Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Jessica Toft, Ph.D., LISW


Social Work


There were roughly 5,061 reports of MST since the Department of Defense’s (DOD) fiscal year of 2012. The DOD believes that MST is vastly under reported and estimates that less than 20% of sexual assaults have been reported over the past seven years. The research question for this systematic literature review was: In what ways does equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) address military sexual trauma (MST) among female veterans? Levels of publication utilized in this systematic review included peer-reviewed articles, gray literature, and dissertations. Types of studies included in this systematic review include empirically supported studies and qualitative and quantitative studies. The key search terms included: military, sexual trauma, sexual assault, rape, veterans, women, equine-facilitated therapy, equine-assisted therapy, equine, horse, holistic, therapy, animal, animal assisted therapy, equine-assisted learning, equine-facilitated learning, animal-assisted interventions, MST, mind-body, trauma-informed, complementary therapy, and integrative therapy. Primary findings included: EFP decreased PTSD symptomology through mindfulness, EFP improved relational functioning, EFP led to mind-body reintegration, EFP improved the therapeutic encounter, and EFP led to recovery and empowerment. The systematic review illuminated that equine-facilitated psychotherapy is a non-traditional form of therapy that may be appealing, and relevant, to female veteran survivors of MST who may otherwise not be amenable to traditional talk therapy. Equines are arguably more effective than other animals when it comes to therapeutic interventions with female survivors of MST. Mounted work could be considered one of the most powerful, movement-based therapies for sexual trauma due to the unique circumstances of riding.

Included in

Social Work Commons