The lives of humans and animals have been intertwined through time immemorial, and in many instances the relationship between humans and animals has been thought to be good for human well-being. As such, it is not surprising that treatments for a wide range of ailments, from physical to psychological, have developed that capitalize upon the relationship between humans and animals. While animal-assisted interventions have become popular in practice, the research-base of evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of these approaches is limited. Research is needed to clarify the effectiveness of animal-assisted approaches using well-controlled and randomized samples, and to help shed light on the mechanisms of effectiveness for these techniques. While a variety of animals are used for psychotherapeutic intervention, horses are of particular interest because of the qualities that distinguish them from traditional household companion animals. The size, power, and sensitive nature of horses are thought by many to serve as a foundation for personal growth and psychological healing for humans. The current study evaluated the impact of equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) versus traditional contact with horses on the depressive symptoms of five at-risk adolescents. Results suggest that structured contact with horses in either a horsemanship or EAP context may be both enjoyable, engaging, and beneficial for at-risk youth within the areas of depressive symptoms, social skills, and coping skills. Additional skills, such as persistence and problem-solving, may be uniquely impacted by EAP.
Mason N McLary
|Location of Publication||Alfred, New York|
|Department||Counseling and School Psychology|
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