Equine-Assisted Therapy for PTSD: How Does It Work?

Equine-Assisted Therapy for PTSD: How Does It Work?

EAT as a form of therapy for patients with PTSD has been considered to have good possibilities given that one treated patient must attend the horses. This form of therapy involves using courses to fight PTSD because of the characteristics they possess to manage the condition’s emotional and psychological aspects.

The Basics

Equine-assisted therapy is a practice that helps people change and recover through interaction with horses and the relationship between horses and people. These regal beasts have the inherent capacity to mimic people’s feelings and comprehend gestures, encouraging bonding. Equine-facilitated psychotherapy entails the use of horses to help people understand themselves as well as develop social skills. Consider checking out horse therapy for PTSD, which can help you in many ways! The therapy practices include petting the horses and caring for them, riding them, and taking them on walks that are physically and emotionally engaging. These clients work with horses in an environment that allows them to heal themselves and become more psychologically sound people. Equine-assisted therapy could be perfectly described as a type of treatment that incorporates the phenomenon of therapeutic relationships between humans and animals. 

Methodologies of EAT 

Before we appreciate it in modality, it is vital to take a magnifying glass on the principles and methodologies that underpin Equine-Assisted Therapy and the transformations that a PTSD patient undergoes. In simple terms, EAT presupposes that dynamic sessions with horses can positively affect individuals’ emotional states and help them enhance their social skills and personal insight. In contrast to other conventional therapies that are conducted in a clinic, the active involvement of horses in EAT brings in a different dimension that helps in easily gaining the attention of the patient and also in helping them look beyond their feelings.

Horses as Cure for People With PTSD

Essentially, EAT focuses on the rights of patients to achieve therapeutic interaction with horses. Horses, as animals, are very sensitive and receptive and can easily read feelings from people’s faces and engage in non-verbal communication. This sensitivity makes them suitable partners in therapy, where they mimic the conditions of the people they are with. To the given PTCD patients with such conditions as hypervigilance and distrust, horses are completely non-judgmental and allow for catharsis. 

Learning by Doing

Among the ways in which equine-assisted therapy works is by learning by doing. It involves a process of horse-human interaction where those participating have to go through a series of activities involving the horse, which may entail grooming, leading, or even riding under the supervision of therapists. These activities are planned with the intention that they will bring out a particular feeling or behavioral response, whereby the patients get a chance to face the traumatic event and process it. For example, petting a horse may mimic feelings of trust and friendship, whereas driving a horse may represent taking charge, an essential step toward recovering one’s power in life, so the title, PTCD.

Also, the literal substance of forces is curative. Their motion can also be soothing to people’s moods, which can decrease anxiety and enable individuals to relax. This physical touch relieves the hormones oxytocin and endorphins in the brain, which are associated with well-being and stress re-dwelling. So, through the sense of touch, being close to and engaging with horses helps to change the neurobiological activity of PTSD symptoms.

How Horse Therapy Actually Works

In addition to the direct treatment sessions, EAT advocates for patients to apply such changes in their thinking and behaviors in their daily settings. Horse-related therapy and bonding strengthen the individual’s ability to handle stress and deal with issues in their daily life, which positively impacts his or her quality of life. The ability to transfer these skills for the use in long-term management of PTSD symptoms is therefore another important consideration in EAT’s sustainability.

In addition, Equine-Assisted Therapy promoted social belongingness due to the interaction that happened between the participants. Horse-assisted group sessions engender people with the same problems, increasing the support system and possible empathy. This social aspect of therapy is particularly helpful for a patient diagnosed with PTSD, since such a patient may feel enclosed due to their condition. Also, the support that members of the group give to each other can further benefit therapy and contribute positively to recovery.

Positive Feedback from Numerous People 

Sources of evidence for the effectiveness of Equine-Assisted therapy for PTSD include numerous positive scientific studies and testimonies. Group work is effective in the reduction of PTSD symptoms, such as lessening anxiety, less depressive feelings, better management of people’s feelings, and uplifting one’s self-esteem. Although quantitatively clearer causes and effects should be established through further scientific studies, the positive effects of EAT on patients’ and therapists’ lives clearly speak about the treatment possibilities of the approach.

Horses are the kind of animals that have positive effects on PTSD patients by helping with the management of emotions, decreasing anxiety, and also increasing trust. It is in equine therapy that one can establish unity with him/herself and other people, so this is a route to recovery from trauma.

Photo by Rodrigo Zarate - Pexels
Photo by Rodrigo Zarate – Pexels

It is, therefore, imperative to understand that Equine-Assisted Therapy on its own is not a form of treatment for PTSD; rather, it is a treatment modality that may be incorporated into the client’s overall treatment, including medications, psychotherapies, and other forms of supportive care. The interaction that mental health professionals, equine specialists, and actual horses create eliminates the possibility of EAT being done unsafely and without the proper consideration of the individual patient’s specific needs and likes.

Equine-assisted therapy is a valuable tool in the overall approach to PTSD recovery for people who struggle with the consequences of the trauma. So, by using horses that possess such characteristics as sensitivity, empathy, and non-verbal communication, EAT provides the clients with an explicitly therapeutic process of discovery, healing, and hope. So, as more research is conducted on this modality of therapy and knowledge about it is obtained and improved, this innovative therapy can save lives and reduce suffering of the patients with PTSD worldwide.

Lead Image: Photo by Missi Köpf – Pexels

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