Animal-assisted psychotherapy

What is animal-assisted psychotherapy?

Animal-assisted psychotherapy is a goal-directed intervention involving an animal as part of the treatment process. It is usually delivered by a health service professional with specialised expertise and is designed to improve mental and physical health. Studies have shown that being around animals can decrease blood pressure, physiological arousal, and cardiopulmonary pressure. It may also improve trauma symptoms.

What is the evidence for animal-assisted psychotherapy?

Moderate to low quality evidence found a large improvement in PTSD, depression, and anxiety symptoms with animal-assisted therapy (pre-post analysis, mostly utilising group sessions with horses). The effect was medium-sized when compared to control conditions. The following factors were associated with largest effects; studies conducted in Australia (rather than the US or Spain), the intervention provider was someone other than a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist, interventions with additional in-clinic individual therapy, studies with more women, group interventions, and interventions delivered outside.

August 2021

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Last updated at: 2:42 am, 29th July 2021
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