How Equine-assisted Psychotherapy Can Improve Posttraumatic Growth Outcomes in United States Military Personnel

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Nicole Taylor

Second Advisor

Laura Meyer

Third Advisor

Sarah Lukens


Military, Veteran, Posttraumatic growth, PTSD, Equine, Equine-assisted psychotherapy


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious problem for numerous military servicemembers and veterans who have experienced combat and other violent or traumatic conflict scenarios. The importance of determining and making available effective treatment regimens for this disorder is becoming more acute due to the growing number of active duty servicemembers and veterans identified and diagnosed every year (VA, 2018). Likewise, posttraumatic growth (PTG) is being increasingly recognized as an important psychosocial phenomenon. PTG is commonly measured through five dimension: increased closeness in relationships, newfound possibilities in life, discovery of personal strength, spiritual change, and a greater appreciation of life. PTG is one outcome of PTSD that mental health professionals are trying to learn how to facilitate (McLean et al., 2013). One treatment modality that has been shown to improve mind-body reintegration, mindfulness, recovery, and empowerment is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, or EAP (Neissen-Derry, 2015). Currently, EAP is being used to treat various mental health issues including trauma, PTSD, substance abuse, personality disorders, anxiety, depression, grief/loss, and autism spectrum disorder in multiple populations. As a non-traditional form of therapy, EAP may be uniquely suited to survivors of trauma who may otherwise not be amenable to traditional talk therapy. This paper explores the major components of EAP and how they can be used to treat trauma by facilitating and improving PTG in military populations. A case study is included to assist in further illustrating this concept.

Publication Statement

Copyright held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


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