Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type

Applied Clinical Project (ACP)

Degree Name

Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT)


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


Shelley Green

Committee Member

Tommie V Boyd


Conversations regarding human-horse relationships have varied throughout time as horses have had multiple uses in relation to humans throughout history. However, what has remained constant is the horse's natural ability to sense and immediately react to the environment around them. As prey animals, they are able to sense subtle changes in their environment, allowing them to protect themselves from danger. Due to these natural abilities, horses have increasingly been utilized within the clinical setting, as they are able to offer immediate feedback regarding human behavior and intention through sensing the interactions within theenvironment around them. To expand on the literature regarding the integration of these powerful animals into mental health practices, this study explored the effectiveness of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy(EFP) with an incarcerated at-risk youth population.This Applied Clinical Project built upon existing data that utilized EFP as an intervention for at-risk youth, by examining the clinical conceptualization of the EFPmodel from the perspective of the lead therapists facilitating the intervention. A focus group was held utilizing the qualitative methods of Action Research to understand the first-hand experience and perspectiveof clinicians administering this intervention to this at-risk youth population. The researcher was able to then use those responses to identify correlations between the clinical team's intervention strategies and thedocumented experience of the participants in the previously analyzed dataset.This study offers clinicians a complex and nuanced understanding of the perceived effectiveness of this modality through the integration of the perspectives of the clinical team and participants. The study provides a foundation for researchers and clinicians to build upon this preliminary work and to apply these informed practices and additional findings with other at-risk youth.