Treatment can take many forms, and one of the most popular methods among the patients is Equine Therapy. For two hours each week, those in Skywood’s residential program have the opportunity to increase self-awareness and put into practice the techniques and tools they talk about in group and individual sessions by participating in Equine Therapy.
During the treatment process, patients are absorbing a lot of information, learning new skills and healthy ways to deal with life situations. Skywood’s Equine Therapy program gives them a way to go beyond talking and try out new behaviors. By actively using what they’re learning, those techniques are more likely to be replicated.
This type of experiential therapy works by taking something an individual may already know and giving them the chance to put that into action with the horse. But why horses? There is an undeniable authenticity with animals. Unlike humans, they are exactly who they are, and there is no posturing. Many in treatment have trust issues they are working through, so working with animals allows them to let down barriers. As patients are in the pen with a horse, they take control of their environment, which leads them through a process of self-discovery and provides an opportunity to identify avoidance behaviors by allowing them to see their own actions and responses in a new way.
Patients participate as a team, working with horses in an object-directed, goal-directed way. For example, the team may work on problem solving with the horse in the form of an obstacle course. They join together to get the horse to jump or go through different obstacles. The experience creates a sense of teamwork and accomplishment that carries over to other treatment work.
Skywood’s Equine Therapy program takes place at the prestigious Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center in nearby Augusta, Michigan. Opened in 1970, the Cheff Center offers therapy services and therapeutic riding year-round, striving to focus on what individuals can accomplish, not on what they cannot. Not only do they offer Equine Therapy and other programs for specialty populations, they also serve as an international training and education center for therapeutic riding programs.