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Equine assisted social work as a mean for authentic relations between clients and staff

By Catharina Carlsson, Daniel Nilsson Ranta, Bente Traeen

Category Journal Articles

The purpose of this study was to explore, by qualitative methods, the meaning of equine-assisted social work (EASW) both to young women with self-harm problems and their staff in residential treatment. Data were collected by in-depth interviews with eight staff members and nine clients. Human-horse interaction was observed subsequently in three of the staff and four of the clients. Based on the narratives of the staff members and the clients, who agreed, the horse's ability to read human emotions made the staff and clients aware of their own emotions. In order not to alienate the horse or make the situation dangerous, which intensified their sense of being in the present, both the clients and staff had to regulate their emotions. As a result the resistance for change decreased, made the participants more likely to regulate their emotions and change behavior rather than avoid the situation or the information. The horse seemed to set the framework for the interaction between the staff and young women. The fact that even the staff could fail in the interaction with the horse, affected the interaction between staff and clients making it more informal and dynamic. A relationship based on empathy, trust, respect and negotiation, where clients shared private matters, resulted in the perception of a more authentic relationship. Further research is needed to see which conditions are favourable for achieving an authentic relationship and which conditions possibly fail.

Date 2014
Publication Title Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin
Volume 2
Issue 1
Pages 19-38
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Abnormal behavior
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animals
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Communication
  6. Developed countries
  7. Emotions
  8. Europe
  9. Horses
  10. Humans
  11. Mammals
  12. Men
  13. Non-communicable diseases and injuries
  14. OECD countries
  15. open access
  16. peer-reviewed
  17. personnel
  18. Primates
  19. Psychiatry and psychology
  20. Relationships
  21. Scandinavia
  22. Social psychology and social anthropology
  23. Social Work
  24. Sweden
  25. therapy
  26. ungulates
  27. Union Countries
  28. vertebrates
  29. Women
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed