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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


VAN WYK, Carel. Parents' experience of participation in an equine-assisted parental guidance programme. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2014, vol.54, n.2, pp.324-340. ISSN 2224-7912.

Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) is primarily a solution orientated therapeutic modality where horses are used to address different psychosocial needs of clients. Several EAP therapeutic programmes exist but it appears that they have not been subjected to scientific research. Therefore, an existing parental guidance programme was integrated with EAP principles and a descriptive phenomenological analysis of the personal experiences of parents in this regard was undertaken as a way to gain deeper insight in the participants' experience of the programme to inform future practice.This study can serve as the basis for further quantitative, evidence-based research. The parental guidance programme under investigation consists of several contact sessions. The contents of the different contact sessions are communication, the drafting of house rules, discipline and having house meetings. The programme was offered in a practical manner within the context of a group, in that the above aspects were discussed by means of a workbook. The theoretical discussion of the content was extended by means of equine-assisted psychotherapeutic activities. The purpose of the utilisation of the equine-assisted psychotherapeutic activities was to address parents 'handling of problems in the here and now. The parental guidance programme is therefore combined with equine-assisted psychotherapy. The qualitative research paradigm was utilised, because the personal experience of participants in an equine-assisted parental guidance programme was the focus. A phenomenological research design was followed as guideline for the research procedures. Non-probability sampling was used to select six participants for participation in the study. Trustworthiness was ensured through triangulation by collecting data by means of different methods at different times. The data collection methods included questionnaires with both closed and open-ended questions and semi-structured interviews. The data were analysed and interpreted according to the process of descriptive phenomenology. It was found, inter alia, that the participants understood the principles of the equine-assisted parental guidance programme and that their insight into themselves as well as the developmental phase of their children had increased. Alternative ways of handling their children were acquired and applied. The fact that the equine-assisted parental training programme was not offered individually for parents, was indicated as a limitation. It was determined that anthropomorphism had occurred. This can be applied therapeutically because the projection of human traits and relationship patterns unto the horses can be processed with the clients in the here-and-now. The results indicated, for example, that participants preferred the application of horses in the parental guidance programme to the utilisation of other animals or stuffed animals. Recommendations for further research include the following: Qualitative as well as quantitative research investigations should be launched after the utilisation of horses, to determine the effectiveness of their use as part of a parental guidance programme. The launching of quantitative research could bring the equine-assisted parental guidance programme into the cadre of evidence-based research and evidence-based practice. Recommendations for practice are that clients who engage in the equine-assisted parental training programme can also engage in individual therapeutic sessions in order to address specific, individual psychosocial challenges. Individual feedback on specific observations pertaining to their interactional patterns could also be provided to clients upon completion of the equine-assisted parental training programme.

Palavras-chave : parental guidance programme; parental skills; foster care; children with behavioural challenges; animal-assisted therapy; horse-assisted therapeutic programme; equine-assisted psychotherapy; phenomenology; descriptive phenomenological analysis.

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