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Animal-Assisted Interventions Dissertation Study

  1. Ariann Robino

    “Animals stimulate us not only by touch, but by some deeply buried aspect of nature within us, a connection to part of something greater, more healthy, more whole.” - Peter Levine

    Hello! My name is Ariann Robino. I am a doctoral candidate in the Counselor Education and Supervision program at Virginia Tech. I would like to extend an exciting research opportunity to mental health practitioners who incorporate animal-assisted interventions into their clinical practice. I am collecting data for my dissertation on the attachment and bonding processes that occur in the tripartite relationship within an animal-assisted intervention in counseling. Please consider sharing this invitation with mental health practitioners you know who integrate animals into session.

    The purpose of this study is to understand how attachment to a therapy animal impacts the bond between a mental health practitioner and client. These complex relational experiences require greater exploration as the field of animal-assisted interventions in counseling continues to grow.

    You are an eligible participant if you:

    • identify as a licensed or license-eligible practitioner from a mental health discipline (i.e., counseling, social work, psychology, marriage and family therapy)
    • incorporate an animal into therapeutic interventions

    If you meet this criteria, I invite you to participate in this research. The study involves completion of an online survey via Qualtrics. This process will take approximately 5-10 minutes to complete.

    No identifying information will be requested. At the end of the survey, you will have an opportunity to vote or suggest an animal-related organization to which I will make a donation based on the number of participants in the study.

    Participation in the survey is voluntary and participants may drop out at any time. While there is no direct benefit, this will help advance and inform the counseling field, particularly the field of animal-assisted interventions in counseling.

    I have obtained Institutional Review Board exemption through Virginia Tech and the Western Institutional Review Board.

    If you are willing to participate, please follow this link or copy and paste it into your browser:

    If you have questions about this study, you may contact Ariann Robino at or my dissertation chair, Dr. Laura Welfare, at

    Thank you for your consideration and for the work you do!

  2. Zaid Ahmad

    Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulties with social communication and prosocial behaviors. Due to a lack of social communication and social interaction skills among children with ASD, special education teachers are tasked with providing meaningful social opportunities to them to facilitate their learning of these skills. Special education literature lacks research studies about how dog-based animalassisted interventions (AAI) can improve social communication outcomes for children in a school setting. The purpose of this qualitative exploratory case study, guided by Bowlby’s theory of attachment and the human-animal bond concept, was to explore, describe, and improve the understanding of how elementary teachers use dog-based AAI programs in their classrooms to facilitate social communication skill development for students with ASD. Data were collected through individual interviews of 10 elementary teachers and child-study team members who used AAI programs within their buildings. Data were openly coded using thematic analysis. Key findings of the study revealed that a therapy dog could act as a stimulus for social interactions as well as facilitate students’ social interaction participation. The results also indicated the importance of the teacher’s role in implementing AAI programs that target social communication skills. This study may contribute to the field of special education practice by promoting the implementation of more AAI programs in educational settings, not just for students with ASD, but also potentially for the whole school community


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