Effect of Animal-Assisted Therapy on the Mental Health of Children and Youth with Trauma

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Lane, Carlisle
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The author examined the impact of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) on children and adolescents who had experienced trauma. Nine of the 10 studies that the author analysed were quantitative, and 1 was a mixed-methods study. The paper includes the findings from a literature review and a methodological analysis. The polyvagal theory of trauma is the framework that shaped the review. This model suggests that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomology is biologically based and somatically experienced. The results of the literature analysis show that experiences of AAT can be grouped into five main themes: biological impacts, psychological impacts, behavioural impacts, social factors, and modality apprehension. The results of the methodological analysis are grouped into three themes: variation in structure, generalisability of the results, and unclear causation. Within these themes, subthemes emerged that led to additional findings. The author discusses all findings in detail, and they are the basis for the recommendations for clinical practice, both within a research setting and in a broader social context. The paper also includes a discussion of the ethical considerations in the reviewed studies and recommendations for future research.
AAT, animal assisted therapy, trauma, children, youth, adolescents, equine assisted therapy, polyvagal theory, eft