Archive for May 2017

Animal-Assisted Therapy for Depression

Animal-assisted therapy involves interacting with animals to help treat health issues, including depression. The idea of using animals in a therapeutic way goes back centuries. Historical accounts include using animals to improve morale, engage the attention of the elderly, and help people with disabilities improve their skills.

Playing, caring for, or simply petting an animal is believed to have several positive effects on a person. It creates a sense of calm and a sense of purpose. Although any animal can provide this, animals commonly used for therapy include: cats, dogs, horses, birds, and rabbits.

Petting an animal can cause your brain to release chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals counteract your body’s reaction to pain by causing a sense of pleasure or well-being. This can help ease depression.

Pet Partners is an organization that supports the use of therapy animals. They describe two kinds of therapeutic interactions with animals: animal-assisted activities and animal-assisted therapies. The difference is in the structure of the interaction.

Activity sessions usually involve meet-and-greets with a number of people and animals. The meetings are unstructured and free from detailed goals. Therapy sessions are more formal and usually include set goals.

Animal-assisted therapy doesn’t yet have much clinical evidence to back its usefulness. However, a large body of anecdotal evidence supports it.

Benefits of animal-assisted therapy include: drawing your attention to the animal and away from your problems, encouraging empathy and nurturing skills, instilling a feeling of acceptance or fulfillment, and causing a calming effect.

Risks of animal-assisted therapy are the same as those of handling or being around animals. These include the potential for an allergic reaction or attack. Both animals and their handlers must be trained for activity and therapy scenarios.

Animal-assisted therapy can give a person a feeling of companionship and acceptance, combating feelings of depression and isolation. Giving someone something to care for gives them a purpose in life and is rewarding and fulfilling.

How horses can help with poor mental health

Hundreds of people, adults and children alike find horses become their counselors and teachers.  If you allow them to, they can give you hope too.

Watching a group of horses grazing quietly in a field represents all we long for: beauty, freedom, peace, a quiet mind and permission to enjoy being alive. Spending a few moments in their company can bring out our worst fears or feelings of intense joy and love. With understanding and guidance horses teach us to acknowledge and deal with our thoughts and responses and turn them into something both positive and beneficial.

Whether we are battling with an eating disorder, panic attacks or depression, fear is our greatest enemy; fear is the cause and the effect.

All emotions originate in thought and our thoughts come from our interpretation of our life long experiences. We relive them each time we encounter a similar situation; if it’s a fearful one, we relive the fear. We fan the fire allowing it to spread and grow; our panic attacks get worse, we become thinner or fatter or we plunge deeper into depression.

Horses have a deep understanding of fear and how to manage it; with their help we can stem the flow or decrease the ever increasing circles of thought by quietening our minds and re-learning how to think effectively and positively.

Horses are prey animals, sensitive, intuitive and intelligent. Humans are their natural predators and yet these beautiful creatures have chosen to work with us. They will give magnanimously and unconditionally if in return we make the effort to understand them and provide them with what they need most; freedom, companionship, natural nourishment and love.

A stressed or frightened horse responds to fear by fleeing – they run from perceived danger until they feel safe and then stop.  Having reached a safe distance their stress response dissipates and they relax. They are constantly aware of danger, but in the absence of an immediate threat they choose to remain peaceful, conserve energy and enjoy what they are experiencing.

Horses, given the freedom to do so, live quietly – they remain attentive and open minded. Life to them is a sensory experience, they use simple thought processes to find ways to expand that experience and only in a beneficial way.

Our fear is intangible and often unrecognizable as fear. We feel sure our eating disorder is all about needing to be thin or our depression or panic attacks could be helped if only the people around us would change and behave differently.  We tend to choose to live with its effects, hide, run away but never stop running or blame the world around us.  We can, like the horse choose to take responsibility and find a way to deal with it.

In a stunning rural setting, natural to both horse and human, endless emotionally troubled adults and children find they can connect to the soul of the horse. Through the horses’ responses, they see themselves clearly for the first time. This kind, accepting and non-judgmental approach to healing, has changed their minds, helping them see their lives from a very different and positive perspective.



Looking for Volunteers for June 23rd from 9:30am to 12:00pm to help Snyder Village please contact Julie at 309-231-8705

Summer Volunteers

Seeking Summer Volunteers please contact Julie at 309-231-8705