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Outdoor and Equine Therapy

Outdoor or wilderness therapy is being utilized since early 1960s for addiction treatment among various age groups. This technique uses activities to engage in outdoors or wilderness to achieve self discovery and cope negativity in life. This therapeutic model is known to relate with the real life challenges and pressure of social and family life, but this treatment is carried out in an outdoor atmosphere with no negative agents that usually interfere with the recovery process.

This wilderness or outdoor therapy brings out the best abilities of the people including their team work and toughness. With natural atmosphere serving as a key to guide the best abilities to work out, this therapy truly helps a person to be flexible and insightful. Facing challenging situations, connecting with the peers and an active participation in the therapy process, the participants not only are able to cope with the addiction but also learn new skills, start taking responsibility and build their self esteem.


Outdoor Therapy

Outdoor, wilderness or adventure therapy is an approach to expose the people to natural interventions and therapeutic activities. The method originally designed for patients with special problematic behaviors and offered them residential or inpatient programs for various issues, this program was later expanded to families and adults also, as teens and adolescent patients needed a support from their families too as part of the recovery therapy.


What an outdoor therapy plan usually offers

An outdoor therapy plan may include following steps as part of the therapy sessions.

  • Patients are encouraged to deeply get involved in the nature and wilderness through various activities and interest based tasks for a specified time period, they may have company of their fellows and/or family members along with a professional such as a therapist or counselor.
  • Addressing patients problem causing attitude through counseling and therapeutic interventions.
  • Educating the participant in developing important skills such as the basic life skills and providing them opportunities to practice them.
  • Getting the participants through intensive therapy sessions individually, in groups or family.
  • Developing a comprehensive post-therapy plan for the patients to get them reap the therapy benefits even after the completion of the outdoor session.
  • Using Equine therapy as part of the outdoor therapy plan to enhance its effectiveness.

Therapy Techniques Utilized

Outdoor therapy is usually combined with other effective therapy methods to maximize the impact. Outdoor therapy may adopt additional activities and/or proven methods to help recover the participant in a natural environment along with a professional therapist/counselor and other peers.


1. Equine therapy

This therapy usually uses horses to help the patients aware of their hidden emotions and channelize them with self expression. Attachment with horses or other animals may help the patients in emotional involvement which may speed up their recovery process.


2. Motivational Interviewing (MI)

This method uses non-provoking techniques and is especially useful in treating addiction, particularly the type of people who don’t easily get ready to give up harmful practices. It targets the personal motivation for a better change and is quite effective approach for addictions.


3. Family therapy

Family therapy may be used as a compulsory or optional part of the outdoor therapy depending upon the patient condition on case to case basis. The therapy actually looks for the problematic and damaging patterns and dynamics in an overall family behavior which may impact a patient recovery and post recovery phase. It helps the family members improve mutual communication and maintain a better and healthier home environment.


4. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

This therapy helps the patients to effectively manage the negativity and use their skills to become well aware of their effective relationships with others. It helps them to face complicated and hurting situations and use their skills to nicely manage their stress and anxiety.


5. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This therapy tends to alter a person’s way of thinking and analyzing things. It focuses on letting the patients realize their negative thoughts and swap them with some positive alternatives, this way a person gradually moves on to see things in a positive sense and come out of the negative thinking shell. This therapy is very effective for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) patients.


6. Faith-Based Therapy

This therapy offers the like minded people who believe in religion, to come together and think out new ways of spiritual healing and well being.


7. The Twelve-Step Program

This program is based on following a stepwise procedure of 12 effective ways to get rid of dependence on a drug or any other addictive substance. The patient is provided with a list of steps and he with the help of his counselor works on them to effectively get rid of the addiction. Persons suffering with alcohol, cocaine or narcotics addiction are likely to benefit with this program.


8. Holistic Therapy

This method emphasizes on the general fitness and health of a person undergoing an outdoor therapy. It may include meditation, yoga and art therapy as extended activities of the program depending upon the interest shown by the client.


9. Biofeedback

This technique of therapy deploys electronic sensors over the skin of patient under treatment. It relaxes the tensed focal areas of the patient and usually takes from 30 minutes to an hour to complete. Best method of treating the patients of chronic anxiety and depression.


10. Experiential Therapy

This therapy uses nontraditional ways of treating suppressed feelings and hidden emotions that are aiding the addiction of an individual. Patients are exposed to activities which take out their anger or any negative emotion or calm it down such as mountain climbing, riding, jumping or meditation.


Combining Outdoor and Equine Therapy

Combining outdoor therapy with proven practices like equine therapy the patient under treatment can be made to recover with more interaction and active participation. Equine therapy has the tendency of addressing the effects and symptoms of addiction, benefiting the emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual wellbeing of the patient under treatment.

Equine Therapy or Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) uses activities involving or around horses as per the comfort level of the patient and as suggested by the counselor. It can be used as part of any other therapy methods such as CBT, family therapy or motivational interviewing or any other as far as it can be made to make a positive impact on the mental and physical health of the patient.


Who can get benefit from Equine Therapy

Equine therapy can be flexibly used for the treatment of the following symptoms.

  • Behavior problems
  • Substance misuse
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Addiction
  • Stress disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Relationship issues

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