As the name suggests, equine therapy is an increasingly popular treatment technique that involves the use of horses to facilitate recovery among people suffering from substance abuse disorder. This type of treatment method aims to complement other traditional modes of addiction treatment to increase the patient’s chance of recovery.
Equine-assisted therapy sessions involve carrying out different tasks using horses such as putting on a saddle, brushing the horse’s mane, horse grooming, or at walking with it. While a handler is always present during sessions, his primary role is to ensure that the interaction between the horse and patient is safe.
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What involved in Horse Therapy?
The use of horses in therapy help the recovering addict to learn critical insights by observing the horse’s behavior and through his interaction with this beautiful and powerful animal. The behavior of horses is shaped through their millennia of interacting with humans. In the wild, they are often alert and wary about their surroundings, and they can be hard to control. However, in a therapeutic setting, the well-trained horses provide emotional support and allow for self-reflection. Recovering addicts, with the guide of the therapist, can learn so much about themselves and how they treat other people when they see the many behavioral changes exhibited by the horse.
In a 2007 study about the effectiveness of equine-assisted experiential therapy published in Society and Animals, it was revealed that this kind of treatment significantly reduces psychological distress and enhances the overall psychological well-being of patients who have experienced equine therapy for several months.
Below are several lessons that horses teach substance abuse patients during horse therapy:
How to Be Genuine and Honest About One’s Feelings
People with substance abuse problems often wear “masks.” They often hide their true feelings for fear of rejection and many other reasons, which is one reason they use drugs as a form of escape. Unfortunately, constant denial of one’s true feelings results in stress, anxiety, and tension.
Horses, on the other hand, are always honest about who they are and what they feel. They also have the unique ability to sense if the people they interact with are not being real. This means that a drug addict in horse therapy can learn more about himself – especially whether he is being honest or not. A horse can detect if the person is angry even if he tries to hide it by saying soothing words or brushing the horse’s mane. Through the horse’s reaction, the patient can know how often he tries to hide his true self.
How to Live in the Present Moment
Horses, just like any other animals, do not care much about the future or what happened yesterday. What they care most about is the present moment. With recovering addicts, however, their attention, feelings, and entire being are often caught up in the past or set in the future.
Unfortunately regretting the past, worrying about the future, and ignoring the present cause the patient immeasurable level of stress and anxiety and when he’s beset with such emotions, taking drugs may seem like the only option. When recovering addicts work with horses, they learn how simple their life be by simply living in the moment.
How to Overcome Challenges
It is not easy to work with horses. For one, their mere size is already intimidating enough. They also do not readily obey unless they trust the person they work with. All these things may seem overwhelming, especially for a recovering addict who has no experience working with horses before.
Carrying out activities with horses can cause the recovering addict to feel anxious and nervous at first because he does not know what to do, he is not familiar with the horse, or he has no idea what he’s doing. But after learning all these things and becoming more comfortable, the patient will have improved self-esteem and confidence.
The valuable lessons mentioned above are just some of the positive things a substance abuser can learn upon participating in equine-assisted therapy. These lessons may seem basic but once the patient is able to learn them collectively and apply them in his life, all these things can greatly impact the patient’s recovery journey.
If you are looking for an addiction rehab facility that can help you greatly and if working with animals is something that you believe can help you greatly, make sure you consider Ranch Creek’s equine and other experiential treatment techniques.