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Equine-Assisted Therapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Military Veterans: An Open Trial

By P. W. Fisher, A. Lazarov, A. Lowell, S. Arnon, J. B. Turner, M. Bergman, M. Ryba, S. Such, C. Marohasy, X. Zhu, B. Suarez-Jimenez, J. C. Markowitz, Y. Neria

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Objective: As veterans have high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and historically poor treatment outcomes and high attrition, alternative treatments have gained much popularity despite lack of rigorous research. In this study, a recently developed and manualized 8-session group Equine-Assisted Therapy for PTSD (EAT-PTSD) was tested in an open trial to assess its preliminary feasibility, acceptability, and outcomes for military veterans. Methods: The study was conducted from July 2016 to July 2019. Sixty-three treatment-seeking veterans with PTSD enrolled. PTSD diagnosis was ascertained using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-5, Research Version (SCID-5-RV) and confirmed using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-5). Mean age was 50 years, and 23 patients (37%) were women. Clinician and self-report measures of PTSD and depression were assessed at pretreatment, midtreatment, and posttreatment and at a 3-month follow-up. An intent-to-treat analysis and a secondary analysis of those who completed all 4 clinical assessments were utilized. Results: Only 5 patients (8%) withdrew from treatment, 4 before midtreatment and 1 afterward. Posttreatment assessment revealed marked reductions in both clinician-rated and self-reported PTSD and depression symptoms, which persisted at 3-month follow-up. Specifically, mean (SD) CAPS-5 scores fell from 38.6 (8.1) to 26.9 (12.4) at termination. Thirty-two patients (50.8%) showed clinically significant change (≥ 30% decrease in CAPS-5 score) at posttreatment and 34 (54.0%) at follow-up. Conclusions: Manualized EAT-PTSD shows promise as a potential new intervention for veterans with PTSD. It appears safe, feasible, and clinically viable. These preliminary results encourage examination of EAT-PTSD in larger, randomized controlled trials. Trial Registration: identifier: NCT03068325.

Publication Title J Clin Psychiatry
Volume 82
Issue 5
ISBN/ISSN 0160-6689
DOI 10.4088/JCP.21m14005
Author Address New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, New York.Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York, New York.First authors-equal contribution.School of Psychological Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.Corresponding author: Amit Lazarov, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY, 10032 ( of Epidemiology, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York, New York.
Additional Language English
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Adults
  2. Age
  3. Animals
  4. Females
  5. Horses
  6. Humans
  7. Males
  8. Middle Aged Adults
  9. open access
  10. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  11. Stress
  12. Treatment outcomes
  1. open access