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Understanding the Value of Dog Facilitated Psychotherapy, What Theory Emerges?

By Annemarie Una Harmon O'Brien

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Category Theses

Animal Assisted Therapy is a field that is growing substantially with animals purported to be a panacea from everything from autism to prisoner reform. In many countries they are incorporated into psychotherapy process. The researcher wanted to explore if this is a valid form of practice, the mechanisms behind it and ultimately to seek if it could be empirically validated from each aspect of the therapy triangle of therapist, client and dog.


The preliminary process of conducting interviews with eight experienced psychotherapists who practice with their dog, analysing the data via Grounded Theory and triangulating with the literature as data inferred, that from the point of view of the therapists it was efficacious. A detailed look at critiques and interdisciplinary literature contradicted participants, showing that it could not/possibly never can be, empirically validated. Thus, any emergent theory is merely conjecture and it raises more ethical questions than therapeutic benefit.


Contrary to expectation and the results of other studies, this study presents the argument that animal assisted therapy in psychotherapy presents more challenges than therapeutic agency.  This is significant in that it contradicts the status quo and challenges the practice on grounds of lack of efficacy and ethical questionability.



Date 2016
Translated Title Understanding the Value of Dog Facilitated Psychotherapy, What Theory Emerges?
Pages 158
Location of Publication Dublin City University
Department School of Nursing and Human Sciences
Degree Master of Science
Language English
Label Animal Assisted Therapy and Psychotherapy
Author Address Carrickboy, Co. Longford, Ireland, N39 D521
University Dublin City University
Subject Location Dublin
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Annemarie Una Harmon O'Brien (2019), "Understanding the Value of Dog Facilitated Psychotherapy, What Theory Emerges?,"

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  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Animal consciousness
  4. Animal roles
  5. Animals in culture
  6. Animal welfare
  7. Counseling
  8. Dogs
  9. Emotions
  10. Health
  11. Mammals
  12. Psychotherapy
  13. Service animals
  14. Theories