In my other article on self-care, I talked about how horse riding has become a way I implement self-care in my own life.
I have had a passion for riding and working with horses for many years. As a counsellor, I also have a passion for working with people. One of my future goals as a counsellor is to mesh my two passions together and learn equine therapy.
What is Equine Therapy?
Equine therapy is a powerful therapeutic approach that allows healing, outside the therapy room.
An equine therapist will facilitate activities between client and horse, such as feeding, grooming, riding and walking, all whilst being supervised.
There are a number of benefits for doing equine therapy. Studies indicate that it is effective in helping children and adolescents whom have experienced anxiety, depression, trauma and more (see references at conclusion of this article).
There are many reasons why equine therapy is considered an effective modality:
Non-threatening Environment: Equine therapy’s non-threatening environment helps clients feel safe and secure. This is the foundation of effective therapy.
Trust: Equine therapy helps clients to work on building trust: trust in their surroundings, themselves and others. Being around horses and riding them allows the individual to put trust in something other than themselves, and feel secure and safe in the process.
Confidence and Self-esteem: Being around horses helps builds confidence, self-esteem and assertiveness. Learning to ride a horse develops confidence, as clients are learning something new – something that is a huge achievement as it is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes while riding, the horse will not do what you would like it to do, which is a great way to help clients work through being assertive without being aggressive.
Horse riding helps clients build self-esteem because they find a sense of self-worth and happiness within themselves, rather than depending on society’s approval and the unattainable expectations of appearance.
Control: Riding is a hard thing to do. It can take a lot of practice, time and patience. It helps with building resilience and perseverance, and clients can feel a true sense of accomplishment when they feel secure and competent in the saddle. This is important as particularly in the case of a child or adolescent, control can sometimes feel unattainable in their lives. Being around horses, clients have the opportunity to have a sense of control of the horse. This is because they are giving the horse directions and aids while riding, and leading the horse in the direction they would like to go in. This helps clients become aware that they have the ability to do something and make a difference.
There are also other times where the client may not feel in control, as animals can be unpredictable. This opens up opportunities to learn how to manage feelings of not being in control, while in a safe and secure environment.
Relationships: Horsemanship encourages relationship work. Horse riding is often described as a partnership between horse and rider. This is because it encompasses important elements of building and maintaining relationships, such as trust, confidence, respect, communication and empathy.
Courage: Unfortunately, the “I can’t do it” saying is one that many children and adolescents have come to believe. Horse riding and horsemanship challenges this. It encourages clients to use courage to do something that they didn’t think they were capable of doing; this in turn starts to challenge their maladaptive beliefs.
At times in my own riding, I have had these thoughts and have had to be courageous to face fears and self-doubt – and to get back on if I’ve fallen off. It has pushed me to have trust in my own abilities, the horse, and in someone else other than myself.
While I may not be in a position to offer equine therapy to my clients just yet, it may help you decide if I am the right counsellor for your child or teen!
Author: Larissa Watter, BA Counselling.
Larissa Watter is a Brisbane counsellor, passionate about working with children. She is currently furthering her studies by undertaking a Certificate in Child Centred Play Therapy.
To make an appointment with Larissa Watter try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129 or Vision Psychology Wishart on (07) 3088 5422.