When it comes to drug addiction therapy, one of the most popular is equine-assisted therapy. Working with horses has proven to be very effective with addicts of all ages and backgrounds. The responsibility of caring for an animal, establishing a routine and learning how to communicate effectively are just a few of the things clients learn during their therapy sessions. While much of equine-assisted therapy is geared toward young adults and teenagers, many of its principles can carry over to adult drug addiction therapy as well.
The most important principle of equine therapy that carries over to adult drug addiction therapy is trust. Many addicts have problems trusting others, for they feel they have been hurt or let down by others in the past and don’t want to be hurt again. However, there is perhaps no greater bond of trust established than that between a human and an animal. Clients in these programs come to learn how trust is established not only by the animal, but also other humans. In any therapy session, equine-assisted or otherwise, there must be a basic level of trust in order to succeed. Animals, particularly horses, come to trust a person based on the individual’s outward behavior. But horses have also proven to be very good at knowing how a person is feeling inside, so if a person is still letting other issues affect their behavior the horse will notice and act accordingly. The same holds true in a therapy session between two humans. Once the client establishes a level of trust with their therapist, progress can be made.
Authenticity is another principle that carries over from equine-assisted therapy. One of the major reasons animals are so effective in therapy programs is because they are completely non-judgmental, which is often something a drug addict may never have experienced. Animals allow people to be themselves without fear of being thought of as strange or odd, and animals will never make someone feel like a failure. Unconditional love goes far in helping addicts realize they will only get better when they are true to themselves and others, so being honest with a therapist will reap far more benefits than trying to be someone you are not.
Learning how to communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, also carries over into adult drug addiction therapy. Because horses are very sensitive to human feelings, they learn to recognize a person’s body language and realize how their caretaker is feeling that day. For example, if a person sounds fine but is displaying body language that says otherwise, a horse may not eat or will refuse to move. Once a client is made aware of how their behavior affects others, this gives them a feeling of self-awareness that empowers them to pay closer attention to how they deal with others. In many cases, this will be seen as a breakthrough in therapy and begins to lead to many other positive accomplishments.
A significant challenge to most drug addicts is being able to get their feelings on the inside to match their actions on the outside. Where many people get into trouble is failing to admit they feel bad or have a problem, whatever it may be. In particular, drug addicts are very reluctant to admit a problem exists, but will only begin to see their lives improve once they do. If you or someone you know needs help overcoming drug addiction, take that first step today. Speak with a trusted friend or family member and ask for help, knowing there are plenty of people ready and willing to help you with your issues.