Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Addiction

EUGENE, OR – The hit TV show “Breaking Bad” is about something all Americans can relate to – daily drug and alcohol abuse – with the government reporting in October that 23.1 million people in the U.S. needing “addiction” treatment and only 2.6 million getting it. Maybe this being a result of addicts not realizing they have an illness that needs treatment. Addiction can rear it’s ugly head in lots of ways wearing different hats. There are addictions to everything from shopping, food, gambling, hoarding, exercise, tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs, herion, marijuana, television, pornography, working, computers, etc…I’m sure I’ve left something out. The common definition for “addiction” according to Websters is the compulsive use of habit forming drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that Drug “addiction” is a brain disease. Although initial drug use might be voluntary, drugs of abuse have been shown to alter gene expression and brain circuitry, which in turn affect human behavior. Once “addiction” develops, these brain changes interfere with an individual’s ability to make voluntary decisions, leading to compulsive drug craving, seeking and use. If we ask NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) they state that yes, “addiction” changes the brain in fundamental ways, disturbing a person’s normal hierarchy of needs and desires and substituting new priorities connected with procuring and using the drug. The resulting compulsive behaviors that weaken the ability to control impulses, despite the negative consequences, are similar to hallmarks of other mental illnesses. Addiction shows no partiality…it has no favorites except for the continued user. Someone once wrote that, ”Walking around drunk is like walking around with your fly open. Everyone sees it except you. “ This is the case with “addiction” in general, usually the addict is blind to the fact or just in denial all together.

There are many different treatment programs and facilities that help in the recovery process. In this article we will explore what the professional staff at Touchstone Ranch Recovery Center specialize in which is the “Equine Therapy Approach.” In being part of a working ranch, the residents will learn through interaction with the horses and other livestock about TRUST, BOUNDARIES, COMMUNICATION and RESPONSIBILITIES. The skills taught will be followed up by residents identifying what they learn from the animals and how to apply these new found skills in their daily lives. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is experiential in nature. This means that participants learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing (or discussing) feelings, behaviors, and patterns. This approach has been compared to the ropes courses used by therapists, treatment facilities, and human development courses around the world. But ”Equine Assisted Psychotherapy” has the added advantage of utilizing horses, dynamic and powerful living beings. Not all programs or individuals who use horses practice “Equine Assisted Psychotherapy”. For one, licensed (in the U.S.) and properly qualified (outside the U.S.) mental health professionals need to be involved. The focus of ”Equine Assisted Psychotherapy” is not riding or horsemanship. The focus of ”Equine Assisted Psychotherapy” involves setting up ground activities involving the horses which will require the client or group to apply certain skills. Non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking and problem-solving, leadership, work, taking responsibility, teamwork and relationships, confidence, and attitude are several examples of the tools utilized and developed by “Equine Assisted Psychotherapy.” Upon completion of this program, residents will have gained a knowledge of who they are and how to live in a world without using alcohol and drugs; that they are responsible for their own thinking, feeling and behavior; and will have gained the skills necessary to prevent relapse by following a concrete relapse prevention plan which the resident will have in place prior to discharge.

EAP is a powerful and effective therapeutic approach that has an incredible impact on individuals, youth, families, and groups. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy addresses a variety of mental health and human development needs including behavioral issues, attention deficit disorder, PTSD, substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, relationship problems and communication needs.

The resident’s emotional health will be addressed through an individualized plan of care. This would be developed by the resident and counselor. Many, if not all people, who enter into a program of recovery are spiritually bankrupt. This needs to be addressed by focusing on the spiritual interpretation of Steps 1-3 of the 12 Steps of AA in order for the resident to have in place a spiritual foundation that will enable the resident to continue to work the steps with a sponsor following their completion of our recovery program. The resident will be strongly encouraged to attend daily AA/NA meetings, obtain a sponsor, attend aftercare and continue to work the 12 steps in order to maintain sobriety.

Each person has to decide what treatment program is appropriate for them based upon their needs and where they would feel most comfortable. Being in the setting of a ranch verses a hospital like environment encourages clients to re-connect with their Source by reaching out and embracing the nature and life surrounding them.

Call us at 888-988-5128 for more information on addiction and recovery and how we operate at Touchstone Ranch. We’re available 24 hours a day.

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