When thinking about addiction recovery, the first thing you think of probably isn’t “horses.” But, in fact, equine-facilitated psychotherapy, which is a form of therapy that teaches clients important psychological concepts and skills with the help of exercises involving equine— in other words, horse—partners, is actually an important part of the comprehensive treatment program offered by the respected Delray Beach addiction treatment centre Reco Intensive.
Though using horses in therapy may sound like a wild and new-fangled idea, the idea of equine-facilitated psychotherapy actually dates back to at least the 1990s. But therapy involving horses geared towards patients struggling with physical illnesses in fact dates back to the 1960s, and recognition of the uniquely healing aspects of the relationships that can develop between humans and horses dates back even further into antiquity.
In modern versions of equine-facilitated psychotherapy, horses are seen as a mere tool that can help therapists impart important cognitive lessons to their patients in a more visceral and experiential way than they could with conventional teaching methods alone, lessons that they can then take into their human relationships and the rest of their day to day lives.
More specifically, equine-facilitated psychotherapy involves a psychoeducational component that provides clients with information on secure and insecure attachment, the brain and relationships, and how their equine-facilitated psychotherapy relates to the real-time relationship issues that they may be struggling with.
This education is supplemented by a variety of exercises, including grounding and relaxation practices as well as work with equine partners. This work, however, is an important part of the process with unique therapeutic value partially because horses have a unique sensitivity to human emotions, which can help both therapist and client alike to recognize emotional undertones in their behaviour that the client may not even have been conscious of.
The therapist can then use the insight provided by the horses to open and deepen the dialogue about the client’s emotional and relational patterns and can guide the client towards consideration of and implementation of healthier patterns of connecting and of being.
Though research on the effectiveness of equine-facilitated therapy is still developing, studies have shown tentatively positive results for patients struggling with a variety of mental health issues, including addiction. The treatment also seems to carry very little risk of harm, with the only danger coming in when less established methods of treatment like equine-facilitated psychotherapy replace rather than augment more dependable approaches that may be more effective for a patient in acute need of help.
But, since equine-facilitated psychotherapy is only one of the wide array of services offered as a part of Reco’s comprehensive intensive outpatient program, there is little risk of the practice supplanting other treatment approaches, and everything to gain in terms of patient satisfaction and enhanced self-understanding by including horses in the therapeutic process. To learn more about equine-facilitated psychotherapy and all of the other unique and holistic mental health services that Reco Intensive offers, feel free to check out their website!