Equine Therapy, also known as Horse Therapy, Equine-Assisted Therapy, or Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy, is a form of experiential therapy that involves interactions between individuals and horses. This type of therapy can involve activities such as feeding, grooming, haltering, leading, or riding a horse and it often coincides with our client’s individual treatment plan.
As with adults, children can experience challenges such as trauma, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more. Equine therapy offers them a therapeutic environment that can feel less threatening and more inviting than a traditional counseling office. Often times, it can be difficult to open up and process painful emotions and experiences our clients have gone through. However, Daybreak has partnered with Embrace Equine Ministry, a nonprofit located in Idaho that serves anyone with a desire to learn how to restore, renew, or rebuild healthy, trusting relationships. Embrace provides group sessions as well as opportunities for one-on-one time with session leaders and the wonderful group of women have given our clients the opportunity to work on issues such as emotional awareness, assertiveness, social skills, confidence, trust, empathy, impulse control, and problem-solving skills.
Through Daybreak’s Life Enrichment program, our Spokane Inpatient clients have been able to visit Embrace every Tuesday and spend a couple of hours working with the horses and alongside each other. Some say it’s one of their favorite things during treatment, while others simply enjoy the time with the animals.
Embrace offers a non-judgmental and unbiased atmosphere
As much as we as humans and counselors try our best to offer a safe space for clients to explore deep emotional hurts and painful experiences, it can be uncomfortable for clients to openly share their thoughts. Building trust and therapeutic rapport can take time. Having a horse present can offer a sense of peace, as they only will react to the client’s behavior and emotions with no threat of bias or any judgment of their emotional experience.
Embrace works on client feedback and horse interaction
Horses are keen observers, vigilant and sensitive to movement and emotion. They often mirror a client’s behavior or emotions, conveying understanding, and connection that allows the client to feel safe. Embrace works with the clients to ask what they felt or experienced before, during, and after each exercise. This helps our clients learn not only about themselves but what other people may be experiencing. By using the horse’s behavior and interactions for feedback and opportunities to check-in and process what is happening in the moment, our clients gain a sense of self-awareness.
Embrace helps clients manage vulnerability
Clients might find themselves vulnerable when trying to open up about emotional challenges, past experiences, or life transitions. The horses at Embrace can offer a reference point to use for processing. It may be easier for clients to process using the horse as an example, or to align their experience with the horse’s experiences in the moment if something feels too painful to speak of.
Daybreak truly appreciates it’s Life Enrichment partners and the support our clients receive from them during their treatment. To learn more about our Life Enrichment program, click here.