Equine therapy for Veterans is also known as Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT). The use of horses in the treatment of mental illnesses, substance use disorders, and behavioral conditions has proven to be an effective therapy method to add to a recovery treatment plan. The emergence of pet therapies and equine therapies bridges helps those who struggle with trust, empathy, and compassion. Animal-assisted therapies (AAT) have also been successfully used for coping with physical disabilities.
What is Equine Therapy?
Equine therapy for Veterans is a therapeutic process that forms a relationship between the patient and the horse. Using this type of therapy, the patient engages in the care of the horse. They perform simple tasks such as feeding, grooming, and leading the horse, under the supervision of mental health professionals. The goal is to develop emotional regulation, self-confidence, and a sense of responsibility.
Equine therapy also allows for the patient to create a trusting bond with the horse. Learning new communication skills that will benefit the Veteran in future relationships is a positive and healthy lifestyle skill. Often considered an experimental therapy, equine therapy has proven successful for many. Initial therapies during the 1950s and 1960s included horse riding for handicapped individuals.
Equine therapy for Veterans includes the following types of therapy:
- Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) focuses on the emotional health of the patient and family.
- Equine-assisted learning (EAL) focuses on teaching patients to manage their behavior and emotions by understanding their responses to the world around them.
- Equine-assisted therapy (EAT) is a form of physical and mental health therapy that involves caring for and riding horses.
People of all ages can benefit from this therapy. Being outdoors while learning how to process the challenges they have faced in a healthy way is the goal. Equine therapy for Veterans can be considered a holistic therapy but has been successful for those who use it as an additional therapy within their treatment plan.
Equine Therapy and PTSD
Equine therapy for Veterans has had great results for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veterans have expressed concern that they would never be able to form an intimate bond after their trauma. Working with equine therapy has breached the limits of those who held no hope for success in treatment.
Veterans with PTSD experience traumatic memories, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, irritability, hypervigilance, and other symptoms. Equine therapy for Veterans teaches the Veteran to stay in the present moment and focused on the task at hand. Through the interactions with the horse, the Veteran learns how to control their own behaviors and emotions. Through equine therapy, Veterans learn to process their fears and experiences with the horse as well as how to be vulnerable.
Equine Therapy and Addiction Treatment
Equine therapy for Veterans during substance use treatment is e a unique way to teach Veterans to live healthy and sober lives. Substance use disorder (SUD) causes extreme relationship dysfunctions. However, Veterans with SUD can learn to form healthy and positive relationships through equine therapy. The Veteran can gain trust, vulnerability, and effective communication skills as a result of equine therapy. Ideally, the Veteran also learns self-confidence and a sense of safety they forgot was possible.
According to the 2020 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 40.3 million people aged 12 and over had a SUD during the past year. Among these disorders, 28.3 million people had an alcohol use disorder, and 18.4 million experienced an illicit drug use disorder. In addition, an estimated 17.0 million adults had a mental illness with a co-occurring SUD. Using additional therapy, like equine therapy, can improve treatment outcomes for those with addictions.
Benefits of Equine Therapy for Veterans
Proven benefits of equine therapy for Veterans include an increase in positive, healthy behaviors to replace unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse or avoidance. Building a relationship with a horse offers an unbiased and non-judgemental relationship between the Veteran and the horse. Horses mirror the client’s emotions and behaviors, establishing a crucial connection. Equine therapy also allows for the management of vulnerability with the Veteran to allow opening up to share past traumas.
The list of benefits of equine therapy includes the following:
- Assertiveness and confidence
- Impulse control and problem-solving abilities
- Social skills and communication skills
- Develop empathy and trust in self and others
- Emotional awareness
- Increased self-esteem and respect
- Improved focus and less stressful relationships
Equine Therapy for Veterans Near Me
If you are experiencing a need for a treatment plan for PTSD or SUD, consider searching for “equine therapy for Veterans near me.” Sunrise Veterans Health offers this option in addition to the traditional therapies. We can answer all of your concerns and questions once you pick up the phone and call us. Our mental health professionals are at your disposal and have experience helping Veterans start the recovery journey. Visit our admissions page today for more.