DLC Collaborates with Naples Therapeutic Riding Center to Offer Equine Group Therapy to Adolescents

October 30th, 2018

Naples, Fl – David Lawrence Center (DLC), Collier County’s only comprehensive, not-for-profit mental health and addiction recovery treatment center serving children, adults, and families, is pleased to announce that, through a new collaboration with longtime community partner, Naples Therapeutic Riding Center (NTRC), adolescents enrolled in the new Children’s Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) will now reap the many benefits of equine-facilitated psychotherapy – a holistic, evidence-based form of group mental health treatment using horses for healing.

The adolescent mental health Partial Hospitalization Program is a voluntary day treatment program that provides structured, intensive, and medically supervised treatment for teens ages 13 to 17. The program assists at-risk teens who are exhibiting significant psychiatric symptoms that cause severe distress and impairment in areas such as self-care, school functioning, and family or interpersonal relationships. Children enrolled in PHP commonly struggle with depression, anxiety, oppositional defiance disorder, adjustment disorder, bullying, suicidal ideation and self-harm.

While enrolled in PHP, adolescents participate in daily therapeutic, educational, wellness, and expressive therapeutic groups designed to teach healthy coping skills without the need for a more intensive, 24-hour inpatient or residential level of care.

Equine-facilitated psychotherapy is an experiential form of therapy where participants work with certified equine specialists, clinical therapists and horses to address psychotherapy goals determined by the client, parent and treatment team.

The focus of the new horse therapy service is to create a safe place for the troubled teens and their therapist to process feelings, thoughts and reactions using horse-related exercises. Adolescents enrolled in the PHP spend seven hours a day, five days a week engaged in intensive therapy services for an average of two weeks. This new form of therapy allows them to step outside of the four walls of a group room, travel to NTRC’s beautiful, serene campus and participate in fun exercises with their herd of highly-intuitive “furry” co-therapists – opening them up to new possibilities. On average, each child will attend two equine therapy sessions while enrolled in PHP.

During the sessions, the PHP therapist observes the participant’s motives, reactions, and abilities through the activities. This allows the therapist and client to interact on a deeper level and address issues that might otherwise go unnoticed in traditional psychotherapy. Animal interactions help bring teens out of their immediate anxieties and concerns by focusing their attention on the care of an animal. Through the exercises, the adolescents develop self-awareness, frustration tolerance, an understanding of the importance of respect as well as a sense of unconditional positive regard and acceptance from these large, majestic animals.

Tamara Glynn, LCSW, David Lawrence Center Acute Care Director said, “The horse exercises offer opportunities to enhance self-awareness and re-pattern children’s maladaptive behaviors, feelings and attitudes. They have really enjoyed the stress-relieving activities while addressing boundaries and improving communication and teamwork skills.”

Glynn adds, “The children express that they have fun during the exercises and that it helps build their confidence to lead the horses. The sessions have provided the therapists opportunities to reinforce assertive versus passive or aggressive communication as well as respect – topics previously discussed in group therapy back at David Lawrence Center.”

Horses are helpful and healing to people struggling with mental health issues because they are extremely sensitive to changes in the human being. Due to their sensitivity, horses react and respond to people differently based upon the person’s emotional state. Horses use their vomeronasal organ to smell or sense the person’s physiological changes that are directly affected by their emotional state.

Missy Lamont, NTRC Executive Director, said, “The horse provides the therapist with information regarding the participant’s moods and changes within those moods providing a plethora of information and skill building opportunities. It is fascinating to witness the breakthroughs children with mental health challenges have in the sessions.”

NTRC and DLC partnered more than five years ago to create the first equine-assisted psychotherapy services available in Collier County. DLC first utilized horse-assisted therapy for adults with substance use disorders enrolled in the Crossroads residential treatment program. As a result of NTRC’s grant funding for children’s services, the nonprofit is now able to donate the sessions to DLC making this new collaboration possible.

The addition of equine-facilitated psychotherapy and the Partial Hospitalization Program are some of many new initiatives born out of the Center’s comprehensive children’s services expansion plan. The expansion began several years ago as a result of increased demand for children’s mental health services, in part, due to heightened awareness as a result of headline making school shootings, increased suicide rates among children and the opioid epidemic. Additional new initiatives include the addition of a new Children’s Outpatient Building, doubling the capacity of the Children’s Crisis Unit, as well as new collaborations with the Collier County Public Schools and Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

Southwest Florida nonprofit David Lawrence Center is a national leader in providing world-class mental health and addiction recovery solutions for children, adolescents and adults. The Center’s innovative, integrated treatment includes inpatient, outpatient, residential, and community-based services – a comprehensive system of care funded by community and government support. Each year, David Lawrence Center creates life-changing wellness for more than 9,600 people through over 266,000 treatment sessions. To learn more, please call 239-455-8500.

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