Equine therapy can be a transformative experience for teens during their drug rehab treatment. Because teens often learn best through experience, using drug rehabilitation horses enables participants to learn about themselves and others through their interactions with a horse partner. During addiction treatment at Memorial Hermann PaRC, teens take a trip to Red Dun Ranch each week for drug rehab equine therapy with Dr. Laurie Baldwin. Dr. Baldwin provides feedback about the teens’ interaction with the horses and helps identify lessons that are directly applicable to their life and relationships.

What to Expect of Drug Rehab Equine Therapy: Learning the Ropes

Horses in PastureDuring equine alcohol and drug rehab counseling teens are encouraged to interact with the horse through petting, grooming and talking—no horseback riding is involved. Teens work with their horse throughout the session and then meet as a group to process feelings, behaviors and patterns experienced while participating in the activities.

While working alongside the horses, teens may feel a connection with the animal that they don’t feel with individuals in their lives. During this “bonding” experience, the horse serves as a facilitator of conversation and provides a safe place for the teen to practice exploring and expressing their feelings.

According to Dr. Baldwin, drug rehab equine therapy helps people gain insights into areas such as how they approach new situations and problems, how they communicate and gain the cooperation of others (or how they don’t as the case may be), how they use their energy and resources, how well they tolerate frustration or not knowing, and how effectively they work together as a group.

Our horses often remind our clients of other important human relationships, and the activities we set up often simulate real life difficulties and demands. As a result, our workshop participants frequently have ‘a-ha’ moments of clarity based on how they approach the task at hand and based on how the horses respond, whether it be cooperatively or not.

Equine Therapy for Self-Development

Using equine therapy during drug treatment provides opportunities to enhance self-awareness, develop feelings of self-love and allow people to grow, process and heal. This unique approach to drug rehab counseling addresses a variety of mental health and human development needs that are sometimes present in those dealing with substance abuse, including behavioral issues, attention deficit disorder, PTSD, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, relationship problems and communication needs. Some teens are intimidated by horses and hesitant to participate in equine therapy. Dr. Baldwin describes this as a natural opportunity to overcome the fear and develop self-confidence. By working through the fear, individuals gain insight and realize they can overcome other fears and challenges in life.

Drug rehabilitation horses also facilitates the development of:

  • Assertive communication
  • Leadership and problem-solving skills
  • Responsibility
  • Self-confidence and self-awareness
  • Work ethic
  • Healthy relationships
  • Awareness of non-verbal communication

Meet Laurie Baldwin, PhD

Dr. Laurie Baldwin works primarily with teens and adults who are having a hard time in some way, either within themselves or within relationships. She uses her talent of connecting with people, her training as a cognitive-behavioral psychologist, her gift of gab, and her willingness to be creative when visualizing how to help her clients get unstuck.

Laurie gives her clients a fresh perspective and provides a nonjudgmental and supportive environment in which to explore and discuss options and to think about different ways of approaching problem areas.

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