Term of Award

Fall 2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Jeff Klibert

Committee Member 1

Shauna Joye

Committee Member 2

Lawrence Locker


The unique benefits of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP) such as the human-horse bond, a non-traditional therapy setting, and performing altruistic acts are thought to facilitate positive change in humans. One mechanism by which positive changes occur is through improved coping and resilience in the face of stress. To date, only a handful of correlational studies speak to the potential effects of EFP on resilience-based outcomes. Thus, this study sought to address this gap in the literature by exploring the benefits of EFP compared to traditional Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) in an experimental context. Specifically, we examined the effects of different intervention (EFP vs. AAT vs. control) on three resilience-based outcomes (i.e., positive affect, well-being, and altruism). In addition, we wanted to ascertain whether participation in specific types of psychological interventions may buffer the negative effects of stress on these resilience-based outcomes. In an online study, participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions and asked to listen to a 10-minute audio guided imagery exercise depicting an EFP, AAT, or control group intervention. Participants were then asked to complete a number of surveys, including measures of stress, affect, well-being, and altruism. Overall, results did not reveal any significant differences in stress reduction, mood, or well-being across conditions. Additionally, analyses did not reveal any moderating effects of intervention type on the relationship between stress and resilience-based outcomes. One significant finding indicates that, contrary to our prediction, participants in the EFP group reported lower levels of altruism than the other two groups. Overall, the results of the current study do not lend significant support for the use of EFP as an effective approach in managing stress and increasing resilience-based outcomes. A number of notable limitations in the current study are discussed as well as suggestions for addressing these issues in future research.

Research Data and Supplementary Material