Effects of Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy on Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms in Youth

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Researchers at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and at Washburn University recently completed a study funded by the Horses and Humans Research Foundation to investigate the effectiveness of equine facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) in the treatment of post-traumatic stress symptoms in children and teens. The team led by principal investigator and Cummings School Research Assistant Professor Megan Mueller, PhD, and co-investigator Leslie McCullough, PhD, of Washburn University, also explored the effects of the human-animal bond on the effectiveness of the EFP program.

Participants ages eight to 18 were selected from a therapeutic treatment facility and placed either in a group of students receiving EFP or in a group of students who continued to receive the usual treatment from the therapeutic facility. Youth in the EFP program attended EFP sessions once a week for 10 sessions and all youth were asked to complete a brief survey at the beginning of the program, at week 5, and at week 10.

The unpublished data suggests that both the treatment and control groups experienced a significant reduction in post-traumatic stress symptoms, and the human animal bond was correlated with reduction in symptoms for the treatment group. These findings suggest additional evidence regarding the role of the human-animal bond in clinically based treatment, and could be useful in advancing awareness of EFP as a viable psychotherapeutic intervention and promoting high-quality research assessing EFP as a treatment modality.

Horses and Humans Research Foundation (HHRF) is dedicated to funding research to support the equine-assisted activities and therapies field. Since its founding, HHRF has awarded $400,000 in professional research efforts led by eight research teams in the United States, Canada and Germany.

HHRF is a non-endowed foundation dependent solely on donations. To make a donation and/or learn more about this and other HHRF projects visit http://www.HorsesandHumans.org.

Mission: Through investment in rigorous research, Horses and Humans Research Foundation will serve as a catalyst to advance knowledge of horses and their potential to impact the health and wellness of people.