Horse therapy treatments for mental health issues

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FORISTELL, MO (KTVI) - Horses can help those dealing with depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

The mental health issues sometimes require non-traditional methods for patients.

“The horse allows people to open up their emotions,” said Fran Natoli, director of Arise Therapy Foundation.

At Arise Equine Therapy the horses are the psychotherapists.

"The horses are very big and powerful animals but they're very sensitive to stimuli at the same time. So they will give you immediate reaction to how you're feeling," Natoli said.

Their reaction helps a variety of mental health and human developmental needs.

"There's a lot of people dealing with things such as anxiety and PTSD who are dealing with the same issues and they can see that mirrored in the horse and they can learn through the horse how to monitor their own emotions,” she said.

So it's a perfect combination for those looking for something different than the traditional treatment of sitting in an office.

"Having the horse in the session everything is coming through the horse,” Natoli said. “All the questions, all the activity, is focused on the horse. We aren't going to give you a diagnosis that now you think that's who you are cause someone has labeled you with that."

In this type of psychotherapy the patient is in control of the session. This is a less invasive way to approach serious issues.

“We can set up a role play type scenario using different props to symbolize different things in a person's life," she said. "Very often, the clients are very quick to label the horses and or props as people they know, issues they're working with, goals they have, struggles they have.”

It gives the clients a fast track to healing.

"Since it all comes through the horse and the person is using their own introspection to come to their own conclusions the therapy model is a lot shorter than traditional talking therapy with a counselor," Natoli said. "There's a saying that a horse is kind of a mirror into our soul and sometimes you might not like what you see. But having said that, it also gives you the opportunity to evolve it, to change."