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Dissertation Title:

Embodied Agency: Lived Experiences in Equine-Assisted Counseling


Fabienne L. E. Abt

Date, Time & Place:

January 15, 2021 at


Adopting a phenomenological approach within an ecopsychological setting, this study delved into participants’ experiences of agency in equine-assisted counseling (EAC). Audiovisually recorded experiences and testimonies of 27 participants were examined. The findings confirm that agency is embodied: All agentic processes, including deliberate choosing and acting, encompass somatic responses or bodily wisdom. Moreover, this research has made possible the articulation of a concise, evidence-based reconceptualization of agency: Agency is the progressive and dynamic capacity and process of advancing the embodied well-being of self and others. The findings of this embodied inquiry expose current Euro-American definitions of agency as harmful and false. They demonstrate how its historically determined hidden agenda of domination, violence, and coercion may unconsciously permeate the study participants’ embodiment. Furthermore, the exploration of participants’ experiences of agency recovery and cultivation in EAC has produced a map to agentic liberation and deliberation. The transformation of embodiment as well as environments may be agentically (meaning with embodied agency) implemented not only explicitly but also implicitly, in depth psychological terms, through the embodied unconscious. Thus, the findings seek to advance depth psychology as inherently somatic and liberational. The theory of embodied agency informs the need to repair the traditional Euro-American sense of self, power, morality, and leadership to reflect the innate capacity to tend to the embodied well-being of self and others.


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  • Program/Track/Year: Depth Psychology with Specialization in Somatic Studies, Track S, 2012
  • Chair: Dr. Rae Johnson
  • Reader: Dr. Kesha Fikes
  • External Reader: Dr. Valerie Coleman
  • Keywords: