Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Horsemanship-Therapeutic use, Psychotherapy, Post-traumatic stress disorder-Treatment, Transference (Psychology), Equine-facilitated therapy, Equine-facilitated psychotherapy, Mental health, Treatment, Intervention


This study explored the general benefits of equine-facilitated therapy and for whom this treatment is appropriate. Utilizing interviews of ten equine therapists and therapeutic riding instructors, who have an advanced degree in the areas of social work, psychology, education or therapeutic recreation, as well as at least one year of professional equine experience, this study explored the participants' perception of the use of equine-facilitated therapies as it applies to mental health treatment. Secondly, through this perspective, the study looked to identify a "preferred client profile" that participants felt would be best suited to engage in equine-facilitated therapy (EFT). The findings unanimously showed that there was no "preferred" client profile for EFT, but that there were specific client-related contraindications which would make EFT an inappropriate intervention for some. The study results also found that the aspect of immediate feedback in EFT is a fundamental element of the practice, allowing for practical in-vivo problem solving, increased client self-awareness and honesty. In addition, the study found that clients had an easier time addressing issues of transference with their horse partners as compared to their human therapists. Finally, this study demonstrated that EFT could be highly beneficial for treatment of trauma related issues. Equine-facilitated therapy helps to decrease the fear and intimidation of trauma treatment, decrease physical symptoms of traumatic stress response, helps clients increase motivation and aid in the development of a positive internalized sense of self. Equinefacilitated therapy also provides clients with the opportunity to address interpersonal disruptions such as boundaries, assertiveness and emotional engagement with others.




iii, 71 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 65-66)