Alison M. Roy, PsyD, is a 2012 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University New England.

Dissertation Committee

  • George Tremblay, PhD (Committee Chair)
  • Elaine Campbell, PsyD (Committee Member)
  • Jim Graves, PhD (Committee Member)


equine-assisted, animal-assisted, children, self-concept, school

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The unique and meaningful relationship that can develop between humans and horses has been well documented for centuries. More recently a hypothesis has emerged that humans can improve self-concept and social competence from having a horse in their lives. To date, few studies have empirically explored this hypothesis. The hypothesized social and emotional benefits of interacting with horses have inspired Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT) programs which utilize horses in goal-directed treatment. EAT programs have been shown to be especially effective for socially and emotionally disadvantaged children and youth. In the current project, the author created an EAT program for the socially and emotionally disadvantaged population at a unique residential school in Pennsylvania. The school houses grade Pre-K through 12 with students from across the country. The EAT program is modeled after The Green Chimney’s Residential Farm School, the Elk Grove Unified School District’s Project Riding Instruction Designed for Education (RIDE), and the Sierra Tucson Integrated Riding Resource Program (STIRRUP). Through specific and carefully designed lessons and hands on experiences the EAT program aims to produce some specific outcomes in the areas of the participants’ self-concept and their perception of the social support they receive from their environment. Students are gradually introduced to their horse for the eight week program. They are tasked with learning how to care for, feed, water, groom and exercise their horse while gradually increasing their mastery over caring for another being and riding. Participants learn about the horse social world and, with the aide of the EAT therapist, gradually generalize what they have learned to their own social world. This is done while the therapist, horse, and participant engage in a therapeutic process about forming a relationship and bond grounded in trust. Also included as a part of this project is a template for program evaluation, should the program be implemented by the school. The evaluation template utilizes a pre and post analysis of the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC) and the Social Support Scale for Children (SSSC) designed to assess changes in participants’ self-concept and their perception of the support they receive from their social environment.