Canine Assisted Therapy

Canine Assisted Therapy or ironically CAT for short is growing in popularity and acceptance. This is a branch of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) that aims to include highly trained animals within the therapeutic context. CAT is currently still be researched and a paper recently released by Draysnik, Signal & Canoy (2018) indicates that it would be readily accepted by parents as part of a therapeutic intervention in working with children. Children who have experienced trauma have an increased risk of developing PTSD later in life. The current gold standard of assisting children who are experiencing difficulties following trauma is Trauma Focused – Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (TF-CBT). Draysnik, Signal & Canoy (2018) were exploring the acceptance of CAT within the PTSD child population due to a meta-analysis conducted by Hoagwood, Acri, Morrissey, and Peth‐Pierce (2017) which found promising results for CAT and childhood PTSD.

More research needs to be conducted within all forms of AAT to gain further understanding as to it’s mechanics and function. A literature review by Draysnik, Signal & Canoy (2018) stated that;

Extant research on the positive effects of canine‐human interactions (including the production of oxytocin, often referred to as the relational hormone, Beetz, Uvnas‐Moberg, Julius, & Kotrschal, 2012) strongly support the potential for CAT to facilitate the goals of TF‐CBT. Younger children in particular seem to have an innate attraction to canines, which may result from the predictability and simplicity that is characteristic of the behaviour of both (Zilcha‐Mano, Mikulincer, & Shaver, 2011). Just like dogs that derive affection from touch through petting, very young children experience similar affection from their caregivers by way of gentle touch and physical comfort (Levinson, 1984). Therefore, it is suggested that the inherent value of CAT is its potential to help younger children form a commitment to therapy through forming a comforting attachment to the therapy animal (Levinson, 1984).

Although more research is needed in to how best use animals within the therapeutic setting, it is already clear that there is benefits. I look forward to this area of research and hope to incorporate dogs, horses and even dolphins into future interventions.

 

Reference

Beetz, A., Uvnas‐Moberg, K., Julius, H., & Kotrschal, K. (2012). Psychosocial and psychophysiological effects of human‐animal interactions: The possible role of oxytocin. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00234

Dravsnik, J., Signal, T., Canoy, D. (2018) Canine co‐therapy: The potential of dogs to improve the acceptability of trauma‐focused therapies for children, Australian Journal of Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1111/ajpy.12199

Hoagwood, K. E., Acri, M., Morrissey, M., & Peth‐Pierce, R. (2017). Animal‐assisted therapies for youth with or at risk for mental health problems: A systematic review. Applied Developmental Science21(1), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2015.1134267

Levinson, B. M. (1984). Human/companion animal therapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy14(2), 131–144. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00946311

Zilcha‐Mano, S., Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2011). Pet in the therapy room: An attachment perspective on animal‐assisted therapy. Attachment and Human Development13(6), 541–561. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616734.2011.608987