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How Does Equine Therapy Work?

Equine Therapy: How Does it Help With Teen Addiction Recovery?

Addiction recovery is a lot for anyone to handle, but it is especially difficult for a teen who is still developing physically, mentally and emotionally. And if your teen is struggling with past trauma or a co-occurring disorder like depression or anxiety, that’s another level they’ll need to work through during treatment.

With painful emotions and memories at play, there are times where your teen isn’t going to feel comfortable opening up to another person. They may not want to talk in individual therapy or socialize in group therapy.

When moments like that arise, equine therapy is a good way for your teen to work through difficult feelings and thoughts without having to verbally talk about them to a therapist.

Let’s take a look at what equine therapy really is (because it’s more than just petting a horse) and how it helps teens recover from addiction and dual diagnosis disorders.

The Science Behind Equine Therapy

Did you know that horses have the uncanny ability of recognizing human emotions? These remarkable creatures take this a step further and can even mirror your emotions back to you. By doing this, horses are oftentimes able to recognize how you’re feeling even before you realize it yourself.

Let’s take a quick example to see how this plays out.

Let’s say your teen is struggling with depression and telling themselves that they aren’t good enough. The horse your teen is interacting with will pick up on these feelings immediately based on your teen’s body language and facial expressions.

As the horse responds, your teen will have the opportunity to examine the horse’s behavior. Did the horse turn away from your teen? If so, how did that make your child feel? Did the horse trot right up to them and embrace them? If so, what feelings were triggered because of that?

These beautiful interactions activate both sides of your teen’s brain. The horse helps activate the right side of your teen’s brain, helping them identify and experience emotions and feelings they couldn’t before. From here, the left side of your teen’s brain is also activated, helping them process these thoughts and emotions.

This entire experience allows your teen to experience a sense of emotional freedom and peace of mind they haven’t felt before.

Does Equine Therapy Actually Work?

Equine therapy is still a relatively new area of study, but there is anecdotal and some early scientific research that suggests its effectiveness. For example, a 2013 study found that equine therapy has positive psychological effects on adolescents who have experienced sexual abuse.

Another thing to consider is how equine therapy supplements individual and group therapy sessions your teen will experience. Equine therapy gives your child a chance to work through their thoughts and feelings in safe way that doesn’t pressure them to talk. After these calming and healing experiences, your teen will start to feel more comfortable discussing these interactions and what they’re feeling.

Experiential Therapy at Kokua Recovery

At Kokua Recovery, your teen will experience 42 hours a week of experiential therapy, including equine therapy, individual therapy, and much more.

With a mix of more traditional therapy sessions and experiences like equine therapy, your teen will have the amazing opportunity to heal from addiction, learn new ways to cope with cravings and dual diagnosis disorders and become the healthy, mature individual you’ve always hoped they’d become.

Contact us today to learn more about our program and find out how to get your teen started.

Ken Huey

Upon graduating from Purdue with a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy, Dr. Huey worked as a therapist, Clinical Director, and Business Development Director in residential treatment. Dr. Huey was always drawn to the large population of adoptees in residential treatment (he is adopted himself). He ultimately became convinced that this population needed specialty care and in November of 2006, Dr. Huey founded Calo. Calo grew to a 200 plus employee organization with about the same numbers of teen clients served each year. He sold Calo and retired in June of 2015. He came out of retirement in 2017 and founded Kokua Recovery, trauma-informed residential drug and alcohol treatment with sites in Colorado.

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