June 12, 2024
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What is Equine Therapy and What Conditions Can It Treat?

With a rise in mental health awareness, studies are constantly being conducted to improve treatment quality. One of the treatment procedures that has come to the forefront is the equine therapy. In rehabilitation centers, starting from the inpatient to outpatient program, equine therapy is quite effective.

Equine-assisted psychotherapy implies incorporating horses into the therapy process. Patients suffering from different psychological illnesses engage in feeding, grooming, and leading horses. Therapists and professionals assist them in the process. 

Let’s understand more about this interesting therapy and how it helps.

Why Equine Therapy?

Research suggests that animals offer extraordinary emotional support, which is why they are often an integral part of treatment and when shifting from inpatient to outpatient programs. Alongside the loving pet-owner relationship, animals have helped people navigate challenging emotions in a crisis. If we look back at history, the ancient Greeks used horses for therapeutic purposes. Also, horseback riding became popular in the 1950s and 60s as an effective therapy tool.

Today, much of the popularity of equine therapy is due to its experiential approach. There is also glaring evidence of its effectiveness. For instance, equine therapy helps recovering patients develop skills to regulate their emotions. It also boosts self-confidence and a sense of responsibility in them.

Equine therapy, based on this approach, is divided into three broad categories. These are mental health, counseling, and psychotherapy. Thus, if you are interested in getting it for yourself or a near or dear one, consider your options.

Conditions Treated by Equine Therapy

With a therapy as attractive as this, it is evident for one to wonder what conditions it can treat. Well, the treatment is beneficial in treating quite a few conditions, such as:

Anxiety

More than 17 million Americans suffer anxiety disorders beyond the clinical diagnostic criteria. There are several anxiety-related conditions, including panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety, and so on. People struggling with anxiety are stuck in the past and worried about the future. Working with horses helps the patients stay in the present and focus on the job.

Interestingly, horses are sensitive and vigilant creatures. When they sense danger, their behavior changes, and they try to escape. The same happens to people with anxiety disorders. Now, patients, through equine therapy, can better process their behavioral challenges. They are encouraged to leave their comfort zone. Long-term treatment makes it easier to communicate their personal experiences.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is marked by heightened arousal and reactivity. Following a traumatic event, patients often get intrusive memory flashes and nightmares. A common symptom of PTSD is an inability to connect and communicate emotionally.

Equine therapy helps these patients to gradually open up again. Horses are magnificent, loving animals, and many patients find bonding with them rejuvenating. Equine-assisted psychotherapy is a lengthy but safe procedure to bring back deeply affected patients to normal life.

Addiction

In the United States, drug and alcohol addiction continues to rise. There is a strong need for effective therapies with zero side effects now more than ever. Equine-assisted treatment offers a unique and unconventional approach to addiction and co-curring conditions. A co-curring condition, in this regard, is a dual diagnosis. It indicates a person with an addiction along with another mental health condition, which is a common occurrence.

The emotional bonding that equine therapy facilitates works well in dual-diagnosis cases. Watching the animals, the patients start learning to trust and practice vulnerability. These go a long way in helping them open up and mend the relationship dynamics with dignity. The ultimate goal is to help recovering people with an addiction live a sober and productive life. Equine therapy encourages and supports all these and more.

Closing Thoughts

While effective in treating, equine therapy involving large horses can be intimidating for some patients. However, therapists are the best people to determine the suitability of the treatment for patients. They administer the process to ensure the best possible outcome.

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