Blue Star Ranch, a nonprofit located in Saugus, is employing equine assisted psychotherapy to help veterans returning from combat overcome post traumatic stress disorder.
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Through guided interaction, specially trained horses are able to “mirror” the feelings that the veterans are emitting, according to Nancy Pitchford-Zhe, the ranch’s executive director.
Displaced and repressed feelings of post traumatic stress are often brought to the surface during these interactions, where they can be addressed by equine specialists who “help to interpret the horse’s message,” Pitchford-Zhe said.
Emmanuel Perdomo, a combat veteran, is the first to partake in Blue Star Ranch’s veterans services, and told KHTS AM-1220 in a previous interview that the new therapy seems to work.
“I was a little resentful at first, having to talk to a horse. I talked to my dogs. Somehow, it ended feeling kind of good talking to the horse,” Perdomo said. “It’s really hard to explain, but the horse kind of understands you more than a dog does.”
Equine assisted psychotherapy can be used as an alternative to traditional psychotherapy for veterans returning from combat.
“Traditional treatment for PTSD, depression and traumatic brain injuries are usually administered in an office,” said Pitchford-Zhe. “Vets don’t do well in a clinical environment.”
She added that the training veterans receive during boot camp can be exceedingly difficult to undo once they return from combat.
“Vets have a hard time resuming civilian life. Those with PTSD have difficulty in crowded areas. They basically need to case the building they are in and know where their exits are. They react in a military mentality,” Pitchford-Zhe said, adding that helicopters overhead, traffic and even loud noises can be enough to have an adverse effect.
Pitchford-Zhe’s ultimate goal for equine assisted psychotherapy at Blue Star Ranch is to lower the number of divorces, as well as the suicide rate, for veterans with PTSD, which is currently at 22 suicides per day, according to the Department of Defense.
To introduce Blue Star Ranch to the community, ranch officials are planning to hold an invite-only press conference on Feb. 25 in Valencia, which will feature a question and answer session with Perdomo.
“We want to tell people who we are and what we’re doing,” said Pitchford-Zhe.
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