The Truth About Animal-Assisted Therapy

Having shared both the challenges as well as additional resources relative to the current-state of Animal-Assisted Therapy research in the post Animal Therapy Research Findings  …

and as we continue to learn together …

… be sure to read The Truth About Animal-Assisted Therapy by Brandi-Ann Uyemura 160825 Uyevia PsychCentral for additional Animal-Assisted research information and together let’s become more informed and ensure the human-animal connection truly benefits both we humans and these special animals.



Two highlights from the Uyemura piece:

Here are four more facts you might not know about animal-assisted therapy:

1. They are not dependent on a specific theory. Animal-assisted therapy encompasses all types of psychology theories from psychoanalytic to behavioral. Amy McCullough, who is the American Humane Association’s National Animal-Assisted Therapy Director, explains that animal-assisted therapy is “utilizing an animal as an adjunct to a therapeutic process” regardless of theory. In general, AAT “becomes another tool in their tool kit for the type of therapy they practice.”

2. They are not service animals. Although often confused with service animals, there are significant differences between them. Service animals, for example, are protected by the American Disabilities Act, live with owners who have physical and emotional disabilities and assist them solely with daily living. In contrast, therapy animals work with professionals and clients.

3. They don’t just include dogs and horses. While you will most likely hear about dogs and horses, therapy animals run the gamut from llamas to dolphins.

4. They help individuals with a wide variety of causes and settings. Therapy animals assist therapists in helping clients with a multitude of goals such as improving self-esteem and developing social skills, as well as providing help for anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They also work in a wide variety of clinical settings from psychiatric hospitals to nursing homes.


But though the research may be sparse, Chandler says the research is out there and has been increasing since 2002. She cites one study, for example, that showed a significant drop in stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and aldosterone and an increase in “health inducing and social inducing” hormones such as oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins after 20 minutes with a therapy dog. Working with a therapy animal has also resulted in behavioral improvement in children and a reduction in depression for elderly with dementia.

160825 PsychCentral

With integrity, humility, courage and a servant leadership heart let’s avoid the healthcare research challenges John Ioannides, MD, Stanford Medicine, has highlighted so well and together let’s build a system which truly benefits all.


160627 Gabriel



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