St. Gregory Recovery Center is proud to present a new therapeutic program for residents: equine therapy. Since its official inception in the West in the late 1940s, equine therapy has gained increasing popularity. People suffering from a variety of substance abuse issues who engage in this therapy report finding some degree of mental relief, life-skills building, and personal empowerment.
What is Equine Therapy?
Equine therapy is a treatment that involves horses, along with a certified mental health professional and an equine specialist, to facilitate the interaction between horse and client for the client’s therapeutic benefit.
Although equine therapy may sound like horseback riding—something luxurious and reserved for the wealthy–it isn’t. All of the therapeutic work is done without the client ever riding the horse. Because horses are acutely sensitive to people and mirror their emotions, equine therapy programs encourage participants to interact with horses, and to stay calm and emotionally steady while doing so.
Another aspect of equine therapy may involve caring for the horses: feeding, grooming, and exercising them. Working with a horse takes patience, sensitivity, and consistency–and the relationship that develops between the horse and the person caring for them is a key focus of the therapy.
Through equine therapy, a useful and symbiotic bond is formed between animal and person. The horse encourages calm and tranquility in the person, while the person in turn provides the horse with food and care. The therapist helps the client work through emotions and blocks that surface during this process. In addition to being used for substance use disorder, equine therapy is useful for other conditions such as autism or depression.
The Benefits of Equine Therapy in Recovery
Equine therapy reduces anxiety and depression by helping reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. Additionally, spending time with horses lowers blood pressure and increases oxytocin levels, a natural chemical that promotes feelings of positivity and connection. Often, when battling a substance abuse issue, our natural productions of these hormones are compromised, and this imbalance can negatively affect critical thinking skills and emotional regulation.
Equine therapy is also valuable in that participants tend to project their feelings and experiences onto the horses, assisting them in opening up verbally with the therapist.
Working with horses in this way also helps in managing the following mental and emotional ailments:
- Behavioral disorders
- Relationship troubles (marital and familial alike)
- Loss and grief
- Anxiety and depression
- Eating and exercise disorders
Alternatives to Equine Therapy
Despite the astronomical success of equine therapy, some people just don’t do animals—and that’s perfectly fine. At St. Gregory Recovery Center we have great options for all of our clients, such as:
- The Family Program
The family program at St. Gregory educates and supports our clients’ loved ones. Every 3rd Saturday from 9:30 am – 2:00 pm, family members may attend informational sessions about the impact of substances on our physiology, what language to use with someone new to sobriety, and strategies on creating smooth transitions back to home, work, and social life.
- The Intensive Outpatient Program
The IOP at St. Gregory is a group treatment program targeting alcohol and drug abuse. Our IOP is designed to accommodate people who don’t require a detox period or 24/7 care, or those who have previously completed our residential recovery program. IOPs are less restrictive than residential treatments and allow clients to continue living at home and working, studying, and attending to other responsibilities.
St. Gregory Recovery Center in Iowa Can Help
No matter what the substance may be, if you find yourself in Iowa and suspect that you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, consider entering our treatment program today. Don’t hesitate to contact our facility at any time with questions or concerns.