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Learning About Life from a Horse

Residents at Pasadena Villa’s Smoky Mountain Lodge have the opportunity each week to participate in animal assisted therapy. By interacting with and caring for horses, residents experience increased self-esteem and a sense of purpose and of being needed.

In a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Jennifer P. Wisdom, Ph.D.*, and her colleagues determined that interaction with animals helps those with serious mental illness by boosting self-esteem, providing empathy, initiating social encounters, and serving as a substitute or additional family member.

Leslie Irvine, Ph.D.**, author of If You Tame Me: Understanding Our Connection With Animals, said in a 2010 Esperanza interview, “They (animals) stretch our emotional capacities. We can’t tell animals we love them, so we have to communicate through touch, eye contact, and other nonverbal [means].”

Horses are well suited for therapy because they are able to sense and respond to even the slightest signal and emotion from humans. They also are very social and have a lot to teach patients about nonverbal communication and social interaction, lessons which can then be translated to real life experiences.

The Villa Orlando and Pasadena Villa’s Smoky Mountain Lodge are adult intensive psychiatric residential treatment centers for clients with serious mental illnesses. We also provide other individualized therapy programs, step-down residential programs, and less intensive mental health services, such as Community Residential Homes, Supportive Housing, Day Treatment Programs and Life Skills training. Pasadena Villa’s Outpatient Center in Raleigh, North Carolina offers partial hospitalization (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (PHP). If you or someone you know may need mental health services, please complete our contact form or call us at 877-845-5235 for more information.

*research scientist, New York Psychiatric Institute.

**Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Colorado at Boulder.


If you think that you or a loved one may be struggling with a mental health disorder, Pasadena Villa can help. We are here to answer questions and connect to care. Pasadena Villa currently offers treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee, and outpatient services in Cary, North Carolina. To learn more about our program, call us at
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