Animal therapy can ease college stress

Posted on October 24, 2014

Results from a new study show a 60 percent decrease in self-reported anxiety and loneliness symptoms among college students following animal-assisted therapy.

For the study, researchers provided animal-assisted therapy to 55 students in a group setting at a small arts college in the Southeast. The therapy included use of a registered therapy dog under the supervision of a licensed mental health practitioner.

The group sessions were held twice monthly during an academic quarter. Students were invited to stop by and interact with the therapy dog as long as they wished, up to two hours. They were allowed to pet, hug, feed, brush, draw, photograph, sit near, and play fetch with the therapy dog.

Eighty-four percent of the participants reported their interaction with the therapy dog, Sophie, was the most significant part of the program.

Dogs can be ideal therapy animals because they are thoroughly domesticated. They also seem to be able to read emotional cues. For instance, a dog can tell when a human is sad. The presence of a therapy dog facilitates a therapeutic connection between the client and the mental health professional.

Researchers note that budget limitations have made it necessary for college counseling centers to find creative ways to meet the needs of their students. This study suggests animal-assisted therapy could be an effective way for these centers to meet the growing demands of their students.

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Source material from Psych Central

Mental Health News