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The human condition is subject to a variety of traumas or disturbances that affect our general wellness early on or over time. Over the years, mental health has rapidly become an essential topic of concern. Every year, more significant percentages of the world’s population continues to add to the numbers of people suffering from one or multiple forms of mental illnesses. Records estimate that one out of every six people has one or more mental or related disorders. On a global scale, this means that at least more than one billion people are currently experiencing a form of mental illness. The most common causes are anxiety and other related disorders.
Different methods for handling various cases of mental illnesses have emerged. The most popular techniques involve one-on-one therapy with a psychologist, a pediatrician, or a neurologist. These professionals specialize in the relationship between the brain and human cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning. Besides the professional methods, there are also some unique alternative therapy techniques like horse riding therapy, etc. These techniques have proven to be very useful in addressing some of the underlying or otherwise elusive components of mental health disorders.
Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT)
Equine-Assisted Therapy, also popularly known as Horse Riding Therapy, involves the incorporation of horses (and other equines) during therapy to reduce mental stress. Animals can indeed give us an extraordinary amount of emotional support. A good example would be the empathic relationship shared between pet and owner. It is also scientifically proven that some animals naturally have therapeutic distinctiveness, which encourages their being used in therapeutic settings. These animals can offer great assistance to patients and help them recover more rapidly from challenging emotional set-backs.
Thanks to the burgeoning facts of its effectiveness, horse riding therapy, or equine-assisted therapy (EAT) has become increasingly popular. The benefits of equine-assisted therapy are enormous. The process helps to build up an array of core elements that will help the patient develop/sustain better overall psychological and emotional control. Some of these benefits include:
Who Can Use Equine-Assisted Therapy?
Thankfully, Equine-assisted Therapy can be used in helping individuals of all ages. The system can also be adopted for more extensive counseling settings that involve groups, for example, families, co-workers, students of a class, etc. Equine-assisted therapy on its own is not quite the complete form of treatment. It is often a therapeutic balancing process that goes side-by-side with a complimentary traditional or professional therapy. However, because of its experimental/practical approach, it offers more rapid results compared to traditional talk therapy. During E.A.T., patients are offered a different experience. The technique involves bringing the patients outdoors where they are exposed to an opportunity to apply all their senses while managing emotional challenges.
Benefits of Equine Assisted Therapy
It is true that a variety of animals can be incorporated into psychotherapeutic settings. However, given their exceptional traits, horses are easily a preferred choice for animal-assisted therapeutic services as they offer some unique and remarkable advantages. Some of the benefits they bring to the table include:
Unbiased and Non-judgmental Company: Although humans, especially medically inclined professionals like therapists, do all they can to offer patients a safe space to access deep emotional crannies, they might still find it uncomfortable to open-up and share exactly how they feel.
Horses create the opportunity for patients to unconsciously build rapport and trust while learning how to be comfortable with and manage vulnerability. Following successful rapport, they also offer peace as they naturally would only respond to the human’s behavior and emotions. They do not threaten to express judgment or bias towards the human’s emotions.
Mirrored Feedback: Naturally, horses are known to be very keen observers. They are attentive and very sensitive to movements and emotions as well. They have apt characteristics that allow them to convey understanding and connection in a way that helps the human feel safe. This also helps the humans retain a sense of corresponding self-awareness as well. The horse’s behavior and interaction can be mirrored for feedback assisting the human to check-in with their environment and process what is going on.
Condition: Naturally, horses have better tendencies of handling several situations. Through rapport, the human can also learn these, and gain mastery as well.
Anxiety Management: Horses, being very vigilant animals that are also very sensitive to emotions, can quickly sense a threat and react with heightened awareness. In most cases, this will mean an instant change in their behavior or potential attempts to escape the danger. Either way, this behavior primarily involves staying attentive, alert, and focused on the task at hand. This would be a valuable lesson that can be applied by the human in managing anxiety.
Overcoming Fears: Horses, being large animals, can exude a feeling of fear from the human during the first few interactions. The human might fear that the horse may not like them, and would, therefore, hurt them. However, after a few interactions and the resulting rapport between the animal and the human, the results are applaudable. Patients come to realize that they can actually overcome their fears. They can create long-lasting relationships with such huge and sturdy animals without really getting hurt in the process.
Trust: As humans, we have a tendency for biased interactions, sometimes even unconsciously. Horses, on the other hand, are gentle and soothing. During interactions, they are very straightforward. They do not blame or judge, and they also interact without manipulation or lies. These characteristics, especially the gentleness, straightforwardness, and soothing nature of the horse, compared to its huge framework and size, helps to create feelings of trust with whoever comes in contact with them.
Conclusion: Besides the few points listed here, there are several other multiple benefits of equine therapy. The numerous advantages it presents quickly make it a go-to resource for dealing with underlying issues affecting mental health. Patients quickly learn to develop trust, conquer their fears, build rapport, handle anxiety pangs, and several other mental health limiting challenges through daily interactions with the horses during equine-assisted therapy. Also, larger groups can benefit from the system simultaneously through similar interactions and so on.