Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy: The Gap between Practice and Knowledge

Bachi K. (2012). Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy: The Gap between Practice and Knowledge. Society & Animals, (20): 364-380.

Research question:  Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) is the practice of using horses in and around their natural environment to treat human psychological problems.  This review examines the gaps that exist in our current knowledge of EFP and makes suggestions on what can be done to minimize these gaps and add to our current knowledge base.  It also addresses methodological flaws in previous EFP studies and makes suggestions for correcting these flaws in future studies.

Methodology: The author conducted a thorough literature review in the fields of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), which is considered to be the parent field of EFP, and Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAA/T), which is considered to be the sister field of EFP.  Within the field of EAA/T, studies that looked at both the physical/medical applications of EFP and the mental/emotional/social applications of EFP were reviewed.

Findings:  A number of methodological problems were found in past studies.  These included the following:

  • Small sample size and non-random sampling
  • Lack of control groups
  • Interventions being evaluated were of short duration
  • Differences in what the staff and participants felt and observed compared to what the findings indicated
  • Inconsistencies in definitions and the inventions being evaluated, as well as misuse of concepts

Suggested solutions to these problems include:

  • Studies could coordinate participation among multiple EAA/T programs
  • Implement single-subject design with pre and post measurements so that the experimental group can serve as its own control
  • Extend the duration of the intervention
  • Conduct qualitative studies or develop tools specifically designed to measure the effects of EAA/T
  • Train researchers to be more aware of the need for consistency among EAA/T studies and concepts

In addition to the methodological flaws found in previous studies, EFP does not currently have a unified theory to provide a theoretical basis for future studies.  The author suggests the use of grounded theory methods (GTM) to develop a consistent theory, as well as attachment theory to develop an understanding of the bond between humans and horses.


Summary by Traci Raley, MS

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Unless otherwise noted, all content on this website is copyright © 2021 The Animals and Society Institute. Please visit https://www.animalsandsociety.org/about-asi/website-reprint-and-use-policies to find out more about our reprint and use policies.

Share Us Online