Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Psychodynamics in the Feminine-Equine Relationship Dyad
by Flora, Mary F., Psy.D., Saybrook University, 2018, 223; 10642318
Abstract (Summary)

Scholarly research is needed to investigate the horse human interaction and increase protective measures and beneficial outcomes for both horse and human when using an interspecies form of psychotherapy. This research offers practitioners of equine assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) a different theoretical orientation to approach an understanding of the psychodynamics present in this form of therapy, and support contemporary therapeutic treatment models that focus on building emotional resilience grounded in the neurobiology of nurturing relationships.

The purpose of this study was to identify what psychodynamic experiences were present in the feminine-equine relationship dyad, and how these experiences influenced the process of individuation. Prior research (Seward, 2013; Held, 2006; Koch, 2008) has investigated this relationship phenomenon to bring validity to a powerful experience that is often described as intangible, or immeasurable. The researcher, through personal experience and professional training since 1999, has observed the evolving industry of equine assisted activities and therapies as largely populated by women seeking answers, women dedicated to the helping professions, and women longing for an experience that is nurturing and enlarging in a way that Western culture fails to meet that need for women.

Analytical psychology, according to Carl Jung, provided a theoretical structure to explore the horse as a symbol of the archetype and the psychodynamics present in the feminine-equine relationship dyad. The researcher examined how this interspecies relationship phenomenon facilitates psychodynamic experiences that contribute to personality development for women who have chosen horses as companions. Recent developments in neuroscience helped to reimagine Jung’s psychodynamic theory for contemporary relevance. The researcher asked what experiences present in the feminine-equine relationship dyad have the capacity to influence the individuation process for women.

A hermeneutic phenomenological research method and narrative research techniques guided this qualitative research study. Hermeneutics guided the review of literature and provided an iterative process to reveal significant parts of the experience-centered narratives within the whole of the phenomenon in question. Five women shared their personal and professional stories of companionship with horses. The research findings revealed the neurobiology of novel experiences and attuned relationships contributes to transformative experiences and an improved sense of well-being. Phenomenology provided an intuitive approach to understanding the interspecies relationship phenomenon investigated. The research participants’ narratives confirmed companionship with horses influences personal growth, strengthens emotional resilience, influences professional and social development, and provides a sense of community. These findings suggest a woman’s relationship with a horse encourages individuation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McAllister, JoAnn
Commitee: Bates, Carolyn, Rowland, Susan
School: Saybrook University
Department: Human Science
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 79/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Counseling Psychology, Developmental psychology, Psychology
Keywords: EAAT, Equine, Jung, Carl, Jungian, PATH Intl, Psychotherapy
Publication Number: 10642318
ISBN: 978-0-355-67733-1
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