Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Education, Counseling

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

R. Rocco Cottone, PhD


Susan Kashubeck-West, PhD

Mary Lee Nelson, PhD

Laura Rauscher, PhD


Equine-assisted psychotherapy is a unique field in which interdisciplinary teams of practitioners provide mental health services to clients. These teams are comprised of at least two practitioners, one licensed mental health specialist and one certified equine specialist. While ethics and ethical decision-making are significant issues in the mental health industry, there exists a significant gap in the literature pertaining to the ethical decision-making processes of interdisciplinary teams of equine-assisted psychotherapy practitioners. This dissertation aimed to address the gap through the development of an understanding of how teams of equine-assisted psychotherapy practitioners engage in ethical decision making. Further, the researcher sought to identify whether an existing decision-making model could be useful for teams of equine-assisted psychotherapy practitioners. This qualitative study utilized Modified Grounded Theory techniques to analyze the experiences of fifteen (15) participant teams of equine-assisted psychotherapy practitioners. Each participant team analyzed a hypothetical scenario containing numerous ethical issues and then participated in a semi-structured interview with the researcher. The findings of this study yielded five categories of ethical decision-making processes and numerous sub-categories. In addition, the findings provided a basis for a proposed ethical decision-making model geared toward the equine-assisted psychotherapy industry. This dissertation presents the findings and limitations of this study, along with opportunities for further research. It presents the implications for equine-assisted psychotherapy practitioners and the mental health industry.

Included in

Counseling Commons