Youth at Risk - Troubled Teens & Families

Chapter 4
Horses Don’t Get Divorced . . . Today’s Youth at Risk

Though Kyle Wilson had been emotionally devastated by his parents’ divorce, he’d never talked about it or told anyone how he felt. Human emotions can often be complicated and challenging, and for many people, they can be difficult to identify, name, or even feel. If you don’t know what you’re feeling, what it’s called, or why you’re feeling it, having healthy relationships with others becomes problematic. All emotions have a component of physical energy. There are basically three outlets for this energy. It can be expressed, acted out, or acted in.

Expressing anger in an appropriate or healthy way can be difficult for many people. In Kyle’s case, he may have been unable to say he was angry because he was afraid of his father’s anger, or he may never have learned how to express or talk about his feelings. For these or any other reasons, Kyle’s inability to acknowledge or express his feelings to his parents or a therapist made it impossible for him to begin the process of healing his emotional pain. But the feelings and the negative behavior it was causing were immediately seen in Kyle’s body language and were reacted to when he attempted to interact with a horse.

Today a significant number of therapists and therapeutic communities have discovered equine therapy as a valuable method that can initiate powerful psychological healing for at-risk youths in unusually short periods of time. It is these breakthroughs in self-awareness that enable a teen with unexpressed emotional pain to recognize and finally verbalize his feelings. This is the imperative first step in the emotional recovery process.

Horses don’t care who you are, what you’ve done, or what you believe. They care only about how you behave with them. This enables them to give unconditional acceptance to a troubled teen who is revealing his or her true self. This acceptance creates a feeling of self-worth, which can often be hard to obtain with the typical rehabilitation methods of traditional psychotherapy and/or prescription drugs. For many people, having a positive relationship with a horse can be the first time they have ever experienced a small yet genuine sense of unconditional acceptance or love. It is a brief yet remarkable moment between two species.