Can a Horse Really Help?
Have you tried talking to a therapist but don’t feel it’s helping? Are you someone who connects more by doing than speaking? If the answer is yes, then maybe equine-assisted therapy can help you.
What is Equine-assisted Therapy?
Equine-assisted therapy involves horses to assist clients. By interacting with an animal like a horse, clients can:
- Observe the horse’s behavior.
- Interact with the horse.
- Solve problems related to the horse.
- Practice setting goals.
- Gain skills that help them with social situations.
This kind of therapy allows participants to work on issues while actively engaging in a therapeutic process.
Who Can Participate in Equine-assisted Therapy?
This type of therapy can be helpful for those struggling with a number of issues, such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Anger issues
- Low self-esteem
In addition, equine-assisted therapy works for both adults and children.
What are the Benefits of Equine-assisted Therapy?
According to the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EGALA) there are several benefits to equine-assisted therapy. For instance:
- Work with a larger animal creates unique challenges and opportunities. This provides a chance for the client to address anxiety or fear.
- Horses are creatures with their own mannerisms and personalities. Also, they are social animals that belong to a larger group or herd.
- Horses are perceptive, and can pick up on non-verbal cues that we don’t even realize that we are projecting.
- When working with horses, the client learns how to change their own behavior to get a different response from the horse.
- Horses like to play, yet they can also be stubborn too.
- Horses don’t judge. They don’t get caught up in the “back-story” that either we create, or is created for us.
All of this means that horses make the perfect sounding board for a client. Their interaction allows the client to receive feedback and connect with another creature.
Forming a Bond: Horse and Human
When you have the chance to interact with a horse over the course of several sessions, you begin to feel a connection with the animal. You don’t ride the horse. Instead, you walk with and interact with the horse. The horse’s ability to pick up on your mood and mannerisms affect how you connect with it. It can be a powerful experience.
What Does a Therapy Session Look Like?
There are several components to an equine-assisted therapy session. These include:
- A facilitation team composing of a therapist, an equine specialist, and the client.
As mentioned above, all therapy sessions are on the ground. No previous horse experience is necessary to participate in an equine-assisted session.
- A solutions-focused approach, where you have the opportunity to discover the answers to your own problems.
- Other interventions, as deemed appropriate.
One aspect of this kind of therapy is that, although you have the opportunity to learn for
yourself what you need to overcome your problems, you don’t have to do it alone. Receive support from a team of professionals, and an animal who accepts you for who you are.
Does Equine-Assisted Therapy Actually Work?
Research is definitely showing that equine-assisted therapy can be a helpful intervention for those struggling with mental health issues. For instance, an article in Sciencedaily.com discussed research from New Mexico State University. It found that studies of charter high school students, female victims of domestic violence, and military veterans all saw positive benefits resulting from their participation in equine-assisted programs.
Equine-assisted therapy provides a unique opportunity for clients looking for an out-of-the-box solution to mental health issues. Instead of talking in a therapist’s office, you interact outside with an animal that offers the insight you need to heal and the means to move forward with your life. To read more about Family Christian Counseling Center and equine assisted therapy click on the link.