What Is the Client Experience of Online Video-Calling Equine-Facilitated Therapy? A Heuristic Study

Osborne, Chloe
Tudor, Keith
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Master of Psychotherapy
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Auckland University of Technology

The focus of this research is to explore the client experience of online video-calling Equine-Assisted Therapy (EFT) through heuristic self-inquiry. As technology continues to reshape the landscape of mental health services, and in the wake of COVID-19 where telehealth became commonplace, online video-calling EFT could be an innovative and accessible therapy. This heuristic self-search study aimed to explore and capture the rich and subjective client experience in the context of online video-calling EFT. It is my hope that this research can add to the existing literature on this modality from the client perspective.

Data collection came in the form of reflective journaling and electronic voice notes which were transcribed. Through the client expression of thoughts, feelings, and reflections, this study aimed to explore one experience of the dynamic nature of the therapeutic alliance formed between humans and horses in a therapeutic setting.

Through the experience of EFT, I uncovered three themes: 1) embodiment, 2) attachment, and 3) grief and letting go in my personal intrapsychic landscape. I was able to grow and learn about myself, experiencing a personal transformation through the unique relational experience with horses that prioritises pre-verbal communication. Much of what I discovered was somewhat known to me in a tacit, raw, unformed, pre-conscious level. However, the experience of EFT and the heuristic process, birthing from pre-conscious to conscious explication, allowed the raw material of experience and tacit knowing to transform into something processable, and I could apprehend these dynamics with increased wholeness and clarity. I also explored the theoretical neurobiological and psychodynamic mechanics and processes that contributed to my experiences.

The findings of this heuristic self-search study have implications for the continuing development of knowledge about online video-calling EFT, and potential further integration into mental health practice. The research informs the therapeutic community and expands the evidence base surrounding online video-calling EFT, increasing mental health support, and accessibility for a diverse range of clients seeking healing and growth through equine-assisted therapy in the digital age.

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