Examining the literature on the efficacy of Equine Assisted Therapy for people with mental health and behavioural disorders

Journal article citation:
Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 8(1), Autumn 2011, pp.51-61.
South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust and University of Huddersfield

This review explores the literature relating to the efficacy of Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT).  During EAT horses are used as a tool for emotional growth and learning to help adults and children with mental health and behavioural problems, such as mood disorders, addictive behaviours and communication difficulties. EAT arose during the 1970s, as an alternative to traditional talking therapies. It is designed around 60-90 minute sessions which are usually part of a short term intensive treatment programme. The data bases searched included; CINAHL, MEDLINE, AMED and INTERSCIENCE. It became evident that there was limited research-based literature within the UK compared to the USA. However, magazine articles, reporting opinions and case studies, originating from Canada and Northern Europe, were found useful and informative. The review lead to the conclusion that EAT enhances positive, behaviours, reduces negative behaviours and has helped people with mental health problems. The studies found indicate that EAT can be as effective as other therapies currently in use and could be an alternative to talking and existing experimental and creative therapies. However the authors believe that more comprehensive studies, particularly in the UK, are needed before evidence–based claims can be made.

Subject terms:
literature reviews, mental health problems, behaviour problems, behaviour therapy, communication disorders, evidence-based practice, animal assisted therapy;
Content type:
research review
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