Poster A15, Saturday, March 25, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Pacific Concourse
Ponies proliferate positive affect: The effectiveness of equine therapy on positive affect in adolescents with serious emotional disturbances
Hanna Roberts1, Nikki Honzel1; 1Carroll College
Adolescence is an important neurological developmental period that remains sensitive to harmful events such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Specifically, trauma can decrease orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) gray matter and abate emotional affect regulation (Thomaes et al., 2010). Previous studies have correlated positive (PA) and negative affect (NA) to prefrontal cortex volume (Davidson, 2004; Thomaes et al., 2010). The current study compared the effectiveness of equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) and traditional group therapy (TGT) on measurements of PA and NA in adolescents with serious emotional disturbances (SED) and high PTSD comorbidity rates. Participants (N=37) consisted of adolescents admitted in therapeutic youth group home treatment participated in EFP and TGT sessions once a week over an eight week period in addition to normative treatment. The Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) questionnaire was administered immediately before and after EFP and TGT sessions. Statistical analyses revealed that EFP was just as effective as TGT in increasing PA and decreasing NA. More importantly, participants had significantly higher PA before and after EFP compared to TGT. Even though PA scores improved in both therapies, participants arrived to and left EFP with significantly higher PA scores than TGT. Previous studies have found that PA is implicated in prefrontal areas such as the OFC (Davidson, 2004). In conclusion, PTSD populations could greatly benefit from EFP by significantly ameliorating PA which is chronically decreased due to neurological affect dysregulation. Results from this study suggest that EFP may improve OFC functioning and overall affect regulation.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Development & aging