Social Work and Animal-Assisted Intervention

Powerful Essays
Social Work and Animal-Assisted Intervention
Christy Taylor
University of Central Florida

Introduction The animal and human bond has existed for more than 12,000 years (Morrison, 2007). In the United States, 62% of the population report having a companion animal (Risley-Cutiss, 2010). Research suggests that companion animals provide adults and children with a feeling of security and unconditional love (Risley-Curtiss, 2010). Families have a close relationship with the animal companion and he or she is considered part of the family. The pet is part of the dynamics of the family system. Pet ownership, or being in the presence of an animal, has shown many health benefits, including mental, social, physiological improvements (The Human-Companion Animal Bond, 2009). Research findings show the importance of incorporating animals in social work research, education, and practice (Risley-Curtiss, 2010).
History
The York Retreat in England was the first institution to incorporate pet intervention. The psychiatric institution was founded in 1792 and encouraged clients to interact with rabbits and poultry (Netting, Wilson, & New, 1987). Pet therapy was not recognized in the United States until 1940. As veterans recovered from war, therapists encouraged clients to work with animals on the farm and in the forest (Netting et al., 1987). The intervention began to gain popularity in the 1960’s after Dr. Boris Levinson, a child psychotherapist, discovered the value of using a dog in therapy sessions with an autistic child (Colombo, Buono, Smania, Raviola, & Leo, 2005). Levinson published his findings and recommended research projects to further explore animal assisted therapy. His research suggested the animal receive special training while working in psychotherapeutic work (Netting et al., 1987). The therapist’s discovery caught the attention of researchers and social workers. Further studies were conducted in the



References: Banks, M. (1998). The effects of animal-assisted activity on loneliness in an elderly population in long term care facilities. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Barker, S.B., Knisely, J. S., McCain, N. L.,Schubert, C.M., & Pandurangi, A.K. (2010). Exploratory study of stress-buffering response patterns from interaction with a therapy dog. Anthrozoos, 23(1), 79-91. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Ethotest: A new model to identify (shelter) dogs’ skills as service animals or adoptable pets. (2005). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 95(1-2), 103-122. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Headey, B. (1999). Health benefits and health cost savings due to pets: Preliminary estimates from an Australian national survey. Social Indicators Research, 47(2), 233-243. doi:10.1023/A:1006892908532 Headey, B., & Grabka, M Horowitz, S. (2010). Animal-assisted therapy for inpatients: tapping the unique healing power of the human-animal bond. Alternative & Complementary Therapies, 16(6), 339-343. doi:10.1089/act.2010.16603 Johnson, R., Meadows, R., Haubner, J., Sevedge, K Katsinas, R. (2000). The use and implications of a canine companion in a therapeutic day program for nursing home residents with dementia. Activities, Adaptation & Aging, 25(1), 13-30. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Kawamura, N., Niiyama, M., & Niiyama, H. (2009). Animal-assisted activity: experiences of institutionalized Japanese older adults. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 47(1), 41-47. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Morrison, M. L. (2007). Health Benefits of Animal-Assisted Interventions. Complementary Health Practice Review, 12(1), 51-62. doi:10.1177/1533210107302397 Netting, F., Wilson, C Risley-Curtiss, C. (2010). Social work practitioners and the human-companion animal bond: A national study. Social Work, 55(1), 38-46. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Tedeschi, P., Fitchett, J., & Molidor, C. E. (2005). The Incorporation of Animal-Assisted Interventions in Social Work Education. Journal of Family Social Work, 9(4), 59-77. doi:10.1300/J039v09n0405 The Human-Companion Animal Bond: How Humans Benefit Walsh, F. (2009). Human-animal bonds II: the role of pets in the family systems and family therapy. Family Process, 48(4), 481-499. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2009.01297.x Wirth, K

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