The connection between animals and humans is powerful. The companionship and unconditional love that pets provide can help people live longer and improve their mental health. Equine therapy programs help clients in recovery settings and can be particularly rewarding for teenagers. For more information about equine therapy at Foothills at Red Oak Recovery, call us today at 866.300.5275.
What Is Equine-Assisted Therapy?
Equine therapy may seem like a new trend, but the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association was founded in 1999. This organization was one of the first to develop professional standards for involving horses in mental health treatment.
Horses are sensitive to the moods and emotions of humans. It is in their nature to react to changes in their environment, including a person’s emotional state. In this way, horses provide a type of experiential feedback free of the judgment teens often face.
Equine therapy programs vary, but they provide an opportunity for teens to care for horses at their core. They may feed and groom the animals, lead them around pastures, learn how to put on a saddle, and eventually ride the horses. All of this is done under the supervision of an experienced horse trainer.
Over time, clients build relationships with the horses. Therapists observe these relationships and discover behavioral patterns. This valuable insight helps therapists communicate more effectively with teenage clients who may have difficulty verbalizing their feelings.
At the same time, participants gain self-confidence through their experience of working with large animals.
Benefits of Equine-Assisted Therapy for Teens
Equine therapy for teens offers an experience that does not rely on verbal communication. Horses don’t judge people by their looks, clothing brands, or past actions. Interacting with horses has been shown to provide many benefits, including:
- Building confidence and self-esteem: Horses are large animals, and working with them may require overcoming fear.
- Developing self-regulation: Teens must learn to control anger or impulsive behaviors to work with horses.
- Improving self-image: Equine therapy can be helpful for teens with eating disorders because it gives them a more realistic perspective of themselves.
- Building trust: Learning to trust a large animal like a horse helps teens who’ve been abused or abandoned to build trust again.
Equine Therapy Supports Improved Relationships
Equine therapy can also help teens feel less isolated. Teenagers with substance use or mental health disorders often feel alone in their struggles. Working with horses can help teenagers bond with others by:
- Improving social skills: Building a positive relationship with a horse helps teens build better relationships with people.
- Improving communication skills: Teens learn how their moods and verbal and nonverbal cues affect others.
- Developing empathy: Caring for another living creature helps teens prioritize the needs of someone besides themselves.
Equine-assisted therapy supports a sense of connectedness to other people, animals, and the larger world.
Equine-Assisted Therapy as Part of an Overall Treatment Plan
Equine therapy can be a valuable part of a teen’s treatment plan, but it is not a stand-alone solution to addiction recovery or improving mental health symptoms. Other therapies, such as one-on-one talk therapy, family therapy, and group therapy, are still crucial for success.
Individualized care that includes treatment for co-occurring disorders, trauma, or substance use disorders can take many forms. An equine therapy program is only part of the overall treatment plan.
Find an Equine Treatment Program and More at Foothills at Red Oak Recovery
At Foothills at Red Oak Recovery, we understand the complexities of communicating with troubled adolescents and teenagers. Offering a variety of experiential therapies gives our therapists more opportunities to connect with clients and help them resolve the issues that are holding them back. If you’re still wondering, “What is equine-assisted therapy?” and want to know more, contact Foothills at Red Oak Recovery today at 866.300.5275.