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We have changed our name! Kids on the Spectrum is now called Living on the Spectrum

Alternative Therapies Guide – Everything from music therapy to equine therapy

Traditional therapies have their place when your child has been diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, anxiety etc,. However, alternative therapies are excellent for complementary support. There are a variety to choose from, which may make it difficult to decide which ones may suit. We are investigating four of the most common alternative therapies to give you a better idea of what to expect.

Child wearing a blue and red check shirt with long blonde wavy hair. She is patting a white pony in the face. Alternative therapies have great benefits

Equine Therapy

Animals have stress-reducing effects on people. Because of this, horses are no exception, providing a sense of calm as well as mirroring people’s emotions. For this reason, Equine therapy can be a valuable resources through which therapists can observe an individuals behaviour and assist them in achieving particular goals.

Who is it suitable for?

This approach to psychology is suitable for children of all ages along with adults. It doesn’t require them to have previous experiences with horses.

What does it involve?

Whilst the initial meeting involves paperwork and outlining safety measures, sessions usually involve all the senses. Such as, observing and meeting the horse, patting, grooming, and learning how to care for it. The lessons are conducted outdoors in a paddock, yard, or stable. This can be less threatening than therapy in an office setting. Because of this the participant may feel far more comfortable in opening up and expressing themselves.

What are the benefits?

Through caring for the horse, which requires concentration, selflessness and teamwork, there are opportunities to improve self-esteem, self-awareness, confidence, empathy, impulse control, trust, problem solving, and social skills.

Alternative Therapies Guide in our free autism directory

Art Therapy

People have used art therapy for thousands of years to encourage healing and better mental well-being but it wasn’t clinically recognised and put into a program by medical professionals until the 1940s. Whilst most other therapies involve using language, this one doesn’t. Therapists are trained in both art and psychological therapy.

A table with paints, a paint pallet and paintbrushes. A hand holding a paint brush. Art therapy is among those alternative therapies helping individuals

Who is it suitable for?

Suitable for participants of any age, and there is not need to be naturally artistic to take art therapy – it is not an art class. However, if they are not creative or are resistant to the idea, they may not enjoy this type of therapy. Art Therapy is especially helpful for people who can’t speak, such as people who are mute, choose alternative communication or have very young children.

What does it involve?

The participant can use any form of art to express themselves (clay, drawing, colouring, photography, collage, and so on). The therapists can assist them in working out how their creations make them feel and look for recurring themes, in order to work out what thoughts, emotions and behaviors they need to work on.

What are the benefits?

Art therapy is about the creative process, not the end product. It can assist in exploring self-expression, as a coping skill for stress, can boost self-esteem and enhance cognitive function.

Music Therapy

Music can be powerful, inciting emotions and taking us back to particular times or places. The actual Therapy is a process where a Registered Musical Therapist uses music to help someone improve or maintain their health. It emerged after World War I and II after it was found to assist veterans who had suffered physical and emotional trauma.

Who is it suitable for?

As with the other therapies listed, patients do not need a background in music to benefit.

What does it involve?

There are various ways music can be used as therapy: making music, writing songs, singing, dancing, listening to or discussing music. The therapist will create a tailored plan to help assist a patient to achieve their particular goals.

What are the benefits?

Music therapy assists in reducing stress, improving communication, regulating moods and energy levels. It may also be beneficial in managing anger and frustration, managing challenging behaviours. ALng with added benefits of increasing motivation, and improving memory and attention, coordination, speech, and social skills.

Play Therapy

Play Therapy is facilitated by a variety of licensed health professionals and involves them

observing the child playing, gathering information, and tailoring a plan to assist them. Children might not be able to process emotions or articulate them like adults. Because of this play is an ideal medium to connect with them. As the trust in therapists tends to grow, the child may create a bond with them and be more creative. It may also encourage your child to be more verbal in their play therapy sessions.

Who is it suitable for?

Play Therapy is primarily used for children, usually between three and 12 years old.

What does it involve?

There are two main forms of Play Therapy: directive, where the therapist gives instructions and leads the child in play; and non-directive, where the child can engage however, they like with limited interference. The types of play are vast and could involve: creative visualisation, storytelling, role-playing, puppets, toy phones, dolls, arts and crafts, sensory play, dancing, musical play, blocks, Lego, tea party play, strategy games like chess and checkers, and hide and seek.

What are the benefits?

Whilst there have been few studies done on play therapy, it has shown to have positive effects across all ages and genders. Benefits include: children being able to use strategies and problem-solving skills, empathy and respect for others, learning to express their feelings, improved social skills, stronger family relationships, taking responsibility for their behaviour, and self-respect. It can also have the added benefit of fine and gross motor skill coordination.


Ultimately, all of these therapies involve a trained professional observing and working with an individual closely in order to create a specific plan for their needs. You know your child or the person you care for best, but hopefully, these outlines have given you a better understanding of each of these alternative therapies and which ones would be the most effective for your child.

You can locate all these therapies via our free online directory.

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