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Your Healthy Family: Equine Therapy for mental health or substance abuse recovery

Posted at 7:47 AM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 07:47:46-04

NAPLES, Fla. — The David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health helps people dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse. They use several different programs and therapies, including equine therapy, to help people recover.

Every week, the Naples Therapeutic Riding Center brings mini horses to the David Lawrence Centers for people to spend time with.

"When they come in, everybody has a smile on their face," Dinah, who was in a 28-day substance abuse program at the Centers, said. "It's very peaceful for me."

She said it's her favorite part of going through the program.

"It felt very comforting, very calm and peaceful. It almost felt like he could understand what I was going through or saying, and he was listening," she said.

"They get to brush them, spend time with them, braid their manes in their tails, and just kind of to forget about anything else that is going on during the day-to-day therapy program," Rachel Vaa, the Equine Resource Manager for Naples Therapeutic Riding Center, said.

She said the mini horses are intuitive.

"A horse can sense your heartbeat from three feet away. So if you walk up to a horse and you are nervous or you are scared or you are happy, excited, they pick up on that. They kind of match their behavior with yours," Vaa told Fox 4.

She said they also provide a sense of comfort.

People staying at the David Lawrence Centers also get to go to the Naples Therapeutic Riding Center for therapy with the bigger horses.

Nancy Dauphinais is the Chief Operating Officer at the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health, and said besides the emotional benefits, equine therapy also helps people open up.

"Some that are hesitant to be really talkative or they may be more nonverbal, they will connect with a with an animal. And we can actually see it helps them open up," she said.

She said it also helps lower anxiety, calm breathing, and decrease blood pressure.

Vaa said the best part about equine therapy is that horses never judge.

"They don't care about your past. So anytime someone is feeling down or angry, the horses pick up on that and they will do whatever it takes to make sure that you leave with a better day, and a smile on your face," she said.

To learn more about the equine therapy, click here.

To learn more about the Naples Therapeutic Riding Center, click here.