Equine-facilitated Psychotherapy as a Complementary Intervention for Substance Use Disorders
Animals have been positively impacting human health for centuries. Recently, an alternative therapy, animal assisted therapy (AAT), has been developed that incorporates trained animals into a professional setting. The use of horses in a therapeutic context is a subset of AAT known as equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP). EFP has been incorporated into the healing process for a wide range of behavioral and mental health disorders, including substance use disorders (SUDs). EFP is commonly used as a complimentary intervention to empirically supported therapeutic interventions. During EFP, horses support clients’ development of positive behavior and emotional wellness through a variety of activities. There are several limitations to EFP as it is a developing therapeutic intervention. Despite the increasing use of EFP within mental health settings, particularly SUD and dual diagnosis treatment programs, there is limited research supporting its efficacy. Further research using methodologically rigorous designs are imperative given the rapid growth of mental health clinics using EFP to treat a diverse range of clinical populations. This paper will review the current literature related to the efficacy and implementation of EFP into practice. Specifically, an emphasis will be placed on the use of EFP in the treatment of SUDs. Additionally, research limitations as well as precautions in the clinical practice of EFP will be discussed.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).