Joining the military is a selfless act that garners the nation’s respect. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come without disadvantages. Service members experience major stressors, and these often follow them home. Animal-assisted therapy has proven to be an effective treatment approach for former soldiers, but the benefits of equine therapy for veterans are particularly impressive.
While this treatment isn’t meant to replace other therapeutic offerings, its effectiveness as a complementary tool is without question. Understanding the many benefits of this approach will help you recognize why it may be helpful as part of your treatment plan. Once you realize you need help, though, simply reaching out is far more important than choosing a therapy.
Transformations at Mending Fences offers all the benefits of equine therapy for veterans. Contact us today to learn more about this and our other therapeutic offerings.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common result of military service. Unfortunately, the condition is also a major contributor to veteran suicides. This disorder has ruined countless lives, and it’s essential that former service members have access to proven treatments. Fortunately, one of the main benefits of equine therapy is that it targets PTSD symptoms.
Consider the following outcomes seen during equine-assisted therapy (EAT). Each of these outcomes is beneficial for those living with PTSD, and it’s why the approach is often favored over other mental health treatments.
Considering the disproportionate effect PTSD has on former service members, this is easily one of the best benefits of equine therapy for veterans. Since more than half of suicides among individuals with PTSD are a direct result of the disorder, targeting the condition directly is essential. The clinical results of equine therapy can also reduce the risk of related issues such as addiction.
There are many therapeutic approaches for dealing with issues faced by veterans. In most cases, an effective treatment plan will include several of these offerings. That’s because most therapies aren’t “one-stop shops.” For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) only treats two of PTSD’s three symptom clusters. Art therapy only treats one.
One of the primary benefits of equine therapy — and really any therapeutic approach — is that it picks up the slack of other approaches. That’s why we offer an extensive list of mental health therapies at Mending Fences. It allows us to build a treatment plan based on the individual needs of each client. No two people are exactly the same, so their treatment won’t be either.
Many of the primary benefits of equine therapy for vets stem from the bond formed between the veteran and horse. This connection is often even more special than what’s formed between equestrian lovers and their animals. That’s because the veteran and horse are similar in many ways. This leads to a type of unspoken communication between them.
Both tend to remain hypervigilant in every situation. They’re both always on the lookout for danger. They both also necessarily make determinations based on the body language and actions of others. There’s a type of camaraderie formed between soldier and horse, and that relationship allows the latter to sense the needs of the vet.
It’s easy to envision equine therapy as an approach that merely facilitates other treatments. In such a situation, many might assume the benefits of such an offering would be short-lived. Fortunately, this isn’t what the science shows. A recent three-year study found that equine therapy led to long-term benefits in the treatment of PTSD.
Brain imaging scans conducted in the study proved that this was due to brain-based changes. The research showed that equine-assisted treatment doesn’t just alter a person’s way of thinking. It actually changes the wiring in their brains that causes post-traumatic stress symptoms. This means you can expect results that last.
Many of the difficulties faced by former service members come from feelings of no control. They often witness events first-hand where there was nothing they could do to change the outcome. This can make them feel helpless in their own lives. That’s why it’s important that one of the many benefits of equine therapy for vets is regaining a sense of control.
Horses are particularly useful for animal-assisted therapy because they offer immediate feedback. They respond quickly to the rider’s or handler’s instructions. When they can direct such an imposing and massive animal, clients realize they can control their own outcomes. The relationship with a large horse also helps participants reestablish trust in their lives.
If you’ve reached the point where you realize you need help, you’re closer to recovery than most others. It doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or other issues. Regardless of what you’re going through, help is available. All that’s necessary to get on the road to physical and mental wellness is one phone call.
Transformations at Mending Fences provides more than just the benefits of equine therapy for vets. Our array of therapeutic offerings ensures we can build the right treatment plan for each client. This gives us all the essential tools to help our veterans regain control of their lives. Contact us today to learn more about the programs we offer that focus directly on veterans.
Journal of Military and Veterans Health
Journal of Affective Disorders
Human Brain Mapping