Author ORCID Identifier
Year of Publication
Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
The act of divorce has been commonplace throughout the world during the 20th century, plateauing around the 1970s at around 50% of all marriages. While most divorces end peacefully, many contain ongoing conflict which can become detrimental to all involved, including the children. While historical treatment methods focus on changing the behavior of parents, there are instances where these methods may be ineffective, especially when the parents are unable or unwilling to change their conflictual behaviors. Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP), which has been used with individuals who have suffered from trauma, may be an option to use with this population of children, either as a stand-alone therapeutic treatment or as a complementary treatment in addition to historical methods.
The first product of this Capstone was a systematic review focused on historical treatments used with children involved in the high conflict divorce of their parents. The search criteria used for this systematic review failed to identify interventions that could be used to work with children independent of their families and/or parents. It seemed implausible to think there were no psychotherapeutic interventions to use with individual children, so a traditional review was then conducted using “types of psychotherapy with children.” Among types of intervention identified in the review was a 2015 review of literature related to Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy (EFP), and in gaining a better understanding of the intervention, it seemed appropriate.
The second product was a conceptual paper focusing on developing a new framework when clinically working with children involved in the high conflict divorce of their parents. While current treatments focus on family-centered treatments and parental co-parenting programs, this seems to leave the child to be treated from a psychopathological perspective when they are placed in therapeutic services. This paper sought out to construct a conceptual framework for clinicians to best work with these children as individuals outside of the family system from a trauma-focused empowerment perspective using components of feminist theory, using Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy as a way to do this.
The third product puts the conceptual framework established in product two into practice. By establishing that children can experience trauma with a high amount of interparental conflict during a divorce, it is imperative that treatment encompass trauma effective methods. Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy encompasses trauma work while increasing self-esteem and relationship skills, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and gaining a better understanding of healthy boundaries.
Children in these situations need the space to process their trauma from the continuous conflict, while being empowered in their environment. Moving from only family-focused, parent-centered, or psychopathology of the child perspectives, to child-centered services based on a trauma focused empowerment perspective will give these children the beneficial treatment they need and deserve.
Berry, Ashley, "Children and high conflict divorce: Using equine-assisted psychotherapy as treatment" (2022). DSW Capstone Projects. 17.
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