Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy


Shelley Green

Committee Member

Douglas Flemons

Committee Member

Tommie V. Boyd


Equine assisted activities have been utilized in various manners with multiple populations in therapeutic and educational environments. A graduate level marriage and family therapy program in South Florida is currently offering Equine Assisted Relational Learning (EARL) activities focused on teaching a specific sub-model of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), known as Equine Assisted Family Therapy (EAFT). The experiential nature of EAP and EARL transforms abstract concepts such as thoughts and mannerisms into tangible experiences, as well as highlights behavioral patterns. The unique and innovative theoretical foundation of EAFT is being taught, demonstrated, and utilized to assist graduate level therapists with professional development through EARL by participating in equine assisted activities and processing their lived experiences.

The purpose of this study was to explore the professional development of graduate students who enrolled in and completed the introductory course in Equine Assisted Family Therapy (I-EAFT) and the advanced Equine Assisted Family Therapy (A-EAFT) course, and who served as clinical staff at the affiliated non-profit equine assisted therapy organization, known as Stable Place. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) methodology was utilized as the structure for data collection and analysis. The results of this study indicate the participants related learning about their personal identities to their professional identities through EARL. The implications of this systemic and relational learning style in the family therapy field promotes reflection on professional development through experiential practices.