by Jaclyn S. Manzione, MS, NLC, EGCM®, ESMHL

by G Thomas Manzione, PhD, LPC, ACC, ESMHL

TBAH Science Team

Introduction: The Equine Gestalt Coaching Method® (EGCM®) was developed by Melisa Pearce in 1989. The experiential nature of the EGCM® involves the horse as an active partner with the coach in the client’s exploratory journey. The integrative approach of the equine-coach partnership and Gestalt methodology facilitates the client’s healing process. This research project was designed to demonstrate the EGCM® to be trauma informed.

Significance: This twelve-month research study (2019-2020) examined the EGCM® to determine if this modality contains the requisite elements of a trauma informed practice. The Five Guiding Principles of trauma informed care are safety, choice, collaboration, trustworthiness and empowerment (University of Buffalo). This study verified the presence of these five guiding principles in the EGCM®.

Purpose: This research effort demonstrated that the EGCM® practitioner anticipates, and responds to, potential triggers that may be perceived or experienced as re-traumatizing in a trauma informed way. And that they are able to, via the EGCM®, identify new ways, to engage the client in this particularly challenging element of treatment, that avoid distress or mirror the common characteristics of traumatic experiences.

Setting and Participants: Data were collected at the conclusion of each EGCM® session by three EGCM® certified coaching practitioners, all who serve differing populations, using a Likert Item survey that represents each client’s scaled responses to five questions. Client participation was voluntary and responses were collected anonymously. The demographics of the populations studied included homeless youth in crisis, adults, families, professionals in the criminal justice system and business professionals. Sixty-eight surveys (N=68) were analyzed in this study to validate the EGCM® as a trauma informed method.

Capstone Description/Process: A frequency analysis of the sample data identified the statistical Mode (most repeated response) for each Likert Item question on the survey. Data from each individual population surveyed were analyzed separately then combined and subjected to a summary analysis. The results of the final summary analysis were reported via descriptive statistics. 

The Likert Item survey questions were as follows:

  1. “I felt physically and emotionally safe during today’s Equine Gestalt Coaching Method® session” N=68 Mode=61 (Strongly Agree)
  2. “I was given choices relating to all aspects of my participation during today’s Equine Gestalt Coaching Method® session” N=68 Mode=61 (Strongly Agree)
  3. “I felt like a partnership existed between myself, the Equine Gestalt Coach and the horse during today’s Equine Gestalt Coaching Method® session.” N=68 Mode=56 (Strongly Agree)
  4. “I trusted the Equine Gestalt Coach during today’s Equine Gestalt Coaching Method® session.” N=68 Mode=63 (Strongly Agree)
  5. “I felt like my individual strengths and experiences were recognized and built upon by the Equine Gestalt Coach during today’s Equine Gestalt Coaching Method® session.”

N=68 Mode=57 (Strongly Agree)

Capstone Results/Impact: On the basis of data analysis and findings, the study reached the following conclusions:

  • The findings of this study infer that the EGC Method® is the embodiment of the guiding principles of trauma informed care.
  • The findings of this study also infer that partnering with horses, an integral part of the EGCM®, does contribute to the well-being and emotional health of the clients.
  • EGCM® Practitioners provide clients with alternative ways of engaging in a particularly problematic element of trauma treatment i.e., avoiding re-traumatizing.

Capstone Evaluation: The capstone project was evaluated in comparison to the current industry standard for science-based research. The Likert Item Survey instrument was vetted and is known for its validity, reliability, consistency and accuracy. Descriptive statistics represent the empirical outcomes of this study and are central to research.

Future Directions: Future endeavors in EGCM® research may include identifying ways to enhance the effectiveness of the EGCM® among particular populations (e.g., military), keeping individuals engaged in treatment (i.e., reducing dropout), and determining individual factors predicting response/nonresponse.     

Acknowledgments: We would like to acknowledge Melisa Pearce, founder of the EGCM® who commissioned this study. And, we thankfully acknowledge the following EGCM® Certified practitioners who contributed the data for this study:  Andrea Hall, Jaclyn S. Manzione and Brenda Westwood.     


Pearce, M. (2019). What the Heck is Gestalt? Elizabeth, CO: Touched by Horse, Inc


Roy, A. (2020). A Comprehensive Guide for Design, Collection, Analysis and Presentation of Likert and other Rating Scale Data. Independently Published


University at Buffalo. The Five Principles of Trauma-informed care.