Equine-assisted therapy helps service members

Equine-assisted therapy helps service members

LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - Open Arms Behavioral Health is providing a free service to Veterans and military service members through a grant they recently received. Health professionals use horses to assist in improving mental and emotional health.

Clinical Director, Dr. Ric Jerez, began Equine Assisted Psychotherapy at Freedom Ranch over five years ago.

It is used to improve mental and emotional health of Veterans, active-duty soldiers and their families with the help of horses.

“They get to experience something differently like the horses, the place out here," said Dr. Jerez. "A lot of the veterans say how calming this is out here and nothing is rushed, and so it seems like they do a lot better out here something than they do sitting in an office and talking to me.”

Dr. Jerez said they go into an arena and the clients are asked to use props to represent something they have been struggling with throughout the week, and from there a solution is made.

“We ask the Veterans to talk to us, what’s going on, what did the horse just do, what do you think happened, and so they begin to express themselves as the horses begin to interact with the props and with them,” said Dr. Jerez.

Veteran, Timothy Boyle, has been receiving this counseling since last July. After coming back from Afghanistan, he endured a hard battle with PTSD. He said he has seen a difference in himself.

“I’m not nearly having as many nightmares as what I did," said Boyle. "I’m lucky if I have a nightmare like once or twice a month compared to like every night. Doing the therapy with the horses, it’s amazing how much they calm me down.”

Dr. Jerez said this is an outside the box type of approach that is very needed.

“This is an experiential model, and I think the veterans as far as their feedback to us is that they are getting significant help," said Dr. Jerez.

“I highly suggest them to come to Dr. Jerez," said Boyle. "Doc being a Veteran himself, I mean it’s easier to open up and talk about your things because he understands compared to a counselor who has never been to war.”

To learn more, or to sign up for the eight free sessions, you can call Open Arms Behavioral Health at 580-351-9998.

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