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Equine Assisted Psychotherapy: A Transformational Path to Emotional Wellness for U.S. Military Veterans

By Cathy Powalski

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Category Theses
Abstract

Purpose. The purpose of this qualitative multiple case study was to explore and describe the impact of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) on the reintegration of wounded veterans into civilian life as perceived by wounded U.S. military veterans participating in EAP.

Methodology. A qualitative multiple case study methodology was appropriate for this research due to its focus on analyzing a single entity (EAP) possessing unique characteristics within a system bound by participants (wounded U.S. military veterans as defined by this study), time (2015-2017), and/or place (California or Virginia) through events.

Findings. The 13 U.S. military veterans who participated in this study represented the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy. Data analysis resulted in 14 themes, with 4 of those 14 themes common for all 13 veterans: establish/reestablish connections and relationships, becoming a better person/leader, discovering a healthy alternative to traditional psychotherapy, and developing a sense of service and purpose helping others as a result of participating in EAP. All veterans interviewed also identified the first and second most important of the five elements of EAP discussed in this study. All five elements of EAP were perceived as important for all 13 veterans, with the “relationship with the horse” perceived as the first most important and “metaphors and triggers” as the second most important element.

Conclusions. All veterans interviewed for this study perceived EAP as a significant complementary and/or alternative treatment option to their reintegration back into civilian life after combat and/or the military experience.

Recommendations. EAP should be offered as a voluntary mental health alternative for wounded veterans. Providing greater access to and funding for EAP through Veteran Administration grants should be given preferential consideration. The opportunities to participate in equine-related therapies should be proactive and available to active duty service members and their families. Equine therapy instructor certification programs (EAGALA, PATH, etc.) and other professionals who utilize EAP should consider incorporating each of the 5 identified EAP elements and aspects of Posttraumatic Growth in their facilitation and/or treatment protocol.

Submitter

Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2018
Pages 225
Department Organizational Leadership
Degree Doctor of Education (EdD)
URL https://digitalcommons.umassglobal.edu/edd_dissertations/142/
Language English
University Brandman University
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Tags
  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Equine-assisted activities
  4. Equine-facilitated psychotherapy
  5. Mental health and well-being
  6. open access
  7. veterans
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  1. open access