MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Spending time with animals can be highly beneficial for mental healing. Interacting with horses that are highly sensitive to human emotions can help deal with trauma, manage anxiety, fight isolation, and much more.
People have been using horse therapy for over 50 years. Working with these animals helps a person evaluate in-depth feelings and put them on a path to healing. While equine-assisted therapy can’t replace traditional treatment for mental health issues, it can become an essential part of it.
Solara Mental Health in San Diego, California, provides equine therapy as a part of the mental health program for veterans. Equine therapy is utilized in combination with traditional methods of treatment to help reduce symptoms of mental health disorders.
What is Equine Therapy?
Equine therapy is a joint effort of one horse, the patient, and the equine therapist. As part of the therapy, a person with a mental health issue interacts with the animal and learns how to care for it.
Horses aren’t just highly sensitive to human emotions. They can mirror mood changes in a non-judgmental way, showing a person the need to address their problems. During equine therapy sessions, a patient bonds with the animal. The bond helps improve self-awareness and stimulate emotional healing.
What Can Equine Therapy Help With?
Working with a horse and establishing trust with it can help address a variety of mental health problems including:
Studies show that horses have an aesthetic influence on people who interact with them. The animal’s ability to sense emotions coupled with warmth and grace can help a person work through their mental health problems and increase their quality of life.
Benefits of Equine Therapy for Mental Health
While not all people who live with mental health problems can benefit from equine therapy, the majority of those trying to achieve positive results. The key advantages of using equine therapy for mental health treatment include:
Sense of Peace
Many patients who struggle with mental health issues, especially the consequences of trauma and PTSD have a hard time opening up to another person. No matter how experienced a therapist is, they may not always achieve the desired treatment goals.
When a horse participates in therapy, people can be more willing to open up. The sense of peace, relaxation, and safety that horses can create allows a person to share their thoughts with a specialist and move the therapy session forward.
Horses are highly sensitive animals. They easily pick up on the emotions of people around them. When a person spends a lot of time with therapeutic horsemanship, they create a special connection. When this happens, a horse can mirror a patient’s feelings.
When working with a horse, a person can receive unbiased feedback about their condition and understand the importance of addressing it. This helps foster a sense of self-awareness and allows the patient to become more open to treatment.
The setting of an individual therapy session can be highly important to a patient with mental health problems. The stigma associated with mental health treatment is still a serious issue for many people. That’s why going to a therapist’s office may prove to be a challenge.
Equine therapy creates a positive environment for the patients. An informal setting can be highly beneficial for a person who has trouble relaxing in a doctor’s office.
Working with horses requires the veteran to pay close attention to the animal’s reactions. If a person wants to connect with the horse, they must practice interpersonal skills. For people who experienced trauma, regaining these skills is a big step toward recovery.
How Equine Therapy Helps Veterans
The most common mental health problems that veterans have to work through are PTSD and depression. In fact, between 10% and 20% of veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder while around 11% of veterans struggle with depression.
Unfortunately, fewer than 50% of veterans receive the help they need for their mental health conditions. Reasons range from poor accessibility of treatment to the stigma associated with admitting the problem.
Equine therapy can play a major role in helping veterans work through their mental health issues. A recent study evaluated the benefits of equine therapy for veterans who experienced anxiety, PTSD, depression, and other mental health problems.
After completing equine therapy, veterans reported significant improvements in their anxiety and depression symptoms. However, several months after therapy some symptoms came back. Equine therapy can help veterans deal with trauma, open up to the therapist, and take a significant step toward recovery.
Equine Therapy in San Diego
Equine therapy can be an excellent addition to the course of treatment for veterans who experience mental health issues. While it can’t replace other types of treatments entirely, this therapy can become an important part of a holistic therapy approach.
At Solara Mental Health, our mental health professionals implement a wide variety of therapies to help veterans who are struggling with mental health disorders. Our clinical team has experience arranging successful equine therapy for many patients. If you’d like to learn more about our treatment center options and equine therapy benefits for mental health, please contact us at any convenient time.