The biggest blessing for recovering addicts and alcoholics over the last 100 years is all of the new and exciting treatment options that are available. In the past, people suffering from addiction would be given hydrotherapy or even lobotomized, because the general public did not understand addiction as a disease. Luckily, today we have so many wonderful options, and Wayside House aims to incorporate as many of them as possible, to ensure a whole body, whole mind, whole life approach to healing. One of these methods is through equine therapy. What is Equine Therapy? Similar to any other form of pet therapy, equine therapy has been shown to help people struggling with mental disorders and addiction through the compassion and understanding of two souls. There are many different styles and forms of equine therapy, but in its most basic form, it provides a space of therapeutic companionship between people and animals. Equine therapy sessions are supervised by trained professionals who care for and attend to the horses, as well as create a therapeutic plan for the individuals to be able to gain experience through working with them. Benefits of Equine and Pet Therapy There is no question that animals have undying love and compassion for humans, especially when treated with affection and compassion. Research has shown the benefits of pet therapy and equine therapy to be extremely soothing and centering for people with mental disorders. For example, pet and horse therapy can: Reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health Releases endorphins that create a calming effect Increased self-esteem Increase social cues and interaction awareness Promotes willingness to participate Motivates exercise and interactions with others Decrease depression and anxiety Stimulating compassion and nurturing behaviors Many times, equine therapy horses have often rescued themselves, or are struggling with physical deformities such as blindness, or lameness, and this can often help increase the bond and compassion from the person, as they can often empathize with the horse’s trauma or emotional state. A 2008 study found that people who worked with therapy animals over a 12 week period had vastly higher levels of self-esteem and even increased coping abilities. How Does Equine Therapy Compliment Traditional Treatment? Wayside House incorporates both traditional and holistic therapeutic practices for the overall wellbeing and recovery of the woman. Holistic practices such as equine therapy are meant to heal patients by coming back to natural and positive human emotions, through interpersonal connections, and through healthy functioning mindsets. Equine Therapy can be a transformative experience for women who had difficulty processing or displaying emotion. It is shown to boost confidence and self-esteem and filters that into their own recovery process. The process of developing a relationship with the animals nurtures their own sense of pride and accomplishment, as well as creating a feeling of connection with another soul. It relates and compliments traditional treatment modalities in part to the two-sided journey that equine therapy promotes. For example, the person must trust the horse, and the horse must trust the human for positive interaction to occur. This mirror the patient and therapist relationship, as well as the individual to their family and support network. How Most Equine Therapies Work Under the guidance and treatment plan of the professional equine therapist, patient interactions with the therapy horses are designed to serve as a lesson on compassion and getting in touch with their own emotions throughout the process. For example, many people have a fear of horses, they are very big animals and they can often be depicted as wild and even dangerous. Many programs centered around equine therapy are devoted less to riding the horses, and more towards the general care and nurturing of the horses. For example, many equine therapists start the individual relationship around grooming and feeding the horses. This creates the initial trust process and allows time for the individual to relate to and understand the animals cues. However, horses are actually very acutely tuned in to people’s emotions, similarly to dogs. They can often act as a mirror to the person’s emotional state, picking up on either relaxation or stress. This allows the individual to receive immediate feedback on what they are feeling. Equine Therapy also provides: Identifying their Interpersonal Interactions: the woman will be able to see how her own actions and behaviors affect those around her. By being able to identify these emotions at the moment, it creates a heightened awareness and identification process for her in the future. Trust Building: A person who feels uncomfortable talking or opening up in traditional treatment setting often find that equine therapy or pet therapy can help create a safe space for them to feel safe and connected. This helps with therapist interaction in the future, and also promotes trust when they are developing their support network in the outside world. Healthy Relationships: horses offer the women a non-judgemental, compassionate relationship. This has shown to help people who have been struggling with negative relationships in the past and can help rebuild self-confidence without fear of criticism. Patience and Compassion: Many women that are recovering from addiction and other mental disorders often struggle with the ideas of control and perfection. Horses create a perfect environment to practice patience, acceptance, and understanding. After all, the phrase, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” can relate perfectly to the active state of an addict. The Rarity of Equine Therapy While the benefits of pet and equine therapy have been shown to be dramatically beneficial to the wellbeing of women recovering from addiction and mental disorders, it is sadly not offered at a majority of treatment facilities. However, with Wayside Houses emphasis on whole body healing, equine therapy is being offered weekly and is encouraged for all individuals to try. Getting Help at Wayside House If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as services for medical professionals and veterans. Contact Wayside House at 561-278-0055 to learn more.