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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
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
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-39581DOI: 10.1007/s10560-015-0376-6OAI: diva2:784619
Available from: 2015-01-30 Created: 2015-01-30 Last updated: 2016-04-27Bibliographically approved

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