Equine therapy has become a common practice at addiction treatment centers. Horses are hardwired to sense emotions in species of prey, a necessary survival skill. Their ability to pick up on animal’s emotions makes them incredibly useful in mirroring emotions in humans. It is difficult to hide behind a facade while interacting with horses; feelings and fears inevitably surface in a profound way.
Equine assisted therapy is naturally aligned with the goals of most treatment centers and anonymous fellowships. Rigorous honesty and transparency are undisputed as paramount foundations for recovery. EAP is designed to get clients out of the therapist’s office and outdoors for a chance to experience nature’s nonverbal gifts.
Typical Equine Therapy Sessions
A typical EAP session begins with addiction patients bonding with their horse. They may brush, feed and pet their horse while in the corral while a licensed equine therapist observes the process. After the initial meet and greet, patients are encouraged to take their horse through one or more exercises that succeed only through trust and effective non-verbal communication.
Horses are honest, transparent, and able to pick up on emotions more intuitively than their animal kingdom counterparts. The interaction between patient and horse can be life changing. Horses picking up on sadness may gently nudge the person, stay close to them so as to protect them or mirror a sad disposition in response. Equine therapists are trained to pick up on non-verbal cues from horses in these situations and carry the results with them into the next one-on-one therapy session with the client.
After EAP sessions, clients and therapist meet as a group to process the event. Usually the therapist will go around in a circle asking everyone individually what they thought of the session. Everyone is given a chance to be honest and open up about the horse triggered emotions in them, how the horse picked up on feelings they hardly realized were brewing inside them, and what they learned about themselves through the horse.
Equine therapy, used in conjunction with the behavioral and spiritual tools treatment centers model, is proven to be extremely conducive to a patient’s recovery. Horses help keep patients grounded, emitting humility. They mirror feelings and emotions in an unparalleled way. Above all, they break down the barriers some clients create around them while in treatment or therapy – nature is purity.