How Equine Therapy Can Help with Anger
It’s no secret that many children and adolescents struggle with anger. While everyone experiences occasional mood swings, chronic and persistent anger can perpetuate many physical and emotional health problems.
Equine therapy can help people learn how to regulate and cope with their anger. It can be a powerful tool in teaching clients how to improve their emotional responses. Let’s get to it.
The Cost of Unresolved Anger
When someone doesn’t know how to deal with their anger, they may react in a variety of destructive ways. They might become violent toward themselves or others, or they might turn to numbing effects via self-harm, substance use, or disordered eating. They may internalize their anger and become extremely depressed or anxious. In some cases, pent-up anger can even lead to health complications like high blood pressure, skin issues, sleep problems, and body aches.
It’s essential to recognize that anger often stems from feelings of fear and powerlessness. Furthermore, it usually results from feelings of guilt and shame.
When we feel angry, we usually feel like we lack control over a particular situation. We don’t know how to deal with that out-of-control feeling, and the anger response becomes the discharged reaction. Unfortunately, this pattern tends to create a self-defeating cycle.
It’s also important to remember that anger itself isn’t bad. It’s a neutral emotion, and it’s a natural reaction that everyone experiences. That said, people must learn healthy ways to cope with their anger.
The Role of Equine Therapy in Treating Anger
Horses mirror and interpret human behavior. They react to our internal states, and they pick up on our emotions. This is part of their survival instinct; it’s what keeps them sharp and alert in times of danger. It’s also what keeps them connected to other horses.
Therefore, if a client presents as angry in the equine session, the horse tends to respond to that anger. They might cower away and hide in their stall, or they may seemingly present as stubborn by bucking around.
This response tends to generate a natural reaction from the client. First, the client may soften their approach because they want to build a connection with the horse. They might try to be more patient or calm in the horse’s presence.
Other times, the client may get upset and become even angrier. This may seem like a counterintuitive reaction, but it can help the client recognize how their emotional state can affect the people around them. It can also help clients realize that angry responses don’t necessarily solve problems; rather, they just tend to create more messes.
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Equine Therapy and Other Treatment Approaches
Ultimately, equine therapy can work well in conjunction with other anger management methods. The more someone recognizes how anger impacts them (and other people), the more they might change their ways.
For this reason, many clients benefit from a multidisciplinary approach to working on this issue. Both experiential and traditional therapy methods can help.