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Mentalizing and Emotional Labor Facilitate Equine-Assisted Social Work with Self-harming Adolescents
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1134-1535
Mittuniversitetet.
University of Oslo, Norway.
2015 (English)In: Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, ISSN 0738-0151, E-ISSN 1573-2797, Vol. 32, no 4, 329-339 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article explores equine-assisted social work (EASW). Horses’ capacities to mirror human emotions create possibilities for authentic relationships between clients and staff. This study examines what eases or counteracts the horse’s capacity to facilitate relationships perceived by humans to be authentic. Video recordings of the human-horse interactions of three staff members and four female self-harming clients aged 15–21 years in a residential treatment facility were analyzed. The findings show that if the staff gave instructions and advice similar to traditional equestrian sports in combination with viewing the horse as an object, EASW is not facilitated. EASW seems to be facilitated when the horse is perceived as a subject by both staff and clients, provided that the staff gave meaning to the horse’s behavior. The staff needed to highlight empathy for the horse when the horse is not able to fulfill its task without adding depth to the client’s performance, to avoid raising defense mechanisms. The essence of EASW were perceived as eased by staff members when they focus on the client’s emotions and help the client understand that the horse is acting in response to the client’s and the staff’s behavior through mentalizing and enacting emotional labor in regarding the horse as a subject. The results indicate the need for higher demands on staff members in order to facilitate EASW. Depending on whether the staff and the clients focus on performance or on emotions, different positive or negative outcomes on communication, self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-image will be likely to emerge.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 32, no 4, 329-339 p.
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Sciences, Social Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-39581DOI: 10.1007/s10560-015-0376-6Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84934442966OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-39581DiVA: diva2:784619
Available from: 2015-01-30 Created: 2015-01-30 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Hästunderstött socialt arbete - ett samtalsrum med potentiella möjligheter för ungdomar med självskadebeteenden och deras personal
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Hästunderstött socialt arbete - ett samtalsrum med potentiella möjligheter för ungdomar med självskadebeteenden och deras personal
2017 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The thesis examines, through qualitative methods, the role of the horse in equine-assisted social work (EASW) as well as what facilitates or constrains the role of the horse. Specifically, should interaction be understood in the same manner regardless of which individuals that participate? The thesis is based on empirical data collected throughinterviews with eight staff members and nine female self-harming clients, aged 15–21 years, in a residential treatment facility. In addition, video recordings of the human-horse interaction of three staff members and four clients were analyzed, resulting in the additional issues addressed in a second interview. Critical dialogues between patterns and fragmentations in the narratives and video-recordings, as well as a dialogue with participants, while they were viewing videos of their own EASW sessions, led to the conclusion that adding a horse could qualitatively change therapeutic relationships. 

The results are presented in four articles that provide an image of the complexity of EASW. The summary chapters focus on a synthesized analysis, based on Goffman’sdramaturgical perspective and Hochschild’s emotional rules in which the concepts were applied: backstage, frontstage, impression management, stigma, emotional management, deep acting and surface acting. The analysis demonstrated that defense mechanisms are reduced when the horse is perceived as non-judgmental and therefore less intimidating. Furthermore, the analysis suggests that it is crucial that the horse is regarded as a subject, a transitional object, which can silence the inner critic and create a ‘moment of silence’ that contradicts stigmas and enablesadolescents to regulate their emotions. This leads to possibilities to be more authentic and the relationship between staff and adolescents to be perceived as more authentic. 

In summary, the work presented in this thesis contributes to increased knowledge about the role of the horse in opposing impression management and surface acting, depending on the high demands on staff to reach outcomes regarding communication, self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-image. The different triads consist of different liaisons, giving rise to unique combinations and the potential to avoid emotional dissonance. The quality of the relationships seems to depend on staff and clients’ attachment orientations. 

Keywords: Authentic, Emotional work, Equine-assisted social work, Impression management, Moment of silence, Self-harming adolescents, Stigmatization

 

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Växjö: Linnaeus University Press, 2017. 127 p.
Series
Linnaeus University Dissertations, 283/2017
Keyword
Authentic, Emotional work, Equine-assisted social work, Impression management, Moment of silence, Self-harming adolescents, Stigmatization
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Sciences, Social Work
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-63873 (URN)978-91-88357-70-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-05-31, V159, Stagneliusgatan 14, Kalmar, 10:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-05-19 Created: 2017-05-17 Last updated: 2017-08-16Bibliographically approved

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