Trauma-Focused Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy Effects on Child and Adolescent Functioning Scale Scores Following Six Months of Treatment
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Trauma, such as severe neglect or abuse, incurred during critical developmental periods, such as childhood and adolescence, may create negative and pervasive effects in behavior and emotion. Previous scholarship has demonstrated that animals can provide therapeutic benefits for trauma victims, both as companions and in various psychotherapies. Recent research suggests that the addition of equines to the psychotherapy process may beneficial for those who have experienced repeated traumatic stress. Trauma-Focused Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (TF-EAP) focuses on using horses to help clients consistently regulate their own physiology and psychology. The current study examines the effects of six months of sessions of TF-EAP on children and adolescents that had experienced severe abuse or neglect. Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS) scores were analyzed for 15 youths (mean age = 11.1 years) at the start of TF-EAP sessions and again after 6 months of treatment. The CAFAS captures 8 domains of youth functioning, with subscales including school, home, community, behavior towards others, moods/emotions, self-harmful behavior, substance use, and thinking. Results from the Related-Samples Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test found significant differences (p < .05) from initial assessment to follow up in the overall total scores in five out of the seven scales analyzed, including school behavior, home behavior, behavior towards others, community behavior, and moods/emotions. This research contributes to the emerging literature supporting the use of horses as an enhanced therapeutic medium, particularly for children and adolescents who have experienced complex or developmental trauma.