At Kolob Canyon, we believe in the power of equine assisted psychotherapy. This form of therapy has been proven to be effective for a wide range of mental health disorders, including addiction, depression, anxiety and trauma. It allows girls to interact with horses and find a new way to connect with them, process emotions and explore problematic behaviors and relationship patterns.
The benefits of equine assisted therapy include:
Identifying and coping with feelings
People who struggle with addictions, trauma and other mental health issues often engage in these behaviors to avoid difficult feelings. They might use drugs or engage in compulsive behaviors like sex, eating, drinking or gambling to numb sadness, anger, fear and even joy. In order for therapy to be successful, the first step is learning to identify emotions, experience them and cope with feelings without trying to escape. Equine therapy is a great way to get in touch with thoughts and feelings. Rather than using the mind to address problems, girls will use their bodies and hearts to feel and react in the moment. Horses know how to sense emotions and will react accordingly. If someone is aggressive or angry, the horse may become stubborn. If someone is anxious, the horse may also get nervous. But when the animal is approached by a calm, open person, it is more likely to respond in a kind, loving way. Observing the horse’s responses promotes self-awareness and helps people see themselves in a more realistic way.
Better communication skills
Girls who struggle with addiction and other behavioral issues tend to be emotionally underdeveloped. They might have difficulty relating or getting close to other people, but it is possible for them to form close bonds with horses and other animals. By working with horses, people realize their conscious and unconscious interaction patterns. Horses are excellent communicators and learning to understand their behavior helps people learn how others function in the world. Simple exercises like haltering, leading and grooming teach people how to approach others with respect and awareness.
Working with a horse can quickly expose someone’s inefficient thought and behavior patterns. During an equine therapy session, metaphors can be drawn between a girl’s interaction with the horse and the patterns in her own life. This can address issues like detachment and enmeshment (unclear boundaries in a relationship). The lesson can be as simple as learning how much physical space the horse needs to be comfortable.
Horses are large animals, which can bring up fears, past trauma, feelings of inadequacy or lack of control. Regardless of the horse, people often fear that the horse won’t like them, won’t choose them or could hurt them. Rather than giving into old habits (getting defensive or escaping) people learn to tolerate and process the emotion. In this safe environment, clients learn to face fears and build confidence in their ability to overcome challenges.
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At the CERTS Group, we can help your daughter cope with the effects of ADHD, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and other issues through residential treatment programs. Our programs are structured around DBT treatment, while also combining traditional talk therapy with experiential therapies like equine assisted psychotherapy, to achieve a resilient, more influential change. Contact us to learn more.