There are many different treatment methods and modalities for addiction treatment. One of the lesser-explored, but still beneficial, types of treatment that can be used with other methods is equine therapy.
It can be difficult to understand how learning to take care of a horse and practicing that care can be beneficial for those struggling with addiction, but this therapy has had positive benefits for many as they heal and learn new habits. Equine therapy is particularly effective for those with a dual diagnosis of addiction and mental health disorders and who struggle in their relationships with people because of current or previous trauma.
Finding Unconditional Acceptance
Horses, like other animals, form trusting relationships with people when they are treated well. Horses can provide a non-judgmental acceptance that may be lacking in some addicts’ lives and can demonstrate to those suffering from an addiction that they are not unlovable or somehow unacceptable as people.
Studies have shown that exposure to horses and other animals can also have calming effects on people who are experiencing emotional trauma or difficulties. Many people in today’s society do not have regular exposure to animals like previous generations did when life was centered more around farming and producing food on a daily basis.
Finding Self-Worth and Purpose
Taking care of a horse can also help addicts find a sense of self-worth and accomplishment, as well as a feeling that they are needed and can contribute to their environment. The sense of purpose people may find in caring for a horse can then be extended to other situations as they transition back into their lives outside rehab.
Horses will respond to the way they are treated and will give clear signals about what they like and do not like. This reinforcement will gently teach participants to modify their behavior so that the horse is comfortable and responds well to their care. A sense of confidence may develop as time goes on and successful care is achieved.
It is astounding to consider that developing a non-verbal relationship with an animal like a horse would translate to better relationships with the significant people in someone’s life, but equine therapy has shown better communication to be a common and expected outcome.
Understanding Feelings Better
Equine therapy can be particularly effective for those who have a hard time identifying and understanding their own feelings or the feelings of others. The process of interacting with a horse can often bring up feelings like anger, sadness, fear, loneliness, joy, and peace that those who are used to intellectualizing their feelings away cannot dismiss.
Horses are not capable of being intellectual, and taking care of them forces addicts to experience feelings that they may be able to bury or explain away in other situations. Just getting out into the natural setting required for horses can allow for more self-reflection than the constantly busy city life many experience outside the treatment setting.
Treatment for addiction can be highly individualized, and no one knows this better than Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. Learn about admissions to our many customized treatment programs to find out how we can help you overcome addiction and find recovery.