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Triads in Equine-Assisted Social Work Enhance Therapeutic Relationships with Self-Harming Adolescents

By Catharina Carlsson

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Despite an increasing number of studies, there is still a lack of knowledge about the unique features that underlie the process in equine assisted social work (EASW). This study aimed to reveal, through qualitative methods, the dyads within the triad that become stronger during the process of EASW, as well as the effect of the participation of the horse on the relationship between the counselor and client. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with nine female self-harming clients aged 15–21 years and eight staff members. The interviews, together with video-recorded human–horse interactions with three staff members and four clients were analyzed, resulting in additional issues answered by these three staff members and four clients in a second interview. Critical dialogues between patterns and fragmentations in the narratives and video-recordings, as well as a dialogue with the participants while they were viewing videos of their own EASW sessions, led to the conclusion that adding a horse qualitatively changes therapeutic relationships in EASW. The different triads consist of different liaisons between actors in the triad, giving rise to unique combinations. The quality of the relationships depends on both the staff and the clients’ attachment orientations. Further research is needed to investigate how the degree of emotional connection to the horse affects the impact that horses have on triads in EASW.


Katie Osborn

Date 2016
Publication Title Clinical Social Work Journal
Volume 45
Issue 4
Pages 320-331
ISBN/ISSN 1573-3343
DOI DOI 10.1007/s10615-016-0613-2
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Adolescents
  2. Animal-assisted activities
  3. Animal-assisted therapies
  4. Hippotherapy
  5. Horses
  6. Mammals
  7. Social Work