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Equine-Facilitated Counselling and Women With Eating Disorders: Articulating Bodily Experience

By Hillary Sharpe, Tom Strong

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Disordered eating is on the rise and our current conceptualization and treatment of such problems neglects a corporeal-relational understanding in favour of a more cognitive approach. In this hermeneutic phenomenological study, I explore the experiences of fourteen women with eating disorders who took part in an Equine-Facilitated Counselling group. The participants engaged in group and individual interviews that helped to articulate a language for understanding their bodily-relational experiences. Through dialogic movement and communication with their horses, the participants were able to attune in different ways to themselves and their worlds, thus interrupting some of the habitual practices of disordered eating. These changes in attunement occurred during moments of communion with their horses, but also had an influence afterwards, in a variety of ways that led to the creation of preferred ways of being and relating for a number of the participants. These changes and the moments that made a difference are explored through stories pertaining to five of the women and their horses. Implications for counselling theory, practice, and possible future research are discussed.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Pages 221
Department Division of Applied Psychology
Degree Doctor of Philosophy
University University of Calgary
  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Counseling
  3. Eating disorders
  4. Equine-assisted activities
  5. Hermeneutics
  6. Horses
  7. Mammals
  8. open access
  9. peer-reviewed
  10. Women
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed