More Than Riding the Range, Children with Mental Illness Find Help in Horses

Spending time riding horses is just about any kid’s dream, but for patients of BayPointe Children’s Hospital residential unit they aren’t just any kids, and it’s about more than riding the range. It’s about helping children living with mental illnesses cope; and the results are already being seen.

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Equine therapy uses the nature and relationship with the horse to bring out a child's natural patterns of relating, handling of new situations, and problem-solving skills.

From that first session the children were engaged, worked on communication skills and read body language.

Mobile, AL (PRWEB) December 06, 2013

Spending time riding horses is just about any kid’s dream, but for patients of AltaPointe Health Systems' BayPointe Children’s Hospital residential unit they aren’t just any kids, and it’s about more than riding the range. It’s about helping children living with mental illnesses cope; and the results are already being seen.

“From that first session the children were engaged, worked on communication skills and read body language,” Carla Ladnier, BayPointe Children’s Hospital assistant director, said. “The goal is for them to learn these skills to be able to relate to their peers and families and be successfully discharged.”

For six weeks the kids leave the hospital unit bound for the countryside for Equine Assisted Counseling. It uses the nature and relationship with the horse to bring out a child’s natural patterns of relating, handling of new situations, and problem solving skills.

Kari Whatley with the Equine Therapy Group http://www.equinetherapygroup.com/ has been using horses in therapy for mental health work for years and knows how beneficial it can be; especially to a young person who has difficulty communicating.

“Especially asking a teenaged boy or girl to talk about their feelings it can be difficult,” Whatley said. “But with equine therapy they don’t necessarily have to talk to get a lot of work done.” Whatley says the horse’s innate nature and heightened awareness of body language provide immediate feedback.

BayPointe Children’s Hospital, a division of AltaPointe Health Systems, is the area’s only psychiatric hospital for children. Thirty four kids, aged 5 to 18, are currently living in the residential unit of the hospital. Some will stay for a year or longer. These are children who have been diagnosed with an array of mental health disorders. Ladnier says they have reached a point in their illnesses where they have been through in-home treatment, outpatient treatment and now require 24-hour care in a locked environment in order to be safe.

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