Equine assisted psychotherapy in the treatment of eating disorders from the therapist's perspective

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Kingston, Orlaith
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BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Background: Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) is rapidly gaining recognition internationally as an effective therapeutic approach for a number of different client groups. There is limited quality research demonstrating that EAP is effective in the treatment of clients with eating disorders. This paper is an exploratory study based on interviews with ten therapists who use Equine Assisted Psychotherapy in treating clients with eating disorders. It examines the experiences of therapists working with clients who have eating disorders using EAP. Method: This qualitative study utilized a twenty-question structured interview with ten therapists who use EAP for treating clients with Eating Disorders. Data was analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: The findings provide an in-depth understanding of the experiences of ten therapists who work with clients who have eating disorders using an EAP approach. The results are consistent with what the literature says about the benefits of EAP for more challenging and hard to reach clients (EAGALA, 2006). According to the therapist's interviewed, it is particularly effective in increasing motivation and lowering resistance to change in clients with eating disorders. Findings from the therapist's experiences are coded under four themes (1) structure and boundaries, (2) changes observed in the client, (3) therapeutic process and (4) team approach. Re-emerging themes in the study are the effectiveness of therapeutic riding and taking care of a horse. One significant limitation of the study is the small sample size. Conclusion: Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is effective in the treatment of clients with eating disorders- from the perspectives of the ten therapists interviewed.