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Riding Lessons: Oxford Treatment Center Expands Equine Therapy Program

Oxford Treatment Center horses
Oxford Treatment Center’s equine therapy program uses horses to swiftly break down barriers in addiction treatment.

Recovering addicts have more treatment options as Oxford Treatment Center expands its services, with the addition of new staff, new facilities and an expanded schedule for equine therapy.
The center recently added two equine therapists, a weekend experiential therapist and a full-time art therapist. Land has also been cleared for a 120-foot-wide indoor riding arena at the residential campus at Etta, with construction slated for 2018. The new facility will include an indoor climbing wall.
Oxford Treatment Center is a research-based, comprehensive addiction treatment provider based on a 110-acre campus between Oxford and New Albany. The center uses experiential therapies like equine, wilderness, mindfulness and ropes course therapies in addition to traditional “talk therapy” for groups and individuals.
CEO Billy Young said the expansions in experiential therapy are designed to give clients more access to them, because of their effectiveness in treatment.
“Each day our clients spend with us is designed around their clinical needs, to help them overcome denial and embrace a path of recovery,” he said. “Particularly for our young adult clients, grasping those concepts happens far more quickly when our therapists engage them in physical activities and hands-on demonstrations.”
Oxford Treatment Center’s signature equine therapy program uses horses to swiftly break down barriers in treatment. In addition to the therapeutic benefits of riding—from confidence-building to mindfulness—the horses are used in a range of demonstrations.
Herd dynamics offer a powerful visualization of family dynamics, while horses’ singular focus on sweet feed reflects the way addiction can overtake basic needs and upend relationships. Therapists rotate the work among 21 horses, up from 14 a year ago.
This fall, Oxford Treatment Center’s experiential therapy programs expanded into the evenings and weekends. Equine therapists took advantage of mild temperatures by introducing evening trail rides as the leaves began to turn.
In 2018, with the addition of the new indoor arena, equine therapy sessions will continue even when the weather is too cold, hot or wet outside. That equates to about a 20 percent increase in equine therapy opportunities for clients.
Likewise, the wilderness therapy program for young adults will be able to use the new facility’s indoor climbing wall. Bad weather sometimes delays trips to Tishomingo State Park in the Appalachian foothills, where wilderness therapists lead rock-climbing, rappelling and camping trips.
“Having indoor options will give our therapists the opportunity for better planning with no interruption in treatment,” said Tori Ossenheimer, CTRS, director of experiential services.
“Our therapists already take full advantage of our natural setting in engaging clients. The indoor arena is a welcoming complement to our on-campus amenities and to the beautiful national forest lands that surround us.”
Expansions in experiential therapy programs are also benefitting clients who have transitioned from the Etta campus into Oxford Treatment Center’s Resolutions Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) in Oxford.
Those clients reside in supportive living homes adjacent to the new Oxford Outpatient Center, 25 miles from the main campus. Their treatment schedule has been enriched to provide experiential therapy five days a week, both through transportation to the Etta campus and through sessions of yoga, art therapy and mindfulness at the outpatient office.
“Our Resolutions clients are in an important transition phase between residential treatment and their return to the ‘real world,’” Ossenheimer said. “During this phase, they are mapping out their next steps in life and building the skills they’ll need to cope in the future without relying on drugs or alcohol.
“When these clients stay within our continuum of care after residential treatment, they continue seeing our medical providers and have access to the resources on our main campus. Keeping them engaged in experiential therapies is one more way we can effectively support them on this journey.”
Oxford Treatment Center’s continuum of care for drug and alcohol addiction begins with medical detox at the Etta campus. Outpatient services are also provided in Tupelo and Olive Branch. For admission information, call 662-281-9992 or visit oxfordtreatment.com.

By Lucy Shultze, Special to HottyToddy.com

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