You can lie to your therapist, but a horse – a horse only accepts the truth!
Pack and prey animals, horses have evolved to be incredibly attuned to the emotions of those around them, and when a horse and an equine assisted therapist get together, it results in a powerfully revealing therapeutic method. Equine assisted therapy occurs un-mounted, there is no riding involved, and it is an emerging treatment for people suffering an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
How does it work?
In equine assisted therapy, the client will be asked to interact with a horse. Asked to lead, feed, groom or even catch a horse loose in the stables. As we perform this task, and interact with the horse, the therapist observes closely, and by watching the horse, learns something about us!
Horses are said to mirror the human soul. If you approach a horse in anger, the horse gets stubborn. If you act fearfully, the horse acts concerned, and if you show anxiety, the horse gets worried. We can hide our inner feelings pretty well from those around us, but horses always spot us for who we are – and the horses that will mirror our feelings, have no interest in hiding theirs.
After the interaction, the therapist will take what was observed and use it as a basis for discussion and therapy. Equine therapy sometimes occurs in a group setting, in which case the entire group will discuss what was revealed through the interaction.
We are often reluctant to talk about our deep fears and problems, and sometimes we are not even consciously aware of them. After a brief interaction with a horse, our characters are shown, and therapy can reach to the heart of our challenges and needs.
Emotional – not intellectual
A horse is a big and imposing animal – and working with a horse requires a physical and emotional response. You don’t think a lot – you just do.
For many in addiction recovery, an intellectualize of our problems inhibits growth and lasting recovery. We think ourselves into believing that others are the cause of our problems, and it can be quite tough for a therapist to convince us otherwise, in a conventional therapeutic environment.
But in the barn, far removed from the office and couch of “talk therapy” we demonstrate our characters and problems in a physical and emotional way. We show others what’s impeding our growth, and it’s often a very personally revealing process as well.
Equine assisted therapy can break down our walls of denial. Horses just don’t fall for it.
Additional Benefits of Equine Assisted Therapy
Working with horses calms the angry, can provide a sense of accomplishment to the fearful and can lead to real communication from the bottled up.
“Although a horse can be intimidating at first, these animals don’t judge in any way,…” says Vallerie E. Coleman, Ph.D, and one of the Assisted Therapists at InBalance where Sober College residents do equine therapy.
Coleman, along with Amy Pulitzer, M.A., M.F.T.I, work with the resident’s, and teach them about their horses while teaching them about themselves as well.
Coleman continues, “In developing a relationship with a horse, we can learn how to develop honest relationships in life. We agree with Sober College that equine assisted therapy is a valuable tool in a recovery program. It offers our patients new insights into their true natures and the challenges to growth…”.
For further information on Coleman and Pulitzer and their InBalance therapy programs visit their website