Recovery from drug or alcohol addiction includes a comprehensive range of treatments. Attending an inpatient rehab program that offers a variety of therapies can help you work toward complete health and wellness. One popular form of treatment that some programs offer is equine therapy or other animal-assisted therapies. A drug rehab horse ranch can be a powerful place to heal, especially if you have a strong connection to animals. Here’s everything you need to know about the role of equine therapy in addiction recovery:
What Is a Drug Rehab Horse Ranch?
A drug rehab horse ranch is a specialized addiction treatment center that offers equine therapy in addition to the other traditional therapies involved in substance abuse recovery. These facilities are typically found in remote, rural locations, so they provide a quiet and peaceful atmosphere for patients.
A day at an addiction program with equine therapy looks similar to a day at any rehab program. You’re supervised by healthcare professionals while engaging in group and individual therapies to address the underlying cause of your addiction and improve your coping skills. However, you also spend time every day caring for and interacting with the horses, which has its own therapeutic benefits.
What Is Equine Therapy?
Equine therapy is a form of mental health therapy provided by a trained and licensed professional. In some cases, a psychotherapist and horse trainer work together to provide equine therapy. In other cases, the therapy is provided by one individual with training in both psychotherapy and horsemanship.
Equine therapy is a relatively new form of therapy, and experts are still researching its benefits. However, the experience has shown a number of benefits for people with mental health disorders, substance use disorders, and other challenges. People of all ages and backgrounds can engage in equine therapy, and you don’t need any experience with animals to benefit.
The goal of equine therapy isn’t to become skilled at riding horses. Sometimes, patients at a drug rehab horse ranch never even ride the horses they work with. Instead, the purpose is to connect with the horses and experience the sense of meaning and fulfillment provided by caring for the animals.
The tasks and experiences involved in equine therapy usually progress over the course of your treatment. You might begin by simply petting or grooming the horses. Then, as you become more familiar and comfortable with the horses, you and the therapist might work on leading a horse or riding it.
Benefits of Equine Therapy
Equine therapy offers a wide variety of mental and emotional benefits for people who are overcoming drug or alcohol addiction. The following are just a few of the many benefits of equine therapy:
Horses have a calm and soothing presence.
Although a rehab facility can offer a great deal of emotional support, overcoming addiction is always incredibly challenging. You might feel anxious, depressed, angry, or overwhelmed as you navigate the early steps of addiction recovery. Equine therapy can be a very soothing experience, which is highly beneficial during inpatient treatment. Horses have a calm, stable presence that can be therapeutic in and of itself.
Equine therapy improves your emotional awareness.
Horses are highly intelligent animals, and they often respond to the emotions of the people around them. When you interact with a horse during equine therapy, you might learn a great deal about your own emotional state simply by observing how the horse responds to you. In some ways, the horse can act as a mirror for your thoughts and feelings, which can open the door for self-reflection.
Equine therapy puts you on a schedule.
Structure and routine are absolutely essential for anyone in addiction recovery. Resisting your cravings and staying sober are daily challenges in early recovery, but sticking to a consistent routine helps you stay grounded. Programs that incorporate equine therapy are usually highly structured because the horses require so much daily care. This can be a great way for you to relearn how to structure and schedule your day, which is a skill you will continue to apply after you leave the rehab program.
Working with horses promotes productivity and consistency.
If you attend a rehab facility that heavily incorporates equine therapy into their programming, you probably have tasks to complete for the horses every single day. The horses rely on you, the other patients, and the therapists for their care. Assuming responsibility for another living thing can be a very meaningful experience in recovery, and it can motivate you to stay committed to the program. Taking care of yourself may not feel like a priority when you’re going through a mental health crisis, but taking care of someone else can feel much different.
Equine therapy takes your mind off of your addiction.
At times during your equine therapy sessions, you and your counselor may discuss your addiction. However, equine therapy is largely an opportunity to take your mind off of your cravings. Addiction can completely take over your life and consume all of your thoughts and behaviors, so many patients find that they desperately need to replace their previous substance use with a healthier activity. While you’re in treatment, equine therapy serves as this positive activity.
Equine therapy provides a sense of pride and accomplishment.
When you’re struggling with addiction, you may lose your sense of self. It’s common for people in recovery to have low self-worth or to feel unsure of their place in the world. Caring for horses during equine therapy provides a valuable sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, which has enormous benefits for your overall mental health and self-esteem. As you see yourself get better at caring for the animals, you develop a strong sense of pride in the work. This can be a powerful reminder that you are a skilled, compassionate person who offers a great deal to those around you.
Disadvantages of Equine Therapy
Equine therapy is generally a very beneficial treatment for people in addiction recovery. However, there are some circumstances in which it might not be the best choice. If you feel nervous or uncomfortable around horses, you may not benefit from the therapy. Even though the horses at a drug rehab ranch are trained to be therapy animals, some people don’t experience the therapeutic benefits because being in the presence of such massive animals makes them feel anxious.
People with certain allergies may struggle with equine therapy, too. If you’re allergic to horses, hay, or barn dust, your doctor will probably advise you not to participate in equine therapy.
Another consideration to keep in mind is that equine therapy has not yet been extensively researched. Many people have reported having a powerful and healing experience in equine therapy, but much more research needs to be done to back up those claims scientifically. The best program is one that combines equine therapy with traditional, evidence-based treatments to ensure that patients get comprehensive support.
How We Can Help
Long Island Interventions offers inpatient and outpatient addiction recovery services for clients in the New York area. We are committed to helping our patients find the best possible treatment options that match their unique needs.
Attending a drug rehab horse ranch far outside the city can be highly beneficial for New Yorkers who need a calm, quiet, and private location to work toward their mental health goals. If you’re looking for a residential addiction center that offers equine therapy, there are a number of options available. Contact us today to learn more about equine therapy rehab facilities.