Teens in Treatment Find Focus through Equestrian Therapy

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
Phoenix House student pets horse

Phoenix House Academy of San Diego students develop trust and learn new responsibility through equine therapy

The six-week equestrian program offered to teens in drug and substance abuse treatment at Phoenix House Academy of San Diego is once again proving to be a hit with both teens and horses.  Horses Heal Hearts – an equine therapy program created by Stephanie Parisi, an educator who works at the Horse of the Sun equestrian facility in Pine Valley – is offered to San Diego adolescents in treatment for substance abuse and behavioral health issues at Phoenix House Academy of San Diego.  The popular program teaches the students how to care for the animals, as well as how to trust themselves and their horse during their riding lessons.

The prospect of mounting a 1,500 pound animal definitely scared a few of the students at first, but the bonding and careful training that the program delivers quickly alleviated their fear and replaced it with a genuine sense of enjoyment and connection.  “I loved how connected I got with my horse and how easy it was to learn to ride,” said one student.  “Horseback riding is awesome!” another student exclaimed.  “My experience isn’t what I expected.  I’m learning that I can be trusted and can overcome my fears.”

Phoenix House San Diego trees and shadows

Horseback riding paths weave through the idyllic grounds of Phoenix House Academy of San Diego

The riding trails weave throughout the idyllic Descanso grounds, offering a serene and peaceful atmosphere that proves beneficial to the students.  They aren’t the only ones who benefit from the experience, however; horses also benefit from the program.  Horses Heal Hearts features many rescued horses that have been saved from neglectful or abusive homes. The fact that the students know they are also making their horses’ lives better might be one of the most rewarding lessons the program has to offer.

“I enjoy horseback riding because it gives me … well, makes me put aside all stress and worries. I focus on the horse.”

Established in 1987, Phoenix House Academy of San Diego provides residential treatment along with academic tutoring for adolescents (12-17 years of age) who struggle with substance abuse and/or co-occurring mental health disorders. Treatment services include assessment and case management; individual, group, and family counseling delivered by experienced mental health and substance abuse professionals; education, recreation, and intensive family services. The Academy integrates residential treatment with a fully accredited on-site public school (grades 8-12) managed by the San Diego County Department of Education

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, or to find out more about programs and services at Phoenix House Academy of San Diego, call us today at: 1 888 671 9392.

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