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Will Volunteering Improve Your Mental State?

volunteering with horsesChartered Psychologist Ruth Lowry explains the benefits of volunteering as, “a form of pro-social behavior that involves commitment given over an extended  period of time”.

Further research carried out in 1999 by Clary and Snyder suggested that there are six reasons why individuals volunteer:

  1. to express personal values (humanitarianism)
  2. to understand and learn more about the phenomenon or issue
  3. to enhance one’s self-development and personal growth
  4. to gain career-related experience
  5. to strengthen social relationships (community)
  6. to address personal problems or circumstances such as guilt or escape.


Ruth Lowry, a member of the Society’s Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology explains that, “if volunteers can see the personal benefits, they are more likely to continue volunteering in the longer term.”

According to Help Guide, a nonprofit resource, the number one benefit of volunteering is that it connects you to others, which Sherry Turkle, the author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, argues is retreating fast in a society increasingly overwhelmed by social media. Turkle continues to say that we are drawn by the illusion of companionship without the demands of intimacy, we confuse postings and online sharing with authentic communication, therefore sacrificing conversation for mere connection.

Connection is a concept that I have discussed more than once in equine therapy, and has long been promoted as a promulgated as a primary reason to suggest equine therapy as a therapeutic modality — especially for those who have trouble connecting with people.

Turkle would of course argue that trouble connecting with people describes the majority of our society today.

So when we discuss equine therapy and volunteering, both of which facilitate a feeling of connection, the result is something quite powerful.

This is also why so many equine therapy programs combine the two. Participants are encouraged to care for abandoned, neglected and mistreated horses, thereby giving back to the animals, and also finding profound therapeutic benefits themselves. This is also what Susan Richards, author of the very popular book, Chosen By A Horse, described in her powerful memoir.

It was when Richards, and we, volunteer to take on the care of a neglected horse that we actually find our own spiritual rescue.



Richards, Susan. Chosen By A Horse. New York, Soho Press, 2006. Print

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other. New York, Basic Books, 2012. Print.

Grooming a horse photo available from Shutterstock

Will Volunteering Improve Your Mental State?

Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT

Claire Dorotik-Nana LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in post-traumatic growth, leveraging adversity, and other epic human achievements. Claire has written multiple continuing education courses for Professional Development Resources, Zur Institute, and International Sport Science Association. Claire has also authored multiple books, including:
Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards and On The Back Of A Horse: Harnessing The Healing Power Of The Human-Equine Bond. For more information about Leveraging Adversity or Claire, visit

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APA Reference
Dorotik-Nana, C. (2013). Will Volunteering Improve Your Mental State?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Jan 2013
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