Animals have a remarkable capacity for providing emotional assistance. Animals are occasionally utilized in therapeutic settings to assist patients negotiate difficult emotional experiences, going beyond the pet-owner connection that many of us have affectionately experienced.
Equine therapy: What Is It?
Horses are a part of equine-assisted psychotherapy’s therapeutic process. While under the supervision of a mental health expert, people take part in tasks including feeding, leading, and grooming horses.
This type of treatment aims to assist clients in gaining abilities including emotional control, self-assurance, and responsibility. It might be a little scary to have a massive, majestic animal participate in your therapy sessions, with mature horses weighing ranging from 900 to 2,000 pounds or more. However, because of its experiential approach and some emerging proof of its efficacy, equine-assisted therapy is becoming more and more well-liked. Equestrian-assisted psychotherapy is referred to by a number of terms, including:
- Horse therapy for mental health
- Horse-assisted therapy
- Equestrian-assisted therapy
- The use of horses in therapy
- Equine-assisted therapy is a word that is frequently used to describe other types of therapy that involve the use of horses, such as occupational therapy.
The Evolution of Equine Therapy
Since the era of the ancient Greeks, horses have been utilized for medicinal purposes. The “Father of Medicine,” the Greek physician Hippocrates, wrote about the therapeutic benefits of riding horses.
In the 1950s and 1960s, riding gained popularity as a therapeutic method. The North American Riding for Handicapped Association, which eventually evolved into the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International, was established in 1969.
Who Equine Therapy is For
Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) is effective with a range of patient populations and therapeutic environments. Horses may actually be utilized in counseling treatments with people of all ages, including with families and organizations. Equine-assisted psychotherapy is frequently used in addition to more conventional forms of therapy rather than as the only method of treatment.
EAP invites individuals outside and gives them the chance to engage all of their senses while learning and working through emotional issues, providing a very different experience from typical talk therapy.
Children and Adolescents
Children and teenagers may benefit from equine-facilitated psychotherapy in the same way that adult patients do. Children can face difficulties including trauma, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more, just like adults.
Compared to a standard talk therapy office, equine therapy offers individuals a therapeutic setting that may feel less intimidating and more welcoming. Most of the kids involved in EAP are between the ages of 6 and 18 years old.
It can be challenging for kids to express themselves and deal with upsetting feelings and events. Equine-assisted psychotherapy enables patients of all ages to address problems like:1
- Compassion Impulse management
- Creating and preserving connections
- Emotional intelligence
- Problem-solving abilities
- Social skills
- Belief in other people
- Faith in oneself
Horses have certain qualities that have made them a preferred priority for animal-assisted therapies, despite the fact that many different animals can be employed in the psychotherapeutic process. Dr. Robin Zasio, a specialist in anxiety, claims that horses provide the following special qualities to the therapeutic process.
Unprejudiced and Without Bias
It can be difficult for clients to openly communicate their views, despite the fact that people, especially therapists, try our best to provide a secure space for clients to examine profound emotional traumas and terrible experiences. It may take some time to establish a therapeutic rapport as participants work to establish trust and practice vulnerability in the therapeutic setting. The presence of the horse may promote calm since it will only respond to the client’s actions and emotions without posing any threat of prejudice or passing judgment on their emotional experience.
Reflection and Feedback
Horses are observant and alert creatures that are sensitive to mood and movement. They frequently behave or feel like the client, providing empathy and connection that makes the client feel protected. Utilizing the horse’s behavior and interactions as opportunities to check in and absorb what is happening right now, this also enables clients to maintain a feeling of self-awareness.
The horse can serve as a point of comparison for clients to use in processing emotional difficulties, prior events, or life transitions because they may feel vulnerable when attempting to open up about them. When processing anything that is too unpleasant to discuss, clients may find therapy helpful to use the horse as an example or to immediately compare their own feelings to those of the animal. By externalizing the information, it may be simpler to approach and process.
Some other potential benefits of equine therapy include increased:
- Distress tolerance
- Emotional awareness
- Impulse control
- Social awareness
- Social relationships
Horses also require work. They must be fed, watered, exercised, and groomed. Providing this type of care can often be therapeutic. It helps establish routines and structure, and the act of caring and nurturing something else can help build empathy.