Equine-assisted psychotherapy in New Zealand : a phenomenological investigation : presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Albany Campus, New Zealand
This study explores the experiences of two New Zealanders who have undertaken a course of equine-assisted psychotherapy in New Zealand. Using the method of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, two participants were interviewed. It was concluded that through the therapy, the participants experienced a process of transformation into a new self, a theme composed of transformation, and a new way of thinking and being. The experienced the therapy as fundamentally different from, but complementary to, traditional therapy. Their experiences were grounded in the real world and real experience, a theme that was made up of the natural environment facilitating different conversations; the experiences with the horses making the therapy real and meaningful; and hands-on, in-the-moment activity. The participants experiences with the horses, and of therapy, was spiritual and beyond explanation, a theme that showed their experiences were spiritual and meaningful, beyond explanation, and that the horses embodied symbolic representations. One participant became a convert and an advocate and this theme was composed of overcoming negative preconceptions, a positive experience, and becoming an advocate for its use. These themes and experiences were supported by the literature and provide insight into how and why equine-assisted psychotherapy is an effective therapeutic intervention.