While horses have been human companions for centuries, equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) started as a program to treat people with physical disabilities. In recent years, it’s been translated to treating all kinds of conditions, as well as addiction. Horses in particular mirror human’s behaviour, giving people the opportunity to address non-verbal communication, assertiveness, self-esteem, trust, creative thinking, problem solving and developing new ways of interacting socially.
The horses themselves are the health intervention, they enhance positive feelings and raise oxytocin levels.
Horses can teach people about relationships. They are social, herd creatures, horses serve as mirrors to what’s wrong with how people recovering from addiction relate to others. Horses interact with us as if we’re other horses in the herd.
People can learn how to be in a healthy relationship by simply interacting with a horse. It’s about mutuality and reciprocity, relationships that are equal and fair. There’s not anything that people do that doesn’t happen exactly with horses and people..
In ‘Frontiers in Psychology’, scientist Dr Andrea Beetz looked at the literature on the psychological and physiological effects of human-animal interactions. Reviewing evidence from 69 studies on hum-animal interactions, Dr. Beetz found that the effect is due to an increase in oxytocin, which is sometimes referred to as the “bonding hormone.”
The review showed that interactions with animals could have a pronounced benefit on a number of areas, including:
Animals can help people in recovery build self-esteem and self-confidence. As a supplement to more traditional types of addiction treatment, animal therapy works by helping people to focus on someone or something else. By caring for a creature that’s dependent on them, especially after having spent a long time serving only their own needs in active addiction, people recovering from addiction discover the nurturing side of themselves. They can also gain a more unambiguous understanding of what it means to be nurtured — something they may have never learned or have forgotten while they were preoccupied with gambling or other addictions.
We’ll be working in partnership with Abrigo D’Aventura that is lending us the foals and elderly horses.
Therapy is delivered by qualified therapists from ATAC