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Horses Healing the Wounded Warrior: A Qualitative Inquiry of Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy in Treating Posttraumatic Stress Disorder for Female Veterans

By Rebecca R. Wara-Goss

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Abstract

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a major concern for military veterans in the United States and current research on women’s experiences in the military and the effects of their post-military PTSD are limited. Currently, there are a variety of evidence-based and alternative treatment options for veterans with PTSD, and one alternative treatment option includes equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP). EFP is a form of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) that integrates the human-animal bond as part of treatment and recovery. The purpose of this pilot study to explore in-depth experiences of the horse-human relationship in EFP with female veterans to elucidate how the horse-human relationship may assist in reducing impacts of PTSD. The research question was, “What is the lived experience of EFP in female veterans with PTSD?” The research was designed as an exploratory qualitative inquiry study that utilized semi-structured interviews with 10 female veterans. The findings from this study included six theme groupings with a total of thirty-three themes found. The most significant themes common to five or more participants included: Emotional discomfort with the horse, Spiritual experience with the horse, Experience of safety with the horse, Visual contact with the horse, Emotional connection with the horse, Beneficial impact of therapy, Increased connection with others, Reduced anxiety, Reduced withdrawal, EFP advocacy for others, and Delayed awareness of PTSD. Through exploring the nature of the human-animal bond in EFP, this research revealed invaluable insights into the potential healing power of horses and alternative mental health treatment options and served to honor women’s experiences in the military. In addition, this qualitative study provided an opportunity to gather rich detail and general information as to the effects of EFP for sufferers of PTSD.

Submitter

Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2020
Pages 251
Location of Publication San Francisco, California
Degree Doctor of Philosophy in East-West Psychology
Language English
University California Institute of Integral Studies
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Tags
  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Equine-facilitated psychotherapy
  4. Horses
  5. Human-animal bond
  6. Mammals
  7. open access
  8. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  9. veterans
  10. Women
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  1. open access