Animal-assisted therapy is not a new concept and has been used as an integral part of physical and mental health treatment for decades. Equine-assisted therapy has been found to be beneficial for those dealing with substance use disorders and trauma. Approximately 93 percent of those in treatment at Crossroads have experienced some sort of trauma, and taking part in equine therapy has helped many women overcome these obstacles in their recovery.
It may seem counterintuitive to use horses because they are large, powerful animals and can be easily spooked. However, this is part of what makes them so therapeutic. Horses tend to mirror human emotion. They are highly sensitive and aware of their surroundings. When a person is feeling anxious, scared, frustrated or angry, they sense this and respond accordingly, perhaps moving away or refusing to comply. At the same time, when a person is relaxed, calm and compassionate, they know this too and are more compliant.
Being around horses forces women to become more aware of their own emotions and behaviors. They have to confront feelings they may have been pushing aside. After dealing with trauma or while in active addiction, women may have been accustomed to trying to be in control all the time, but horses are not easily swayed. They stand firm. It is only through creating a trusting relationship and being relaxed and open that they can work together and the horse will respond to their commands. It is a non-verbal bond that is formed.
Tending to the horse’s needs through grooming, feeding, and exercise is also therapeutic and builds a sense of purpose. Women realize that they are accountable for the horse’s well-being. Women learn to ask for help when they are struggling to get the horse to cooperate and this also enhances communication skills and trust. Slowly women are able to overcome the fear, trauma and addiction that have been negatively affecting their life and begin to heal and build confidence and self-esteem.
Equine therapy has been an integral part of the Back Cove Women’s Residential Program at Crossroads and supports ongoing recovery. Call now to learn more about the addiction and behavioral health treatment services we offer.
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