Date of Award

8-3-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Abstract

Animal Assisted Therapy research was integrated to develop the Tri-Level Mechanisms of Change (TLMC) Conceptualization, which is a comprehensive theoretical framework hypothesizing how Equine Assisted Psychotherapy produces psychological change. TLMC hypothesizes that the strength of human animal bond (HAB) with personal pets accounts for the development of HAB with therapy horses (primary level). The quality of HAB with therapy horses is responsible for producing changes in general psychological constructs (secondary level). Adaptive changes in secondary level constructs account for reductions in mental illness symptoms (tertiary level). Results indicated a significant reduction in tertiary level symptoms, and gains were maintained at follow-up. Primary level attachment to therapy horses and attachment to personal pets both accounted for a significant amount of variance in improvement in self-efficacy scores.

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