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Equine Therapy for Addiction and Mental Health Recovery

Equine therapy, also known as equine-assisted psychotherapy, has gained increasing popularity in the field of addiction and mental health treatment.

This therapy offers unique benefits in treatment through the incorporation of horses into the therapeutic process. Participants have a powerful tool for self-discovery, emotional growth, and lasting recovery.

"... Studies reported that partaking in the EAS program empowered participants. Many participants reported increased self-efficacy through their “mastery” of working with the horses... which gave participants a sense of purpose through meaningful engagement with a productive activity."

Equine Therapy at Burning Tree Ranch

Burning Tree Ranch is a specialty program dedicated to the treatment of chronic addiction and mental health. Our program is long-term, progress-based, and highly intensive.

Led by our clinical director, Meghan Bohlman, LPC, LCDC, equine therapy allows our clients to experience themselves through the lens of an unbiased and nonjudgmental animal.

Our clients begin engaging with the horses as part of equine therapy around 60-90 days into their treatment episode. We conduct a 6-person, 6-week equine therapy course. While participants do not physically ride the horses, they engage with, tend to, and interact with these intuitive and perceptive animals.

This experience is designed to help our clients engage in healthy and honest relationship-building at the most basic levels. Horses will not comfort you like dogs or other pets. Instead, these noble creatures function as a mirror for the individual. Over time, the practice assists our clients in developing self-awareness, growing distress tolerance, practicing honesty, and building trust.

Burning Tree Ranch Logo in White

What is Equine Therapy?

Equine therapy is a form of experiential therapy that involves interactions between clients and horses. Originally developed to treat physical disabilities, equine therapy has since been adapted to address a wide range of mental health and addiction-related issues.

The therapy fosters a connection between clients and horses, allowing individuals to explore their emotions, behaviors, and relationships through a unique lens.

Meghan Bohlman, Clinical Director

“The benefits of Equine Therapy are vast. For our clients particularly, it helps assist with symptoms of trauma. Other benefits are improved communication skills, adaptability, and distress tolerance.”

Meghan Bohlman, LPC, LCDC, EMDR-Trained, Clinical Director

Two Horses Side-by-Side at Burning Tree Ranch
Equine therapy is a form of experiential therapy that involves interactions between clients and horses.

The Role of Horses in Equine Therapy

Horses possess several characteristics that make them well-suited for therapeutic work. They are highly sensitive animals, able to pick up on subtle changes in human body language and emotional states.

Horses are also non-judgmental, providing a safe and accepting environment for clients to explore their feelings and experiences. By interacting with horses, clients can develop self-awareness, trust, and communication skills that translate to real-life interpersonal relationships.

Brook McKenzie, COO

“We encourage clients to observe what the horse might be communicating to us as it observes our own behavior. In contrast, what does our behavior communicate to our families, our peers, and ourselves that we might not be conscious of? Equine therapy helps our clients grow in their self-awareness.”

Brook McKenzie, LCDC, COO

Equine Therapy in Treating Addiction & Mental Health Disorders

One of the key benefits of equine therapy for individuals in recovery is the sense of responsibility and purpose that comes with caring for a horse. Horses require regular attention, care, and maintenance, which can help clients develop a strong sense of accountability and structure in their daily lives. As they learn to prioritize the horse’s needs, clients understand the importance of commitment, consistency, and follow-through – all essential skills for maintaining sobriety.

Moreover, working with horses can be a transformative experience for individuals who have struggled with addiction. Horses are highly attuned to human emotions and provide immediate, honest feedback to the people around them. This exercise helps the chronic relapser look more deeply at what they want their human relationships to look like.

Video Cover: Alumni Testimonial for Burning Tree Ranch

Combining Equine Therapy with Other Therapies

We emphasize a comprehensive whole-person approach to addiction treatment, creating a treatment program tailored to the individual. While we recognize tremendous value in participating in equine therapy, it’s also necessary to integrate other therapies to create a powerful synergy that enhances the overall effectiveness of treatment.

Taking the Next Step

Incorporating Equine Therapy in Long-Term Treatment

Burning Tree Ranch, our long-term treatment facility, stands out among addiction treatment centers nationwide by incorporating equine therapy into its comprehensive program for chronic relapsers.

We understand the complex, multi-faceted issues many of our families face when it comes to addiction. The circumstances of long-term residential treatment allow us to create a treatment program unlike anything else in the world.

Our promise to families is to deliver life-changing clinical interventions to those who have been unable to find freedom from the unending cycle of relapse.

Video Cover: Introduction to Burning Tree