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Megan Mueller to Study the Impact of Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy on Youth with Post-Traumatic Stress

Megan MuellerThe Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University has been awarded a $50,000 research grant to study how children and adolescents with post-traumatic stress respond to equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) from the Horses and Humans Research Foundation (HHRF), an international research foundation.

Led by Principal Investigator Megan Mueller, Ph.D., A08, G10, G13, research assistant professor at the Cummings School and a developmental psychologist, and co-investigator Leslie McCullough, Ph.D., MSSW, LCSW, of Washburn University, the research team will examine 60 boys between the ages of 10 and 18 with post-traumatic stress. Specifically, they will measure post-traumatic stress symptoms before, during and after exposure to a combination of EFP and traditional therapy, as well as the effect of the human-animal bond on this program.

“EFP has been shown to be effective in reducing children’s anxiety over attending therapy and in treating emotional and behavioral challenges,” noted Mueller. “However, additional research on the efficacy of equine-based psychotherapy in addressing the needs of youth who have experienced trauma needs to be conducted to support evidence-based practice in this field.”

“The HHRF Board was enthusiastic about supporting this research project. It holds much potential in helping to direct effective treatments for youth dealing with the devastating issues that accompany post-traumatic stress,” said Lynn Shaw, HHRF Board President. “We appreciate the vision and generosity of the donors who made this grant possible because it is this kind of well-designed research that will best develop the field of equine-assisted activities and therapies.”

The treatment group (30 participants) will receive 10 two-hour sessions of EFP over the course of 12 weeks in addition to traditional therapeutic services. These sessions will include both mounted and unmounted activities and will take place at Touchstone Farm’s Horse Power Program, a PATH Premier Accredited Center and approved training location in Temple, NH. The control group (30 participants) will receive traditional therapeutic services only. All participants will be recruited from the Wediko School, a not-for-profit residential treatment center in Windsor, NH.