I was reading a journal article this week titled “Evaluation of equine-assisted therapy program for veterans who identify as ‘wounded, injured, or ill’ and their partners” which was published in September of this year. It reminded me of the great work DeAnna Wahlheim is doing using this therapy with some of her clients.
The study evaluated veterans and their partners in relation to depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, happiness and quality of life. The study used 4 highly regarded questionnaires and scales to rate each participant before therapy, just after therapy had ended, and 3 months post therapy. The total number of participants was 47, 25 were veterans only and 22 were veterans and their partners.
Results with Veterans
Both the individual and the couple’s groups showed there were significantly fewer psychological symptoms and significantly greater levels of happiness and quality of life at post-intervention compared to pre-intervention levels. What was interesting to me about this study was that it showed reduced psychological symptoms were maintained at the three months follow-up for participants of the Couples program only. Partners being integrated into the therapy for veterans seems to make a difference in the long-term effects of the therapy.
The article reports that in an attempt to reduce the perception of stigma with mental health services, there has been growing interest in the use of ‘adjunct’ therapy interventions which are not considered the first line treatment for PTSD or commonly co-occurring conditions. This ‘adjunct’ therapy can be considered a part of the number of interventions that may be useful in management of mental health symptoms for veterans. An adjunct therapeutic intervention that has recently gained a following in the veteran community is equine-assisted therapy.
Other Studies with Veterans
Worldwide, there are now more than 600 equine-assisted therapy programs designed for patients with a broad range of psychological and physical conditions. Equine-assisted therapy is an adjunct intervention that incorporates experiential activities with horses within a traditional therapeutic framework to treat a range of psychiatric symptoms and disorders. This article lists 10 different studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of equine-assisted therapy programs aimed at reducing psychological symptoms. Participants of these programs have reported reduced anxiety and depression symptoms, reduced PTSD symptoms, elevated self-esteem and self-awareness, improved communication and trust, and increased overall well-being.
It is exciting as a Center to offer this therapy to our clients through the expertise of DeAnna. If you would like to read more about DeAnna’s work using this therapy please click on the link.