Animal-assisted therapy has become a popular form of addiction and mental health treatment over the years. Studies show that equine therapy is one type that provides several health benefits for teens. Doctors and therapists commonly use it as a complement to standard, evidence-based treatment methods.

What Is Animal-Assisted Therapy?

A teen boy pets a horse as part of his equine therapy programWorking with service animals or visiting therapy animals is therapeutic in many ways. Even owning a pet can reduce obesity and cholesterol. However, these situations don’t reach as deep as animal-assisted therapy.

This umbrella term refers to the use of educational, recreational, and therapeutic activities with animals. It involves a goal-oriented intervention that directly impacts overall treatment.

Only professionals with proper training and certification conduct the treatment. They include therapists and licensed physicians. The animals that they use during the therapy need training. They must also meet standards to regulate treatment effectiveness and safety.

Many animals offer therapeutic benefits during this type of therapy. Some examples include birds, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, as well as alpacas or llamas. However, equine-assisted therapy, which uses horses, is the most common in addiction treatment settings.

Candidates for Equine Therapy

Teens with a wide range of addiction and mental health disorders could be good candidates for equine-assisted therapy. The candidates must like animals and have an interest in working with them. However, they can’t have a history of causing animals harm or have an allergy to horses that requires prescription medications.

How It Works for Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

During animal therapy, the participants engage in several activities. These include selecting, grooming, and walking horses. They also participate in mounted work, lunging, and equine-related games. The therapy sessions might also include role-reversal or role-playing activities.

Experts say that working with horses helps teens build skills that they don’t develop in other therapy programs. For instance, it can boost communication and social skills. Many people describe the experience as the main reason why they complete addiction treatment. Others note that it gives them good motivation to plan their future.

A large portion of people with addiction have another mental condition or a history of abuse or trauma. Equine therapy is an ideal treatment for co-occurring disorders and for helping teens in ways that therapists can’t. For example, working with horses can act as trauma treatment and reacquaint sexual assault victims with healthy, nonsexual touch.

In addition, it can reduce anxiety and sadness. Many mood disorders occur alongside drug use. Animal-assisted therapy can improve teens’ moods so that they engage in treatment and focus on recovery.

Equine therapy can help teens recover from addiction and improve symptoms of mental illnesses. However, the overall treatment program needs to include conventional, evidence-based treatment methods as well. Examples include group therapy, family counseling, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Treatment at Destinations for Teens

Does your teen have a drug use or mental health problem? Destinations for Teens can provide the help that he or she needs. We offer both outpatient and residential treatment centers. Our team creates a unique treatment plan for each teen so that we can address his or her specific needs.

At Destinations for Teens, we focus on not only the teens in treatment but also the rest of their families. We believe that family involvement is integral to recovery, so we incorporate family therapy into every treatment plan. In addition to that and equine-assisted therapy, we provide a range of counseling and activities such as:

  • CBT
  • Group therapy
  • Body movement
  • Surf therapy
  • Expressive art
  • Mindfulness

Don’t wait any longer to get help for your teen. Learn more about how equine therapy can enhance his or her recovery. Call Destinations for Teens at 877-466-0620 to begin the healing process.