HAT for Mental Health Disorders

How does HAT help with Mental Health Disorders such as depression, anxiety, OCD, 

suicidal thoughts, or other mental health issues?


HAT integrates traditional therapeutic models and approaches that would typically be applied in an office setting or a home and instead changes the environment to one that includes a horse and requires movement and shared goals. You are getting an evidence based therapeutic intervention with a mental health professional; the only difference is the environment includes a horse and interactions with said horse. It is well known and research proven that interactions with animals reduce stress, lower heart rates, and have an overall positive effect on mental health and emotional states. When we include a horse in our therapeutic sessions, they become a participating member of the therapy process. The horse is able to “tune in” to emotional states and recognize when the way you feel should be reinforced or reduced and the horse reacts accordingly. This is all done in a very subtle way and many times you are not consciously aware of how the horse is having an impact on your emotions, thoughts, and the way you think. Meanwhile, you and your human therapist are engaged in “typical” standard therapy practices such as talking and sharing of ideas, thoughts, and feelings. When two people are working together towards a common goal, a bond is formed and a more natural sharing of ideas occurs. For example, you and your therapist may be working to groom a horse and during this time discussing a past memory of getting your hair brushed a little too rough by an inattentive mother. This discussion occurs naturally and is connected to the activity you are physically engaged in. While you may find yourself experiencing grief, guilt, shame, or sadness at your memory of your mother not giving you the attention you craved as a child, physically you are engaged in a shared positive experience with your human and horse therapists. The overlay of positive experience with your negative memory begins to make your past a little easier to work through and process. The horse will reinforce your positive emotional state while you and your human therapist verbally process what led to you feeling not taken care of as a child. The eventual goal is a positive change in how you feel about your past at present time. It is not the events we went through in the past that have negative impact on our current self, it is how our current self feels about the events we have experienced in the past. This is just one simple example of how a HAT session may help you process a past trauma. There are many ways this type of therapy intervention can be applied to your specific situation and need.


 How long does the HAT process take?


Every person is different in their needs, experiences, and life challenges. HAT providers take this into consideration when developing the treatment plan for you and assess your progress every 90 days. Some people benefit from weekly sessions while people that have been in the program for several months see continued success through bi-weekly or once a month sessions. Generally, sessions start frequently and are more intense and as your symptoms improve, the intensity and frequency of HAT slows down. We encourage you to take the program one day at a time and before you know it, you will be feeling better than you ever thought possible.


I really want to try Horse Assisted Therapy (HAT), but is it safe?


Paradise Ranch has an extensive training program for HAT providers and horses. Paradise Ranch horses are selected based on their personality, attitude, and desire to work with people. Our horse handlers and providers spend years studying horse behavior and natural training techniques. Our providers understand how to read the horse’s behaviors and know what the horse is saying to the people around the horse. Also, providers take cues from your body language and verbal tones to help you understand what the horse is “hearing” from tone and body position. The horses are trained to never kick, bite, or show any aggression towards humans. This makes our program one of the safest and most effective horse programs.


Does Paradise Ranch take insurance?


Paradise Ranch does currently take fee for service (FFS) Medicaid for medically necessary treatment. This includes psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR) and family therapy. The process for this treatment is a little different from HAT and requires annual assessments and a mental health diagnosis. Talk to your in-take provider if you think this is an option for your family. Additionally, the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) office has intermittent grant opportunities for veterans with various mental health needs. We work closely with the recreation therapy department and have another PTSD program starting with the VA soon. Please call for more details.


How do I start HAT sessions?


Call 702-515-7117 to schedule your evaluation appointment. During this appointment you will fill out all the necessary paperwork and meet your in-take provider. Your provider will give you a full tour of the facility, introduce you to all the horses, and answer any questions you have about the HAT program. Treatment is a team effort, so anyone who is affected by your PTSD journey is welcome at the appointment and is invited to provide feedback during the appointment. This appointment is when we establish general goals and objectives for your treatment. Make sure to wear closed toed shoes and pants. No sandals, flip-flops, crocs, etc. 

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