Equine Facilitated Therapy with Children and Adolescents Who Have Been Sexually Abused: A Program Evaluation Study
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Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a social problem that often inflicts long lasting psychological trauma and leads to psychopathology, behavioural problems and re-victimization. Treating young people who are presenting with the detrimental effects of CSA is often difficult because these effects off-set efforts at establishing a therapeutic bond. Animals have been found to facilitate the development of the therapeutic alliance between client and practitioner and therapies utilizing horses have the added bonus of empowering clients. This study aimed to evaluate an Equine Facilitated Program (EFT) run by Phoenix House, a sexual assault referral centre in Queensland, Australia. Participants were six boys and nine girls (aged 8–11 years) and 15 adolescent girls (aged 12–17 years). All participants provided several measures of data designed to establish levels of psychological distress at three points in time. That is, Time 1—intake into the service; Time 2—following approximately 6 weeks of in-clinic counselling and pre-EFT; and Time 3 post-EFT (9–10 week duration). Significant improvements in functioning were found between Time 2 and Time 3 assessment across all psychometric measures and for both age groups. No, or non-significant, improvements were found between Time 1 and Time 2 assessments. Overall the results show that EFT proved an effective therapeutic approach for the children and adolescents referred to the service. Of particular note was the finding that efficacy was similar across gender, age and Indigenous/non-Indigenous status. Implications of this and suggestions for further research are discussed.
KeywordsSexual abuse Program evaluation Animal assisted therapy Equine facilitated therapy
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