Date of Award

Spring 4-15-2016

Document Type

Distinction Paper

Degree Name

Allied Health-BA


Health & Sport Sciences


Ann-Catherine Sullivan, Ph.D., CAPE

First Committee Member

Shelley Payne, DHS, PT, AT

Second Committee Member

Jeffrey S. Lehman, Ph.D.


Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, Empowerment, At-Risk Youth, Equine Therapy, Self Empowerment, Empowerment Theory

Subject Categories

Animal-Assisted Therapy


The purpose of this study was to (a) identify potential benefits for at risk individuals taking part in equine therapy at the PBJ Connections location in Pataskala, Ohio and (b) if the program effects the empowerment of the participants at risk. The main question we are seeking is: What Effect does Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) have on Self Empowerment with at Risk Youth Individuals? This research, looked at two groups: participants from Beatty Park Elementary School and participants from Newark High School. PBJ Connections used a licensed mental health professional, an equine specialist, and horses or donkeys to provide solution-oriented mental health therapy. In EAP sessions, the participants were asked to project their feelings and thoughts onto the horses/donkeys and the environment while the facilitators helped them process through difficult situations and issues. This research focused on the Empowerment theory and how the participants’ attitudes changed over the course of eight and nine sessions. Empowerment theory focused on the process of increasing personal power in order to enable individuals, families and communities to improve their situation of feeling like they have a lack of power in their life (Hough & Paisley, 2008). The empowerment process enabled individuals, families and communities to improve their situation of feeling like they had a lack of power in their lives. Findings from the study determined that the self-empowerment in the participants increased slightly more than empowerment in helping others while participating in the equine assisted psychotherapy sessions. In general, participating in EAP had a positive impact on empowerment.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 15, 2026