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Is Equine Therapy Effective In Teen Treatment?


teenage girl with horse for equine therapy

While adolescents often appear physically mature, the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that is involved with impulse control, organizational planning, and decision making) does not fully develop until age twenty-five; meaning teens instinctively react emotionally to external stimuli, as they must rely on their amygdala (the area of the brain that is involved in processing emotions, memories, and motivation). Adolescence is an incredibly challenging time in a young person’s life, as it is typically filled with immense physiological growth, surging hormones, and a newfound desire for autonomy. Having to rely on outdated coping mechanisms to navigate the trials and tribulations of adolescence can be highly ineffective. Every teenager is unique, and each will require a customized treatment plan to ensure all nuanced needs are met. The different treatment modalities that could be integrated into one’s treatment plan may include a combination of talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), expressive arts therapy, animal-assisted therapy, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and more. Not all psychotherapy methods resonate with every person, which is why there are a variety of therapeutic modalities used in mental health treatments.

What Is Equine Therapy?

Equine assisted therapy (EAP) also referred to as equine therapy, is an alternative form of psychotherapy. The National Army Museum explains that the therapeutic benefits of horses were first recognized in Europe in 1875. Slowly the relationship between horses helping physically disabled individuals became evident in North America. Though EAP was originally used to primarily help individuals recover from traumatic injuries, it is currently recognized as an effective treatment method that is used to treat a wide variety of mental health ailments. Equine therapy has become a worldwide practice. EAP falls under a category known as Animal-Assisted Therapy. Psychology Today explains that animal-assisted therapy “incorporates animals…into the treatment plans [and] is used to enhance and compliment the benefits of traditional therapy.” Equine therapy provides a teenager with the opportunity to work through some of the psychological and emotional issues that he or she may not otherwise be able to tackle in a traditional therapy setting.

How Does It Work?

To achieve optimal results and guaranteed safety it is essential for EAP to be facilitated under the supervision of a trained and licensed equine therapist. Equine therapy works by helping teenagers achieve emotional growth by using horses in an experiential fashion. Horses provide immediate feedback to interactions. Since horses can sense one’s feelings and respond accordingly, they can act as a mirror for a teen during sessions and often illuminate harbored feelings of which he or she may be unaware. The learning opportunities from the relationship with a horse are vast. Based on the horse’s feedback, a teenager can modify his or her interactions to accommodate for healthier communication. Yes, EAP can be affective in teen treatment. Equine therapy has the propensity to vastly help one’s recovery and provides a unique experience during one’s healing process. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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