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Animal-Assisted Therapy in the Treatment of Substance Dependence

Martin C. Wesley, Neresa B. Minatrea, Joshua C. Watson
Anthrozoös 2009 v.22 no.2 pp. 137-148
adults, alcohol abuse, analysis of variance, animal assisted therapy, attitudes and opinions, evidence-based practice, females, group therapy, males, methamphetamines, pet ownership, professionals, questionnaires, therapy dogs
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) on the therapeutic alliance with an adult, residential, substance abuse population in group therapy. We used randomized samples and controlled conditions to establish the effects of chosen variables that influence outcome. A total of 231 people took part in the study (control group [without therapy dog]: n = 96; experimental group [with therapy dog]: n = 135) in which there were 26 group sessions. The results of the study indicate that, overall, the therapeutic alliance is enhanced with the addition of a therapy dog: the AAT group had a more positive opinion of the therapeutic alliance, as measured using the Helping Alliance Questionnaire (HAQ-II), than the control group (ANOVA: F₍₁,₂₂₉₎ = 25.44, p < 0.001). Clients seeking treatment for a dual diagnosis, clients with state social service involvement, and clients seeking treatment for alcohol addiction had similar opinions of the therapeutic alliance, whether in the experimental group or the control group. Males, females, pet owners, court ordered clients, and clients seeking treatment for polysubstance, cannabis, and methamphetamine dependence all were more positive about the therapeutic alliance if they were in the experimental group than if they were in the control. This study demonstrates that addiction professionals could increase treatment success by adding this complementary, evidence-based practice.