Equine-Assisted Therapy

As we continue to expand our service modalities in order to better serve our clients, Mandala is proud to offer our newly-developed Equine-Assisted Therapy program. Relying on the unique bond between humans and horses, this program enhances our existing foundational treatment approach of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) by providing a dynamic and experiential dimension to the therapeutic process. Highly attuned to non-verbal cues, horses often mirror the emotions and behaviors of those around them. In the context of CBT, this allows individuals a unique and tangible way of gaining insight into their own patterns of thought and behavior. Utilizing horses in this context subsequently enhances the therapeutic environment in a positive way, due to their lack of ego, their inability to lie or judge prematurely, and their ability to pick up on body language as a true indicator of intention.

Equine-Assisted Therapy ServicesJacksonville, FL

Equine-Assisted Therapy allows our clients to experience an element of physical activity and outdoor engagement during their time with us, both of which are foundational pieces to fostering and maintaining robust mental health. Traditional CBT often takes place in an office setting, but the incorporation of horses allows therapy to occur in a natural and open environment. This change in surroundings can contribute to increased relaxation, reduced anxiety, and a sense of connection with nature, which often, in turn, positively impacts the therapeutic process.

Horses, by their nature, are keenly sensitive to their surroundings, and often reflect the emotional states of those interacting with them. This inherent trait allows clients, through their exposure to the therapeutic milieu, to explore and externalize their internal struggles, making it easier for them to address and process difficult emotions. Equine-Assisted Therapy also emphasizes the importance of mindfulness and living in the present moment. Horses, being highly responsive to the energy and presence of those around them, encourage individuals to be fully engaged in the here and now, taking an active and present role in their treatment. This focus on mindfulness aligns with CBT principles, helping clients become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, and providing them with tools to manage and reshape these cognitive patterns.

Our highly-trained Mandala clinicians work with clients and horses on the ground and, when appropriate, in the saddle. To manage feelings of apprehension, uncertainty, or anxiety during the therapeutic process, we provide in-the-moment coaching and feedback, which allows clients to develop essential self-regulation skills in real time. Our clinicians are trained to be vigilant in reading the body language of both horses and clients, and are adept at responding effectively to subtle changes in the horse’s arousal. To mitigate any risks that may arise in working with the animals, our clinicians make split-second adjustments that release the pressure of physical, mental, or emotional discomfort in the horse before any potential situational escalation. Additionally, our clinicians place a premium on maintaining humility in the presence of the therapy horse, with the understanding that the horse is an equal in the healing and treatment process, with his/her own wants, needs, intelligence, capability, and a desire to be comfortable. Mandala Family Wellness is committed to establishing rules and boundaries with clients that are appropriate for the horse’s safety as well as their own. 

Lastly, the relational aspect of equine-assisted therapy often deepens and enriches the therapeutic alliance between client and therapist. Building a connection with a horse serves as a powerful metaphor for developing and maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships. This relational dynamic can be particularly beneficial for individuals working on social skills, communication, and trust issues, areas often addressed in CBT. If you are looking for equine assisted therapy services in the Jacksonville area, contact Mandala today.