Animals can offer an exceptional amount of emotional support, both in good times and in bad. Beyond the pet-owner relationship that many have experienced, animals also play essential roles in therapeutic mental health treatment. One of the therapy programs offered at our mental health rehab in Florida is equine therapy. We believe that the added emotional support of animals can expedite and further assist patients’ recovery from mental illness.

Equine Definition

  So, what is equine therapy? To understand how this mental health program works, we must first define equine. Equine is something that relates to or affects horses. Horses have been used in mental health services for children, teens, and adults for centuries, ever since Greek physician Hippocrates, also known as the "Father of Medicine," wrote about therapeutic horseback riding. However, it wasn't until the 1950s and 1960s that this form of therapy became more popular. In 1969, the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association was formed, which later became the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, also known as PATH Intl.

Some other common names for equine therapy include: 

  • Horse therapy
  • Equine-assisted therapy (EAP)
  • Horseback riding therapy
  • Horse riding therapy
  • Equestrian therapy
  • Equine-assisted counseling
  • Equine-facilitated psychotherapy
Equine-assisted therapy incorporates animals into the therapeutic process for mental health treatment. While the term "horseback riding" is commonly used when referencing equestrian therapy, this program usually only allows patients to pet, play with, groom, feed, and lead a horse. These activities are done under the supervision of the animal's handler and a mental health professional.

The primary goal of equine-assisted psychotherapy is to help people develop skills like emotional regulation and control, self-confidence, self-esteem, and responsibility. These are skills that people with mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and co-occurring disorders often struggle with. With adult horses weighing anywhere between 900 to 2,000 pounds, it’s normal for patients to feel intimidated or scared when first introduced to our animals. However, as therapy progresses, clients become more accustomed to the gentle and kind nature of these animals.

Benefits of Equine Therapy for Mental Health 

  Animal therapy offers a much different experience from the basic talk therapy approach. EAP takes people outdoors and uses all of their senses to enhance their recovery. At our Banyan Mental Health center, horse therapy is used in tandem with our formal mental health treatment methods. This therapeutic approach to mental illness is used to treat various conditions, including trauma, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more.

Our equine therapy in Florida offers a safe, calm, and therapeutic environment where patients won’t feel threatened or pressured to engage in any difficult talk therapy activities. While a variety of animals can be used in mental health treatment, horses offer unique traits that have made them the ideal choice for animal-assisted therapy programs.

Some benefits of equine therapy include: 

  • No threat of bias or judgmental reactions from the animals
  • Horses are keen observers and are sensitive to movement and emotional changes, allowing them to read the patient and offer emotional feedback
  • Management of vulnerability
  • Reduced need to verbally share difficult or traumatic thoughts
  • Adaptability
  • Independence
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Social awareness and improved social skills
  • Willingness to socialize with others
  • Developed emotional awareness and control

Caring for horses also requires work. They have to be fed, watered, exercised, and groomed, all of which fall into the patient’s hands when they’re in therapy. Providing this type of care is a humbling experience that can also be extremely soothing. It helps establish a routine and encourages empathy through the act of caring and nurturing.

Our Equine-Assisted Therapy in Florida 

  Our equine therapy treatment is available to patients at our facility who need supplemental care to recover from their mental illness or co-occurring disorder. Substance abuse is a self-destructive form of self-medication that people with mental disorders often turn to in desperation. Unfortunately, because the comfort of drugs and alcohol is short-lived, people who misuse them to cope with other challenges develop an addiction. Alongside our dual diagnosis treatment in Florida, equine-assisted psychotherapy can improve the psychology of our patients and contribute to their long-lasting recovery.

If you’re interested in our inpatient care for mental health and other therapy options, contact us today to find out how our Florida mental health rehab can help you or a loved one find relief from mental illness.

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