The use of animal-assisted interventions (aaIs) to achieve psychological benefits has expanded rapidly over the last few years. However, this is a vastly under-researched area, and the research to date has been largely descriptive, in the form of case studies, or has used only small groups of participants with no control condition. Remarkably few studies have utilized gold standard randomized controlled designs. The aim of the present review was to examine the current state of the literature in regard to only randomized controlled trials (RCts) examining the psychosocial benefits of aaIs, which is a necessary step in order to move the field forward. A search of relevant databases was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and meta-analyses (PRISma) guidelines. A total of 66,180 articles were identified at the outset; this was reduced to eight articles (involving 7 studies), following the removal of duplicates (39,377), unrelated titles (26,525), and those that did not meet inclusion criteria (270). Findings from the present review suggest that aaIs may be of benefit to a wide range of individuals, including children with autism, and adults with psychological disorders, including schizophrenia. However, further research using well-designed RCts is required to more definitively explore what specific types of aaI are beneficial for specific populations. Recommendations for future research are provided.
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