Studies Show Benefits of Equine Assisted Therapy: For Depression, Anxiety and More

Many times, Horses respond and interact with human-like emotions.

Many times, Horses respond and interact with human-like emotions.

Addiction recovery is often accompanied by mental illness, which could include depression, anxiety, etc. The effects of these mental illnesses can add a layer of complexity as a person works through the trauma and pain they’ve endured. Thankfully, years of research have provided us with more means than we’ve ever had before to treat addiction and mental illness in different ways that are more suitable for individual’s unique needs. When we talk about therapy approaches such as equine assisted therapy, it’s often discussed in the realm of younger children and the autism spectrum, along with other developmental disorders. Did you know that equine assisted therapy can greatly help those in addiction recovery, too?

Horse-assisted therapy or equine assisted therapy, involves human-animal interactions and can build a person’s mental and physical strength. A 2016 study conducted by researchers from Norway assessed 8 patients seeking treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) before, during and after equine assisted therapy. While the participants noted that it was a nice break from treatment, there were several other implications of just how beneficial this therapy approach could be for those in addiction recovery:

  • Change of focus – this type of therapy was something that participants looked forward to and there were obvious environmental differences (being out in fresh air, smelling the grass or dirt around them) that brought them to the present moment.
  • Activity – some participants mentioned feeling useful by engaging with the horses. One person stated, “It’s animals that need food and care…So it feels good in a way…that I can make a difference and contribute something, something positive.”
  • Identity – several individuals noted that equine assisted therapy provided them with a more relaxed environment in which they could be themselves. They were able to be “normal people” – and this really contributed to their sense of identity.
  • Motivation – over time, enthusiasm and openness to experiences with the horses drove many participants to feel more motivated in their journey to recovery.

You see, recovery isn’t always about education and working through formal therapy components. Sometimes it’s about getting out there and enjoying life. Sometimes, amidst the chaos, we find ourselves in those simple moments of just living.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.