Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 187–196 | Cite as

Application of Attachment Theory to Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy

  • Keren Bachi
Original Paper


Equine-facilitated psychotherapy (EFP) is a form of animal-assisted therapy used to treat human psychological problems that employs horses in and around the natural surroundings of the stables. Despite the increasing number of professionals and organizations that offer this innovative therapy, EFP lacks a firm theoretical and research base. This paper aims to reveal how attachment theory can inform and enrich theory and practice of EFP. It explores the fit between central features of EFP and several of the primary concepts of attachment-based psychotherapy, such as: secure base and haven of safety through the provision of a holding environment, affect mirroring, mentalizing and reflective functioning, and non-verbal communication and body experience. This work is composed of definitions of these concepts, their application to human–horse context and EFP, and interpretation in light of potential therapeutic (transformative) processes.


Attachment theory Equine-facilitated psychotherapy Attachment-based psychotherapy Animal-assisted therapy Human–horse relations 



The author thanks Uri Shusterman; Howard Steele, Professor of Psychology and Director of Graduate Studies at the New School for Social Research; The faculty of the PhD Program in Social Welfare, The Graduate Center of CUNY and Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College; Lauren Blankstein; and the journal’s reviewers for their contributions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PhD Program in Social WelfareThe Graduate Center of CUNY and Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter CollegeNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.New YorkUSA

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