Ponies Proliferate Positive Affect: The Effectiveness of Equine Therapy on Positive Affect in Adolescents with Serious Emotional Disturbances
Adolescents with serious emotional disturbances (SED) are a particularly difficult population to treat due to high comorbidity rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and behavioral conduct disorders. The current study compared the effectiveness of equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) and traditional group therapy (TGT) on measurements of positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA) in SED adolescents. This study hypothesized that participants would have higher overall affect after EFP compared to TGT and that NA would be significantly lower after EFP compared to TGT. Adolescents admitted in therapeutic youth group home treatment participated in EFP and TGT sessions once a week over an eight week period in addition to normative treatment. The Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) questionnaire was administered immediately before and after EFP and TGT sessions. Statistical analyses supported the hypothesis that participants would have higher overall affect after EFP but there were no significant differences in NA before and after EFP. Further analyses revealed that EFP was just as effective as TGT in increasing PA and decreasing NA. More importantly, participants had significantly higher PA before and after EFP compared to TGT. Even though PA scores improved in both therapies, participants arrived to and left EFP with significantly higher PA scores than TGT. Due to its unique effect on PA, EFP could be a more engaging and effective therapy for SED clients compared to traditional therapeutic techniques.