Touchstone Farm Is Site for Research on Post-Traumatic Stress in Youth
We are proud to announce that Touchstone Farm is the site of a research study on the effect of equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) on symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTS) in adolescent boys.
Researchers from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and from Washburn University in Topeka, KS, are partnering with Touchstone Farm and the Wediko School in Windsor, NH. The Horses and Humans Research Foundation awarded the $50,000 grant to fund the study.
Megan Mueller of Tufts and Leslie McCullough of Washburn are the principal investigators for the research. Winter Keeler, who is both Senior Clinical Supervisor at Wediko and Manager of Horse Power Therapeutic Horsemanship at Touchstone Farm, and Susanne Riemer, MSW, Psychotherapist, implement the EFP sessions at the farm. A select group of Horse Power volunteers participates in all the sessions, with each volunteer working one-on-one with a horse/client pair.
Five Wediko students, adolescent boys assessed to have symptoms of post-traumatic stress, participate in 10 weekly EFP sessions that include both mounted and unmounted work with horses, while receiving psychotherapy at Wediko. A control group of five boys who also have symptoms of PTS receive psychotherapy at Wediko but do not participate in the EFP sessions. Touchstone Farm is running multiple 10 week sessions so that a total of 30 boys will participate in equine-facilitated psychotherapy at the farm.
“EFP has been shown to be effective in reducing children’s anxiety over attending therapy and in treating emotional and behavioral challenges,” says Mueller. “However, we need additional research on the efficacy of equine based psychotherapy in addressing the needs of youth who have experienced trauma to support evidence based practice in this field.”
The first two EFP sessions were completed in Spring 2014, with the remaining sessions resuming in Fall 2014. Preparations for the research included additional training for volunteers as well as training for the horses who will be paired with Wediko clients.
Many of our riding and driving horses are already trained in therapeutic horsemanship. Additional training enables Winter and Equine Manager Andi Oxier to select and prepare the horses who are most willing and able to partner with adolescent boys coming to grips with past trauma and help them move ahead.