Examining the effects of animal assisted interventions on therapeutic alliance and anxiety

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Amanda Joanne Thomas (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site: http://library.wcu.edu/
Nathan Roth

Abstract: Beginning in the early 1900s, dogs were incorporated in psychiatric settings, and expanded throughout all healthcare settings by the turn of the 21st century (Chandler, 2012; Miller, 2004). As animal therapy and animal assisted interventions gained attention throughout media, it also gained attention throughout practice and research. The research covers many domains and applications. Previous research has found that the presence of animals has been associated with increases of social behavior and communication among various populations and environments, decreases in self-report anxiety and physiological measures of anxiety such as heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels, and increases regarding patient-client attitudes toward therapists (Leung & Fung, 2014; Schneider & Harley, 2006; Schuck, Emmerson, Fine, & Lakes, 2015; Soban, 2008). As intriguing as the research may be, and while the overwhelming majority of the research produces positive results, the research is not without limitations and criticisms. There are many research deficiencies among animal assisted therapy and animal assisted interventions research including insufficient and homogeneous sample sizes, a lack of standardized procedures allowing for replication, a lack of a non-treatment control group, and an overwhelming reliance on self-report measures while lacking objective measures (Herzog, 2014). This study investigated the effects of the presence of a therapy dog on anxiety and therapeutic alliance and this study addressed the limitations expressed in previous research by utilizing a large, generalizable sample, a controlled study with standardized measures for replicability, and the findings are based on objective measures in addition to self-report measures. Inter-rater reliability was addressed by training all researchers for consistency and personality was evaluated as a possible covariate influencing the results. Due to this study maintaining a large focus on anxiety, mindfulness was incorporated as an intervention to address anxiety. Because there is a lack of research regarding incorporating therapy dogs with mindfulness, the presence of a therapy dog’s influence on the effects of mindfulness on anxiety was examined.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
Animal Assisted Interventions, Animal Assisted Therapy, Anxiety, Mindfulness, Therapeutic Rapport
Therapeutic alliance
Anxiety -- Treatment
Psychiatric service dogs
Emotional support animals
Animals -- Therapeutic use
Human-animal relationships -- Psychological aspects

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