School including equine therapy to meet emotional needs of students

Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 5:09 PM CDT
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HIGHLAND, Ark. (KAIT) - The Highland School District is making strides to ensure students’ problems don’t go unheard, using a new type of therapy.

Equine therapy can help students express themselves more than traditional therapy.

Good Therapy defines equine therapy as a type of mental health treatment that involves a person in therapy interacting with horses and is for people of all ages. This therapy has been shown to treat a wide range of mental health issues, addressing both physical and psychological concerns

The school said they were working to be proactive to students’ needs instead of reactive.

The new initiative began in the latter part of last year’s school year.

Students can now express issues without having to say a word, said School Mental Health Coordinator Ben Cravens.

“We’ll run into kids who get stuck and are not making progress in traditional talk therapy, so that’s when we started looking into equine therapy and getting our therapists trained in that to help those traumatized kids make a breakthrough in therapy where they can start making progress,” said Cravens.

A session usually entails a student inside the fencing with a therapist.

The student can lead an animal or pet an animal, among other things.

The therapist watches the student and their actions and then discusses some things with them later.

Councilor Suzanne McCrackin explained that students could sometimes find their own solutions to problems with equine therapy.

“We were observing her stepping all over the rope. We didn’t change anything or identify that during her session,” said McCrackin. “During processing afterward, she said, ‘sometimes I get in my own way,’ and it was an aha moment. ‘I can change that”

Social Worker Michelle Tupper told us if a student was feeling an emotion such as anger or anxiety, that is reflected in the animal’s behavior they are interacting with.

“If a child comes out and they’re dealing with anxiety, then you’re going to see that with the horses or the donkeys. They might start chewing on the panels, and you can sense the anxiety in the horse when they sense anxiety in the child,” said Tupper.

If your child attends Highland School District and you believe they could benefit from therapy, you’re encouraged to reach out to your child’s school office.