While drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers often offer a consistent goal when it comes to teaching patients how to live a sober lifestyle, the actual rehab settings can range greatly in atmosphere. For instance, some rehab centers offer patients a resort spa setting focused on massage therapy, yoga, meditation, and other forms of self care. While others offer the support of human therapists as well as four-legged friends, offering rehab as part of an equine therapy program that teaches patients how to care for horses as well as themselves.
Equine therapy utilizes the use of horses in a therapeutic, rehabilitation setting. Even though working and caring for horses is just a minor focus in this type of treatment facility, equine therapy has shown these benefits when it comes to helping addicted individuals gain control over their lives, especially when other types of rehab treatments have proved unsuccessful:
1. It’s about building connections
Equine therapy rehab programs usually allow patients to spend time with a horse for a certain period of time each day while ongoing work continues with addiction counselors and therapists. In both cases it’s about building relationships—with the horse, the counsellors, the therapists, and fellow patients. This bonding and communicating with another living thing helps foster respect, for the animal and themselves, which can greatly sooth withdrawal symptoms from substance abuse.
2. Horse care = self care
While many equine facilities keep horses that are retired, meaning they are too old or injured for riding. Caring for a horses basic needs (i..e, daily grooming, feeding, and exercise) is part of the routine, which in turn teaches the importance of self-care and routine for the patient.
3. Animal care is therapeutic for trauma
Equine therapy is often recommended for patients addicted to alcohol and drugs, as well as for treating individuals with traumatic stress disorder and certain mental illnesses (i.e., anxiety disorder and borderline personality disorder) because the horses have a soothing and calming effect on patients.
4. Serves a greater purpose
Equine therapy and animal therapies of all sorts are considered “holistic therapies” because they give the patient trust and responsibility of caring for an animal, which provides a sense of purpose and a strict daily routine. This greater responsibility often makes it easier to let go of guilt, shame, and unhealthy behaviors, and instills a sense of pride.
5. Boosts confidence
A large majority of drug and alcohol addicts admit to feelings of low self-worth. However, working with animals in a structured routine is shown to increase confidence, accomplishment, and love. This bond with a horse can make the patient feel supported, trusted, and allow them to take control of their addiction.
6. Animals ease mental and physical pain
Furry friends of all types—horses, donkeys, goats, cats, and dogs are often used in therapies because studies show they are linked to decreased pain, lowering stress, and improve mood. Also, many counselors note that animal therapies of all types give recovering drug addicts and alcoholics a new focus, and shows them how to replace unhealthy habits, take responsibility and maintain a regular schedule.