Nestled on a quiet farm in Kinderhook, CBS6 News got an inside look at equine assisted therapy. A man named Norman, and a man named Constantine, both said they were participating in the therapy as they work to maintain their recovery from addiction.
"It's (the horse) a lot bigger. So there's little bit of a fear factor. And that's also about recovery, facing fears, facing difficult tasks," said Norman, as he spoke about the therapy. "It gives us the opportunity to deal with those underlying issues so we can recover, go back into society, be happy and healthy."
Denise Case is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist at the Addictions Care Center in Albany. She's also the co-founder of Stable Solutions, equine assisted therapy. Stable Solutions co-founder Keri NearyWood is a social worker and equine specialist. Together, they facilitate equine assisted therapy sessions.
"This is a very different approach, it's experiential," said Case.
"I find working with the horses is like putting on night vision goggles because you can see so much more from the horses responses," said NearyWood.
As NearyWood watches the horses and people work together on a task, she can learn about that person's emotions. Horses read body language, and non-verbal cues well. That can spur conversation. At the same time, Case said that the horse's gentle nature and unconditional acceptance can help someone open up.
"A lot of times we'll, in a session, see a client walk over and be with a horse, and hug it, stand there, talk to it," said Case.
Rachel Lewis is a clinician with Addictions Care Center of Albany, which is using this kind of therapy as a fairly new tool. She told CBS6 News that this can work for people who are having trouble sharing, or have hit a wall. She often notices more confidence, more willingness to talk when they return.
"You have to look at how are you going to get this animal to do what you want it to do without being able to communicate. You have to listen to the animal and work with the animal, similar to the addiction," said Lewis.
"What do you want to do with your life? I want to do something more other than partying and spending money on useless things," said Constantine.
Constantine said that his life is hopeful now, after years of battling alcohol, pills, cocaine and heroin. He said he moved to the US from Ukraine when he was young and went through difficult teen years, as he worked to learn English and fit in.
"All that masking, I wasn't really comfortable with who I was so I used over it to numb all of that," he said.
He said he has now found recovery, only after learning to know and accept himself. The horses remind him that who he is, is more than enough.
"They don't want nothing from you, just your true self," said Constantine.
For information on Stable Solutions: