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Therapeutic Processes in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy: An exploratory qualitative study

  • Author(s): Lee, Anna Nina
  • Advisor(s): Conoley, Collie W
  • et al.
Abstract

Therapeutic Processes in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy: An exploratory qualitative study

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is an innovative approach in the field of alternative psychotherapies that has been gaining recognition for the last decade. Nevertheless, the research on EAP processes is sparse and not well understood. Furthermore, based on the elements of mindfulness described in the literature, a therapeutic synergy may exist between mindfulness and EAP. This study explored clients’ perceptions of their feelings, sensations, and changes experienced during and as a result of mindfulness-based EAP in order to gain a deeper understanding of therapeutic processes involved. The study utilized qualitative interviews with nine military veterans, six women and three men, who participated in mindfulness-based EAP. They had a mean age of 56 (range 31-86). Eight self-identified as Caucasian, and one self-identified as African American. The study utilized methodology based on Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) approach. Four domains emerged from the data revealing effects of the EAP interventions, the horses’ actions and the participants’ interpretation of the horses’ actions, participants’ level of satisfaction with EAP, and the factors that were perceived as challenging in EAP. The most important findings consisted of rich and in-depth information about the effects of EAP interventions as experienced by the participants and the role mindfulness factors played in their experience. The study also illuminated psychological flexibility outcomes of EAP, the influence of the horses, as well as participants’ satisfaction with EAP. Limitations and implications for research and clinical practice are discussed.

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