Teen Equine Therapy

Though many people have not heard of it, teen equine therapy can be exceptionally useful for helping troubled youth.  Psychological treatment has come a long way since the days of Freud, and therapy sessions now include a variety of therapeutic tools such as surfing, film, and art creation.  One very popular form of treating troubled youth is animal-assisted therapy (or AAT).  This involves using animals as part of a patient’s overall treatment program, with the ultimate goal of improving a patient’s emotional, cognitive, or social functioning.  There are various ways of bringing animals into therapy; for example, therapists may bring pets to sessions.  This can make therapists seem less threatening, especially to new patients who do not trust most adults.  The type of animal chosen for interaction with patients will likely depend on the patient’s issues, and some will work better than others.  Here is a basic description of how teen equine therapy can be a particularly good choice for helping adolescents.

Equine therapy is a type of treatment that uses horses to provide metaphoric experiences and promote emotional growth.  To begin the program, instructors will often guide the horse into the middle of an arena, and then ask students to get the horse to move out of a certain area without touching it.  Students will usually try to clap, yell, whistle, or make other loud noises, none of which work on the horse.  From this exercise, students begin to understand yelling is not the best way to communicate.  Using this realization as a stepping stone, the therapist then begins to work with the students to develop their communication skills.

Teen equine therapy may also be a good choice because the lessons learned by working with horses can help adolescents understand their own problems from a different perspective.  In equine therapy, teenagers learn how to lead a horse.  Many students initially try to pull on its lead rope and force the animal into following, which is ineffective.  The teenagers are then taught that the best way to lead a horse is not to pull on it from the front, but to walk by its side.  From this experience, the patients begin to understand that trying to impose their will onto their environments can often be counterproductive, and far less effective than trying to work collaboratively with friends, family, and teachers to solve problems.

Animal-assisted therapy can be a great part of a teenager’s therapy treatment program.   In particular, teen equine therapy can help adolescents communicate more effectively and see their problems from a different light.  If you are considering enrolling your child in an equine therapy program, be sure to do your research.  Animal therapy should always be conducted by certified therapists.  You may wish to check into the certification organizations for a listing of approved therapists in your area.