get more in touch with their feelings.
The specific benefits of equine therapy include the following:
Immediate feedback: Because of the response mechanisms of horses, they act as a mirror for the person they are interacting with, allowing them to explore their own emotions and better understand them.
Opportunities for learning: Interacting with horses allows patients to relearn the ways they interact with others and modify their behavior to improve close relationships going forward.
Opportunities for trust-building: Developing a relationship with an animal involves building a trust-based relationship with them. Horses are particularly responsive to external stimulus and are beneficial in allowing patients to become vulnerable enough to develop trust with another living creature, without the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Healthy relationships: A particular benefit of equine therapy is that horses are non-judgmental. If they come to trust a human, they don’t care what their background is or their state of mental health and don’t discriminate. This can be immensely rewarding for someone receiving equine therapy in a drug and alcohol treatment center as it serves to instill and build the self-confidence they need to develop healthier relationships without fear of being criticized by others.
The psychology of horses has specific bearing on successful equine therapy and the fact that they evolved in the wild is particularly relevant. It is through their evolution that they have developed the ability to sense the vibes projected by other animals, making them one of the most sensitive animals that work with humans. Drug and alcohol rehab centers use horses as a method of getting biofeedback on the emotional and psychological state of patients interacting with them, which in turns allows clinicians to revise and adapt treatment responsively.
Many people believe that horses recognize indicators such as heart rate, muscle tension and sense the state of mental and physical health the person interacting with them is in. This, in turn, provides a valuable tool for patients to learn to control their emotional state in order to elicit a good response from the horse. In recovery, gaining better control of body and mind is crucial for relapse prevention and equine therapy assists in educating someone with addiction issues to read themselves more accurately and have healthier interactions with others in recovery.