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Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy: The Gap between Practice and Knowledge

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Abstract Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) is widely used, and the uses to which it can be put are still being developed. However, existing knowledge about this field is insufficient, and most of the research suffers from methodological problems that compromise its rigor. This review will explore research into the linked fields of Animal-Assisted Therapy and Equine-Assisted Activities/Therapies (EAA/T) related to physical health. Existing knowledge of mental, emotional, and social applications of EAA/T is presented. Evaluation studies in the subfield suggest that people benefit from interventions with horses. However, these studies suffer from fundamental problems, such as small sample size and lack of control groups. Naturalistic inquiry about theoretical aspects highlights the fundamental role that human-horse relations play in EAA/T, but these studies exhibit deficiencies in theory development. A multimethod approach could promote knowledge development for EFP. Suggestions for future research concern methodological solutions to improve evaluation studies, use of grounded theory method to develop theory, as well as applying attachment theory to the human-horse context, which may offer insight about the underlying processes for change.

Affiliations: 1: The PhD Program in Social Welfare at the Graduate Center of CUNY and the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College


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