Equine therapy, also called horse therapy, is a type of alternative addiction treatment that involves the use of horses in substance use treatment to improve outcomes and encourage individuals to remain in treatment. The activities with involve a more physical and less verbal activity that can promote a change in focus, help patients develop a positive identity, and create feelings of usefulness as well as break from the usual expected treatment methods.
The activities involved include grooming the horses and feeding them, and they are supervised by a mental health professional, often with the help of a horse professional. During the activities and even after the patient has finished working with the horse, the therapist observes and interacts with the patient in order to identify behavior patterns and process thoughts and emotions.
The goal of equine therapy is to help patients develop important skills and attributes, such as accountability, responsibility, self-confidence, and problem-solving skills. There have been studies that showed that equine therapy is successful in helping patients improve their assertiveness, emotional awareness, empathy, stress tolerance, impulse control, self-regard, social responsibility, and interpersonal relationships.
Many of the benefits are likely due to the nature of the horses, as they are highly effective at mirroring the attitudes and behaviors of the humans they are interacting with.
Equine therapy has been successfully integrated into treatment programs for adults and teens alike who are undergoing treatment for substance abuse, addiction, behavior disorders, eating disorders, ADD/ADHD, depression, and many more.