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Tucson treatment facility uses horses to treat PTSD

Equine therapy.jpg
Posted at 7:22 PM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 23:41:20-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — It’s post-traumatic stress disorder awareness month.

About 7-8% of people are impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Local treatment center, Sierra Tucson, sees a majority of its patients coming in with some form of trauma, according to its associate clinical director.

One PTSD treatment method the center uses involves horses. It’s better known as equine therapy.

Jennifer England is an equine therapist at the treatment center and she says it’s about connection and getting out of one’s comfort zone.

“The goal I think for our residents here at Sierra Tucson and equine therapy is, we want them to not only survive trauma, but we want them to live, right, live their best life,” said England.

England said horses keep the patient in the now because they are always in the present.

“They help residents to see how to become if something is a danger in the environment [and] how to assess it and come back to a state of calm,” she said.

VA data shows there are currently about eight million people in the U.S. with PTSD.

Sierra Tucson's Associate Clinical Director, Elaine Hixson-Weiss, said trauma looks different on everyone.

“Sometimes people think of those who've been in combat as the only folks who struggle with trauma. Other people living their daily lives may struggle with issues that some people can manage a little easier than others,” said Hixson-Weiss.

As for the success rate of equine therapy, the experts at Sierra Tucson say they measure it on a case-by-case basis.

"Again, having that experiential component, I think we can see that residents, maybe can move a little more quickly on certain issues, versus another more traditional therapy," said England.

For those nervous about starting treatment, Sierra Tucson says you are not alone.

"If your goal is not just to survive, but to live and thrive think about coming to somewhere like Sierra Tucson. Think about an equine partner as your therapy partner because they'll share that journey with you,” said England.

Equine therapy is also used to help those recovering from sexual abuse, anxiety, and depression.