Relapse prevention, attachment and equine-assisted psychotherapy


  • C. Hilbert
  • E. Spitz


Background: This study takes place in longitudinally way to determine the cognitive, emotional and physiological processes associated with equine-assisted psychotherapy and to evaluate the efficacy of this therapy with people having addictive disorders. This intervention is based on an integrative psychotherapy inspired by sensorimotor therapy, “Brief attachment based psychotherapy†(BABI; Holmes, 2001) and the "Mindfulness based Relapse Prevention" model (MBRP, 2002, 2011). Method: After a one-year exploratory study, longitudinal research will begin in March 2017 and will take place over 2 years. It will include overall 130 patients who will stay 5 to 13 weeks in a post-cure center (CSSRA). Each week throughout their stay, each patient of the group called “intervention group†will participate in 1 therapy session with the horse, per group of 4 participants for 2 hours. The second group of this research called “control group†follow the usual program of the post-cure center. In order to determine the different processes involved in such therapy, we will carry out quantitative (quantitative scales) qualitative (clinical interview) and biological (cortisol and oxytocin measurements, heart-rate variability) assessments throughout the stay, for the 2 studied groups. Expected results: With patients with multiple relapses, the equine-assisted psychotherapy could increase the emotional regulation capacities of patients having attachment disorders, thereby enhancing the beneficial effects of MBRP. Discussion: This paper therefore questions the place of attachment theory in health psychology interventions and the value of equine-assisted therapy, particularly in relapse prevention programs.





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