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A qualitative study of animal assisted therapy with male probationers mandated to outpatient substance abuse group treatment

By Elena Noella Gomez

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The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of animal assisted therapy (AAT) on the process of therapeutic change with an adult male probationer substance abuse population in group therapy. Research has indicated that AAT is a useful intervention across a wide range of demographics. However, there is an apparent lack of research on the benefits for male probationers. Six volunteer participants were recruited from the HealthRight360 AB109 AAT therapy group and were interviewed at length. The research participants were all male probationers, between the ages of 45 and 68, currently receiving treatment for substance abuse related misdemeanors at HealthRight360 outpatient treatment facility in San Francisco, California. The Human Animal Continuity Scale (Templer, 2006) was administered at the time of the interview to account for participants' attitudes and beliefs towards animals. Moustakas' (1994) modification of Van Kaam's method of analysis of phenomenological data was used to analyze each participants transcribed interview responses. The goal of this study was to explore the impact of using a trained therapy dog on the therapeutic process of change and growth as perceived by the participants. To this end, the study explored the participants' response to animal assisted therapy with special emphasis on the experienced change in emotional states and the community building process. The results from this study indicate that AAT for substance-abusing probationers in a mandated group setting is an effective treatment modality and best practice guidelines for clinicians in this applied setting are given. AAT was found to improve individual and group mood, the quality of group participation, personalized sharing, and increase the spontaneous emergence of memories regarding childhood and animal caretaking. The therapy dogs were found to model positive behaviors and create a lighter group atmosphere. Participants reported feeling trust toward the dogs and an increased desire for pet ownership. AAT was also found to connect participants to various self-states such as child, caretaker, or parent. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

ISBN/ISSN 0419-4217978-1339109527
Publisher ProQuest Information & Learning
Notes Accession Number: 2016-37853-047. Other Journal Title: Dissertation Abstracts International. Partial author list: First Author & Affiliation: Gomez, Elena Noella; California Institute of Integral Studies, Clinical Psychology, CA, US. Release Date: 20161017. Publication Type: Dissertation Abstract (0400). Format Covered: Electronic. Document Type: Dissertation. Dissertation Number: AAI3726280. ISBN: 978-1339109527. Language: English. Major Descriptor: Animal Assisted Therapy; Drug Abuse; Male Criminals; Outpatients. Classification: Health & Mental Health Treatment & Prevention (3300); General Psychology (2100). Population: Human (10); Male (30); Outpatient (60). Location: US. Age Group: Adulthood (18 yrs & older) (300). Methodology: Empirical Study; Interview; Qualitative Study.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Criminals
  3. Drugs
  4. Outpatient Treatment
  5. probation