Welcome back to our continuing series on using equine therapy to treat and manage post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In our previous post, we examined the ways that horses help those with PTSD heal, establish trust and boundaries, and curb erratic behaviors. According to the Sidran Institute, more than 13 million Americans have PTSD, and those who have PTSD are more likely to experience depression, anxiety or substance abuse issues and suicidal tendencies. The treatment and management of PTSD and its co-occurring mental illnesses are critical to ensuring improved quality of life and mental stability. For those who are unfamiliar with equine assisted psychotherapy (EAP), linking horses to mental health care can seem strange, but statistics show that both veterans and civilians with PTSD are making great strides in their mental health with the help of EAP.
What is equine assisted psychotherapy?
Most people assume that in order to participate in EAP you must be comfortable riding a horse. In fact, during your course of therapy, you may never be asked to sit on a horse or ride one. The therapeutic benefit comes from caring for and interacting with the horse. For those who struggle with PTSD learning about themselves and processing events and emotions that occur during these sessions with the animals brings significant improvement of their symptoms. While working with the horses the patient and the therapist will discuss the events that caused the PTSD, the emotions related to the event and the resulting issues or trauma from the event. As therapy progresses, the goal is to improve the patient's functioning in behavioral and cognitive ways as well as to improve their emotional stability and ability to interact in social situations.
Horses have been used in therapeutic treatments since the time of the ancient Greeks. The Greeks identified horseback riding as a way to boost the morale of terminally ill patients and provide comfort. From the early 17th century on, historians have recorded medical references to using horses as a way to treat low morale (what we might refer to as depression), neurological disorders and even physical conditions such as gout. Clearly, using horses in therapy is not a new concept, but the formation of formal training centers and accreditation for the therapies only truly evolved into existence in the United States during the 1960s. EAP and other programs that use horses for either physical or mental and emotional therapy have become tightly regulated and recognized as a viable treatment option since the mid-1990s.
Horses mimic and react to human emotion. In working with horses, patients learn to control their own impulses, remain calm and regulate their emotions. The horse offers constant feedback to both the patient and the therapist. During EAP, this instant feedback cycle allows the therapist and patient to focus on the trauma and the emotions associated with it. Horses are highly sensitive to emotions which will help the therapist determine the severity and range of emotions the patient is feeling. The animal provides clues such as wide eyes, dropped shoulders and flicking ears. All of these are body language cues given to the patient and therapist to help identify and address residual emotions. For many patients, the outdoor and interactive environment is less stressful than traditional one-on-one therapy, and they may feel more at ease and be more likely to open up and confront their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Searching For Holistic Charlotte, NC PTSD Therapy? Call Legacy!
Want to learn more about how Legacy Freedom of Charlotte incorporates EAP into our holistic treatment plans? Ready to begin treating your PTSD? Concerned about a friend or loved on with PTSD? We can help. Call or click to connect with the care you need today! We offer the best holistic Charlotte, NC PTSD therapy.