Equine-assisted therapy is particularly powerful for teens because it allows them to address emotions and issues through a direct experience of nonverbal communication. Since the 1990s, inpatient rehabs and mental health programs have instituted equine therapy programs as an active part of the therapeutic process.
What Is Equine-Assisted Therapy?
Equine-assisted therapy, also known as equine therapy, horse therapy, or equestrian therapy, is an innovative, experiential approach that actively involves horses in mental health treatment. Therefore, the horse is a critically important partner in equine-assisted therapy. Moreover, learning how to work with and take care of a horse, with the guidance of an equine therapist, helps clients practice empathy and develop authentic connections.
Additionally, equine-assisted therapy is bolstered by a horse’s responsiveness to subtle changes in their environment. Because horses are extremely sensitive to human beings, they react to a person’s emotional state, including depression and anxiety. Thus, the horse acts as an organic biofeedback machine, instinctively responding to and reflecting a client’s emotions and experience.
Typically, horses are trained and selected specifically for equine-assisted therapy before being integrated into an equine therapy program. Calm, emotionally sensitive horses are ideal for Equine-Assisted Therapy. Ultimately, the confidence and skills developed in connecting with horses are transferable to relationships with family and friends—an essential step in growth and recovery.
Sources: Path International, Veterans Health Administration, US National Library of Medicine (NIH)