Healing with Alternative Therapies

By The Fix staff 10/22/18

Equine and art therapies help clients process their pasts.

A horse and a man stand close together.

Anyone who has gone to a therapy session with a new counselor knows that sitting across from a professional to talk about your problems can be awkward. There are huge benefits to talk therapy for healing mental health conditions and overcoming addiction. However, pairing counseling sessions with alternative therapies can also facilitate healing.

That’s why A Better Today Recovery Services, a treatment provider with centers in Arizona and Oregon, offers an array of alternative therapies. These therapeutic activities take people out of the counseling room and into the real world, where they can heal their wounds while participating in activities that they love.

“This makes me use a different part of my mind. It makes me feel like a person again, instead of just someone who is sick,” said one client who took part in alternative therapies.

A Better Today offers alternative therapies including:

Equine Therapy

It’s no secret that animals can help people feel better. Anyone who has cuddled a beloved pet knows that animals have an intuitive feel for when we are down. Helping to care for animals can make people feel needed and empowered.

During equine therapy, clients interact with horses. This doesn’t necessarily mean riding, especially since many people are intimidated by horses. Grooming, patting and interacting with the animals is just as important to healing as riding. Research has shown equine therapy can increase the perception of social support, making clients feel that they can rely on other people for help when needed. Since addiction isolates people, rebuilding the belief in social support is important.

In addition, therapists at A Better Today report that clients who do equine therapy show improvements in their self-esteem, communication skills and trust. Working with horses is also a great way to understand boundaries. Interacting with the horses, learning to read their body language and caring for their needs can help facilitate emotional healing and personal growth.

Expressive Therapy

While equine therapy promotes healing by encouraging clients to connect with something outside themselves, expressive therapy encourages clients to connect with their inner feelings. During expressive therapies clients use art, writing and music to connect with their feelings around addiction and trauma. Addiction and trauma often leave people feeling out of control. Expressing those feelings through art can help clients regain agency over those experiences, which helps in healing.

At A Better Today, a variety of expressive therapies are available. Therapeutic poetry sessions allow people to use both sides of their brain — the left and the right — to connect with their experiences with substance abuse. Writing poetry can help people organize their thoughts about their past, which in turn can make those thoughts easier to process. This is the most widely-used form of expressive therapy at A Better Today, and one that many clients enjoy.

“This session is the only thing I look forward to every week,” one client said. “Writing has helped me through a lot of darkness and sometimes it is the only thing that has kept me alive.”

Music therapy is used as a reward for clients who are showing progress in their treatment. Listening to music releases the same feel-good brain chemicals that using does. Using music, therapists can help facilitate mental and emotional healing. During these sessions, clients are encouraged to listen to music, improvise music in the moment, recreate existing songs and ultimately compose their own music. Clients are encouraged to think about how the music makes them feel and use music to express their emotions.

Art therapy is used on occasion at A Better Today. Therapists use both direct and indirect art approaches to help their clients. Indirect approaches are open ended — clients are provided with materials and left to create pieces. When they are complete, clients and therapists can explore the meaning behind them. With a direct approach, clients are asked to complete a piece that has a specific meaning — for example, making a mask that represents how they felt oppressed by their addiction. 

Overall, expressive therapies can help clients connect with a side of themselves that has been neglected during their addiction.

“You really helped me spark creativity in my brain once again, and I can never repay you for that,” one client said.

A Better Today Recovery Services provides treatment in Arizona and Oregon. Learn more on Facebook and Twitter.

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