Equine-assisted therapy is an increasingly popular form of treatment. Equine-assisted therapy involves interacting with horses in a variety of activities including grooming, feeding, or walking the horse. There is evidence to support that being with an animal such as a horse can be a healing experience for many.
Equine-assisted therapy is coordinated with a licensed professional and horse professional, who are both present during equine-assisted therapy sessions. Equine-assisted therapy can help by providing insight into how one interacts with others and gaining self-awareness. A licensed professional who helps others to change negative patterns of behavior might use equine-assisted therapy to allow the individual to make connections between the horse’s movements and these negative patterns. Horses can offer immediate feedback to a person and shed light on a person’s thoughts and feelings.
Horses can also offer a relationship that is non-judgmental and is used in eating disorder treatment. The horse does not care how much someone weighs or what they look like. The horse looks at a person without rejection or criticism. Equine-assisted therapy also allows for a relationship to form between animal and human, which can be very special. The individual in treatment can open up and learn to build trust through working with an animal.
There may be some who are resistant to opening up to others about their problems. Equine-assisted therapy is a viable alternative to those who might have difficulty relating to others or who have difficulty with social relationships. A person can learn to effectively communicate with others through this type of therapy. The horse will respond to verbal commands from the individual and react to a quiet tone of voice or calm demeanor. Through this calm communication one can learn to manage emotions verbally and not react with anger or anxiety.
In the psychological community, treatment effectiveness is consistently researched for equine-assisted therapy. There is a growing body of support for this type of therapy and an increase in social interactions, self-esteem, and self-efficacy.
Equine-assisted therapy is a relatively new phenomenon but is showing great promise in the treatment of adolescents with behavioral issues, some individuals who are incarcerated, and those in substance abuse recovery. Animals overall provide a sense of compassion and understanding to an individual who may not interact well with others. As more research is conducted, equine-assisted therapy is sure to become commonplace in the treatment of mental health disorders.
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