How Equine Therapy Can Help People with Addiction

How Equine Therapy Can Help People with AddictionAddiction is a  chronic brain disease marked by compulsive drug-seeking and use in spite of negative or harmful consequences. Over time drugs change the brain’s structure and how it works because of the chemical compositions of both drugs and the brain. While addiction has biological components, the reasons why people take drugs are psychological. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reasons people abuse drugs include the following:

  • To experience a high – Many drugs produce a pleasurable feeling that is sometimes quite intense. This sense of euphoria is often accompanied by other positive feelings including power, self-confidence and energy. Other drugs produce a sense of relaxation and calm along with a feeling of satisfaction.
  • To relieve negative emotions – Some people abuse drugs to get rid of negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, stress and shame. Drugs provide a temporary relief from those haunting emotions.
  • To perform better – Many people abuse drugs in order to enhance their athletic performance or cognitive functioning. The pressure to continue to perform at optimal levels can also lead to use of other drugs to relieve that stress and tension to be perfect.
  • To fit in – Many young people, especially teenagers, experiment and become addicted to drugs because of the pressure from their peers. They think that everyone else is doing it and fear being singled out as the only one to abstain.
  • To curb curiosity – Some people take drugs initially out of curiosity. They may have seen family members or friends try drugs and want to know why. This experimentation can often lead to addiction even if a person never intended to do so.

Just as there are many reasons for a person to try drugs and to become addicted to them, there are many types of therapeutic approaches to treating addiction. For some people traditional methods work best when combined with non-traditional approaches such as equine therapy.

What Is Equine Therapy?

Equine therapy, also known as horse therapy and equine-assisted psychotherapy, involves the interaction between an addict and horses. It involves activities such as grooming, feeding, haltering, leading and possibly even riding a horse (which is optional). All of this takes place under the supervised care of a horse professional and a mental health professional. Equine therapy is not a substitute for traditional forms of therapy related to addiction recovery but rather serves as a piece of the recovery puzzle in conjunction with group meetings and other aspects of rehab.

How Does Equine Therapy Help?

Equine therapy can serve several functions within addiction rehab and can help a person develop skills that will help him or her establish a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

Equine therapy can help in the following ways:

  • Recognizing anxiety – According to Psych Central a horse’s behavior will serve as a barometer for a person’s anxiety. Because horses are intuitive creatures, they will often react to the emotions of the people working with them. When a recovering addict shows anxiety, the horse will react anxiously. This will help an addict recognize his own anxiety and learn healthy, drug-free ways of dealing with it.
  • Improving mood – According to Psych Central one study showed that equine therapy can have a very positive overall effect on mood. This is particularly helpful because it helps an addict find healthy ways to improve mood without the use of chemicals.
  • Teaching personal skills – According to Psychology Today horses have defined roles within their herds that are similar to how humans interact. Because of this similarity horses can teach self-awareness, communication, trust, boundaries, patience, affection, play and more. Developing these skills is a key element in helping an addict overcome his or her personal issues and learn healthy ways of interacting with others.
  • Develop confidence – Because of their size horses provide an excellent opportunity for a person to learn confidence as he or she learns to work with, guide and care for a horse. This confidence can help an addict overcome insecurity and develop self-assurance in other areas including addiction recovery.

Every person responds to equine therapy differently, so there may be many more benefits that result depending on individual personalities and need. It is important to research your options to determine if your personalities and needs would be met in this type of therapy.

What to Ask Before Starting Equine Therapy

Because of the unique nature of equine therapy, it is important to talk with the individuals offering the treatment to ensure that this program is right for you.

Psych Central highlights some questions you need to address including the following:

  • What do I want to accomplish in this type of therapy? – By pinpointing specific changes you would like to address, you and the professional can determine whether the approach is best for you.
  • What therapeutic approaches appeal to me? – Equine therapy is somewhat a blending of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and psychoanalytic therapy. If neither of those appeals to you, then you know that equine therapy probably won’t suit your needs.
  • What certification does this equine therapy center hold? – Several certifications and trainings are available for equine therapy. These include Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, (EAGALA), Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, (PATH) and Certified Equine Interaction Professionals (CEIP). There are other certifications, but these are the most well-known and most trusted.
  • What kinds of needs does this equine therapy center meet? – Some programs are equipped and designed to deal with only physical disabilities and not mental health issues such as addiction. Others are geared specifically for addiction.

You may have other questions specific to your unique needs, so be sure to address those concerns before you choose an equine therapy program.

Getting Help for Your Addiction

If you think you or a loved one would benefit from equine therapy to deal with a drug or alcohol addiction, we can help. You can call our toll-free number any time, 24 hours a day. You will be able to talk with an addiction recovery specialist who can help you determine the best treatment options for your unique needs. Don’t let addiction control your life any more. Call us today.

Are you ready to seek treatment?

If you are ready to beat a Xanax addiction and start a new life in recovery then we can help. We have admission counselors standing by 24 hours a day to take your email, live chat request, or phone call to get you in the addiction treatment center that best fits your unique & specific needs.