Equine therapy for treating PTSD
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a condition that is inherently difficult to treat. Traditional methods of treating PTSD rely mostly on cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which patients work one-on-one with a therapist to assess situations that trigger traumatic re-experiences, and then intervene by retraining the mind to associate these triggers with new ideas, generally ones that are calming and self-empowering.
CBT is very successful for patients that are capable of delving right into their memories of trauma, but for many, talking about traumatic experiences is difficult or impossible, as these memories may be repressed. In these cases, experimental or alternative therapies are wonderful tools.
For most women who suffer from PTSD, trauma centers around some type of violation by another person. For this reason, PTSD can bring with it a profound distrust of other people. Equine therapy, in which patients work with a therapeutically trained horse, engaging in communicative exercises, gets around this by encouraging the patient to relate to a non-human being. The experiences the patient has with the therapeutic animal can be eye-opening, mirroring situations or dynamics that the patient has experienced with humans.
The uninhibited nature of these inter-species interactions allows a freedom seldom experienced by trauma victims, who tend to be constantly vigilant in their dealings with people. Once patients let their guards down, emotions and memories that they have been unconsciously holding back may come forward, allowing for therapeutic progress.