Using Equine Assisted Therapy to Assist With Eating Disorder Recovery

Even though eating disorders occur in both men and women of all ages, they are most common amongst women and female adolescents. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), only 5 to 15 percent of all people with eating disorders are male. With this primarily being a woman’s issue, it is important to address gender-specific needs throughout therapy. Women in eating disorder treatment often focus on developing a number of skills, including listening to their body and emotions, learning the value of acceptance and loving themselves, and coming to a point in their lives where they can enjoy themselves without obsessively worrying about their body image. While these skills can be taught through different kinds of therapeutic resources, equine therapy is one of the most up-and-coming forms of therapy that is providing major success for women looking to recover from eating disorders.

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How Can Equine Assisted Therapy Address Issues with Eating Disorders?

Many women and adolescents who are experiencing an eating disorder require a great deal of emotional healing for the underlying issues that have led to the development of their disorder. As a result, they require a more hands-on and meaningful therapeutic approach to help bring about positive change. With Herd By A Horse the combination of an equine assisted therapist and a four-legged friend can do just that, and in the following ways:

 

  • Building self-confidence – Most women who are struggling with an eating disorder often has little to no self-confidence in themselves. Equine therapy can promote the building of self-confidence through the many ground exercises that a woman and her horse will engage in. The results of this type of equine assisted therapy will quickly yield positive results.
  • Encouraging conversation –When working in the presence of a horse, women will be accompanied by an equine assisted therapist who can help them begin to talk through these issues through the use of equine psychotherapy, all while staying actively engaged in a positive exercise. Since equine assisted therapy is often non confrontational, it will allow for these issues to come to the surface and be worked through in a manner easier to experience for some.
  • Changing behaviors through mirroring – Horses are extremely in-tune with their human counterparts, making it easy for them to begin mirroring their behaviors. Therefore, if a woman is overly uptight, stressed or not present during her session, her horse will know and show her that he knows by remaining inattentive as well as skittish in response to the energy she is omitting. Therefore, a woman will be forced to change her behaviors to encourage success during her sessions, which will help her learn that through positive behavior change, that she can yield great success that will keep her from harming herself through participation in an eating disorder.

 

By engaging in equine therapy at Herd By A Horse, women and adolescents who have eating disorders can build their self-confidence, talk about the underlying causes of their disorder and begin learning the power of changing behaviors. As horses connect emotionally, equine assisted therapy is an excellent resource for women looking to address the emotional issues that would otherwise lead to their continuation of their eating disorders.

In addition, most equine assisted therapy is most appropriate for women, men and adolescents during a beginning stage of an eating disorder or for support during the aftercare process. Equine assisted therapy would not be appropriate for “treatment” of  the eating disorder.

If you or your loved one is struggling with an emerging eating disorder, contact Herd By A Horse at (610) 914-6106,  to schedule your session.

 

 Written by: Michelle Bazinet, contributing writer to Herd By A Horse

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