Straight From the Horses Mouth - Equine Assisted Counseling Works! Pioneering Dissertation Study Published In American Counseling Association Journal

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There is now empirical evidence proving that using horses in clinical counseling is not only as effective as traditional talk therapy, but in some cases, it's even more beneficial for clients. Dr. Kay Trotter has moved Equine Assisted Counseling from a "feel good fad" into a proven clinical adjunct to traditional counseling. A peer-review journal of the American Counseling Association has published her findings.

It's official, using horses in counseling therapy sessions is just as effective for clients, if not more so, than traditional talk counseling therapy. Kay Trotter, PhD, LPC-S, RPT-S, NCC, created the empirical research in her dissertation, and now her work, "A Comparative Study of the Efficacy of Group Equine Assisted Counseling With At-Risk Children and Adolescents," has been published in the Journal of Creativity in Mental Healthâ„¢, a peer-review publication of the American Counseling Association (ACA). Dr. Trotter was also interviewed in a recent issue of the ACA's newsletter, "Counseling Today."

"When I was researching topics for my doctoral dissertation at the University of North Texas (UNT)," said Dr. Trotter, "I found anecdotal evidence about horse therapy, but no proven empirical research. I decided to do the first formal clinical study and attempt to either prove or disprove that horses help people in measurable ways."

Under the guidance of Dr. Cynthia Chandler, retired developer and director of the Center for Animal Assisted Therapy at UNT, Dr. Trotter compared and contrasted the experiences of youngsters who participated in a 12-week Equine Assisted Counseling (EAC) program with those who remained in a classroom for traditional guidance counseling. The results proved decisively that using a horse in counseling sessions gets authentic results in increasing positive behaviors while also decreasing negative behaviors in clients.

Dr. Trotter's dissertation, "The Efficacy of Equine Assisted Group Counseling with At-Risk Children and Adolescents," is summarized in an article in the current issue of The Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, a publication of the Association for Creativity in Counseling; a Division of the American Counseling Association.

Having her study published in the peer-review journal is the final step in confirming the importance of her ground-breaking research, said Dr. Trotter. "It's so gratifying to help move Equine Assisted Counseling from a 'feel-good fad' to a viable adjunct to clinical counseling therapy," she said.

"During the study, we let youngsters select a horse to work with, and assigned them specific tasks," Dr. Trotter explained. For instance, each child had to approach a horse, put a halter on the animal, and then lead it to the counselors.

"If youngsters are going to successfully complete the task, they must immediately change their behaviors to win the horses' trust," said Dr. Trotter. "Behavioral changes that might take weeks of traditional counseling therapy can happen instantly in the arena when children see how the horse responds."

To take her research mainstream and also share resources with other mental health professionals, Dr. Trotter has created Equine Partners in Counseling (EPIC) Enterprises.

EPIC projects include research, consulting, customized trainings, speaking and publishing. For more information, please visit Dr. Trotter's EPIC website at, or contact her at (214) 499-0396.

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