How does Equine Assisted Therapy help people with depression?

It’s a normal part of being human to feel sad and down now and again, life is full of high points and low points, however, depression is a condition characterised by feeling low for an extended period of time, sometimes for no apparent reason. Depression is a condition that can impact your whole life- you may feel like you have no motivation, you can’t seem to get stuff done, you don’t like who you have become, you don’t want to see your friends and family or socialize and the things that used to make you feel happy no longer please you.

You may feel overwhelmed, irritable, angry, indecisive, sad, miserable, tired, wound up and tight with a churning gut.

You may notice that you rely on drugs and alcohol to get through and it might be difficult to concentrate or sleep.

Depression impacts how you feel about yourself- you may feel hopeless, useless and like you are a burden to other people, you might feel like nothing good ever happens to you and that you just can’t get it together. You might even feel like there is no point to anything.

It’s really important to reach out and get help, no one is immune to mental health issues and we all need a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to and a place to feel heard and supported from time to time. Depression can be a very isolating, lonely condition and generally humans need other humans- we are wired for relationship. This is where working with horses is so beneficial- they are also wired for relationship and provide non-judgemental, caring support and honest feedback in a therapy session. Equine therapy generally doesn’t involve a lot of talking- it’s more about remembering how to get in touch with what you are feeling and allowing those feelings to inform your life rather than stuffing them down and staying out of touch with who you are.

So how does equine assisted therapy help?

  1. You get to talk to a mental health professional- someone who is trained to provide support and to listen to your story. It is amazing how helpful it is to have a neutral person that you can talk to and just get it out rather than have it constantly going around in your head! They will also teach you tools that you can implement yourself to help you deal with your depression.
  2. It occurs outside in the fresh air in a paddock or arena with horses- nature heals us- our biorhythms change our breathing slows down and we have space to calm down and re-gain perspective.
  3. Horses are very aware and present and they ask that of anyone around them, so working alongside the horses you are encouraged to be in the here and now- there is no space for all of those thoughts, you have to be present to the horse and to your relationship with the horse.
  4. Horses provide immediate feedback, they respond to our body language and to our feelings or to the suppression of our feelings. Horses encourage us to feel, they feel safe when we are expressing what is really going on for us- I don’t think that you can fake ‘fine’ around a horse. Just being around a horse tends to help us to feel good- the smell, the feeling, their warmth and empathy.

Beyond Blue has some amazing resources and information that might be helpful on their website. https://www.beyondblue.org.au

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