Treating the effects of trauma is never easy. And in military culture, the challenge is even greater. The reality is that traditional psychotherapy can be stigmatizing and feel like “just a lot of talk” among people who value doing and action. Service members are hands-on. They trust their experience and the people they serve with. In order to engage them in their own healing process, the solutions offered need to understand who they are, respect their culture and meet them squarely on their own terms.
Clinical evidence and generations of human experience show that horses have a special ability to help people work through emotional barriers without shame or stigma. This is especially true and valuable for people who suffer the effects of trauma.
In equine assisted activities, horses serve as metaphors and powerful stand-ins for the people, issues and challenges in the client’s life – or the lives of the couple, family or military unit. A mental health professional puts the horses’ unique sensitivities to work – their special capacity to read and respond to peoples’ non-verbal signals and cues – leading to powerful emotional breakthroughs and life-changing insights. Decidedly hands-on and action-oriented, equine assisted psychotherapy is an important tool to help clients understand and recognize unhealthy patterns, build on their personal strengths and change their lives.
Many boarding schools offer residential treatment for troubled teens, but few offer equine assisted activities as a means to healing many of the common social, and behavioral disorders that exist in many teens today. Psychologists and counselors have discovered many effective treatment programs for troubled teens. The leading new treatment involves Equine Assisted Activities - or the use of professionally trained horses as part of the counseling process. Many studies have been done to show the effects of building relationships with animals and horses. Endorphin's are released into the body and decrease chemicals which cause stress and arousal when sessions with horses are experienced by troubled youth. Troubled teens are typically in a state of aggression, defiance, or anger. Using horse therapy with these teens helps maintain a constant and healthy chemical balance.
Not only do horses provide therapy as a result of chemical connection between the human and horse, they also provide troubled youth with an opportunity to learn how to control and work with animals. Learning how to work with horses will help them in their day to day lives as they deal and work with humans.
Horses can often times be stubborn, reluctant to follow orders, and have to learn how to get along with a team. Members of horse therapy groups will learn how to properly lead, groom, and take care of the animals. These teen may realize that they exhibit some of the exact same behaviors as the horse. By learning how to get along and work with the horse they will better understand their own emotions and body language.Horses cannot speak like humans, and careful attention must be placed on their body language. They will let you know if they are nervous, relaxed, frustrated, exited, or dangerous by their body language. Learning how to recognize this language is key in learning how to train and become one with a horse.
Horses have been used for therapy for many centuries. Many disabled people both physically and mentally have used horses to overcome their obstacles. More recently the horses are being used for troubled teens. The principles are the same.Teens who may struggle in school, have alcohol or substance abuse problems,or have social or mental disorders can greatly benefit from horse therapy programs.
Drug and Alcohol Addictions
How is Equine Therapy Part of a Drug Rehab Program?
When an individual forms a bond with a horse in an equine therapy program,that animal is a blank slate. It arrives into the relationship with no pre-conceived notions or opinions about the recovering addict. This provides an opportunity for the individual to understand how their behavior affects others For many who have lived with drug addiction for years, this realization is tantamount to a breakthrough.Throughout the course of the drug rehab treatment day, the individual will tend to their horse. A regular schedule will be maintained -and just like counseling sessions or yoga classes the individual will be expected to attend on a regular basis.
Counselors play a role in equine therapy as well, talking to patients about their experiences while caring for the horses -and building a metaphor between these tasks and the rebuilding of one’s life. The hope being that many of the positive things learned by the individual will become tools they can use to get clean and sober (and then stay that way post-rehab).
EFP and EFL Programs
For starters Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) is not horsemanship. The focus is not on riding, but on psychology. A licensed clinical professional is needed in order to consider the activities EFP.
EFP uses horses experientially for emotional growth and learning. It is an effort made by the therapist and horse riding professionals to work with clients in treatment disorders. EFP can be compared in nature to ropes courses taught by some therapists because the students learn feelings, behaviors, teamwork, and patterns when participating in EFP. EFP has the added bonus of using living animals that are both beautiful and powerful which leads to an emotional connection between the horse and individuals involved in therapy with it. EFP often develops the following characteristics :
often interchanged, but EFL deals more with the horsemanship aspect of Equine therapy. EFL is the process, while EFP is the actual program. EFL and EFP are often used for people who are experiencing the following:
How will spending time with horses help improve your team's
Horses posses the skills to lead authentically, communicate clearly, trust their instincts, and are sensitive and respond appropriately to moods and body language of other horses in the herd. Working with horses helps identify group dynamics and issues by mirroring back to the group members how they work together. Horses quickly help people identify both their effective and ineffective ways of being in relationship with others. It is then up to the individuals within the group to remove barriers identified, and cultivate trust and partnership. Learn to:
Literacy Improvement (Reading with horses)
This equine assisted learning program uses a hands on approach for real world learning to encourage reading and make it more enjoyable. The program targets children from grade k-8th.