Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Assessment: Self-report Projective Measures, Clinical Neuropsychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Neuroscience, Prevention, Psychological Disorders, Research Methods, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Two posts ago I talked about and posted links to a general article about PTSD – about its signs and symptoms and about its treatment, in general terms. In that article the two main approaches to treatment were described as medication and talk therapy. Both approaches most certainly fall in the domains of accepted practice for psychiatrists and clinical psychologist respectively and both are supported by systematic research. However, PTSD treatments do not work for all who struggle with the disorder. As well, an additional issue involves the reticence some people have about seeking treatment and about concerns of stigma or perhaps even organizational backlash would they seek treatment (see links below in Further Reading). Alternative approaches to assistance and perhaps to treatment for symptoms of PTSD do exist. Eye Movement Desensitization and Preprocessing or EMDR is one of these (see links below in Further Reading). Animal assistance or animal therapy is another interesting area of possible support/treatment. You have perhaps run across references to companion animal programs where vertebras or first responders with PTSD issues are provided with a trained dog (usually) companion. The data on the use of companion animals is reasonably consistently positive in terms of it impact upon PTSD symptoms though there is no consensus on just how it is that the dogs produce the results they seem to produce in these studies. As the research article review linked below suggests, involvement with animals in general and with horses in particular seems to provide some short and perhaps longer-term benefits for folks with PTSD symptoms. Leaving riding out of the equation, what do you think it might be about spending time interacting with horses that could have positive effects upon people with symptoms of PTSD?  Once you have your hypotheses in mind have a look at the articles linked below and/or watch the brief video clip of me talking about these things in preparation for a presentation on the topic late last week.

Source: Animal Therapy is Making Strides in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Elements Behavioral Health and Animal Assisted Intervention for trauma: a systematic literature review (full reference below in Further Reading)

Date: March 25, 2018

Photo Credit:

Links:  Article Links — and  and brief video of Mike Boyes talking about PTSD and animal assisted approaches .

People who spend time with horses generally will tell you that there is “something about horses” (as in Corb Lund’s song Especially a Paint”). Winston Churchill (and later Ronald Reagan) once said, “There is something about the outside of horses that is good for the inside of man.” Both related statements capture what “horse people” will tell you is simply true, that the connections between people and horses can be elemental and profound. As obvious as that might be, once we try and take up the task of figuring out WHY that is from research perspective, we, to date, have become essentially inarticulate. Data indicating that time with horses my well be beneficial for those with PTSD issues is starting to roll in and it may well be that for now (and especially for folks with PTSD issues) that is enough to support its use as part of approaches to helping people deal with PTSD. Symptom checklists for PTSDA are readily available and are or can be calibrated to so as to be sensitive to changes in symptom patters over relatively small-time frames (such as before and after a single chunk of time spent with a horse or horses). If data were carefully gathered over time we could look at what treatment or support experiences make what sorts of differences for what sorts of people with what sorts of PTSD symptom presentations and profiles and we could look at how positive changes to symptom patterns persist over times between and after both engagements with animals and, perhaps eventually, engagements with other treatment strategies. Data will sort out what works and start to hint, perhaps, at how or why time with horses and other animals may help those with PTSD. More importantly, data will tell us whether those with symptoms of PTSD ARE getting the support and the help they need and deserve. That is why we are planning on trying out more horse related experiences for folks with symptoms of PTSD and before during and after which we will gather a range of data in the hopes that we will get to be able to say some more definitive things about the impact of horse and anal experiences on the symptoms of PTSD.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of impact does time with animals (dogs, horses etc. have on the symptoms of PTSD?
  2. How might experiences with horses and other animals be incorporated into PTSD treatment programs/strategies?
  3. What might it be about interacting with horses or about horses themselves that contributes to positive effects on symptoms of PTSD? How should this be applied and assessed/evaluated?

References (Read Further):

O’haire, M. E., Guérin, N. A., & Kirkham, A. C. (2015). Animal-assisted intervention for trauma: A systematic literature review. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 1121.

Valiente-Gómez, A., Moreno-Alcázar, A., Treen, D., Cedrón, C., Colom, F., Pérez, V., & Amann, B. L. (2017). EMDR beyond PTSD: a Systematic Literature Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1668.

Schumm, J. A., Pukay-Martin, N. D., & Gore, W. L. (2017). A Comparison of Veterans Who Repeat Versus Who Do Not Repeat a Course of Manualized, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Behavior therapy, 48(6), 870-882.

Every, D., Smith, K., Smith, B., Trigg, J., & Thompson, K. (2017). How can a donkey fly on the plane? The benefits and limits of animal therapy with refugees. Clinical Psychologist, 21(1), 44-53.

Glintborg, C., & Hansen, T. G. (2017). How Are Service Dogs for Adults with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Integrated with Rehabilitation in Denmark? A Case Study. Animals, 7(5), 33.

Coleman, S. J., Stevelink, S. A. M., Hatch, S. L., Denny, J. A., & Greenberg, N. (2017). Stigma-related barriers and facilitators to help seeking for mental health issues in the armed forces: a systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative literature. Psychological medicine, 47(11), 1880-1892.