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Animal-Assisted Therapy in Middle-Aged and Older Patients With Schizophrenia: A Randomized Controlled Trial

By T. T. Chen, T. L. Hsieh, M. L. Chen, W. T. Tseng, C. F. Hung, C. R. Chen

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Category Journal Articles
Abstract

Objective: Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) has the potential to improve the symptomology, negative emotions, and level of well-being in older adults, as well as patients with mental illness. However, there remains limited evidence supporting the treatment efficacy of AAT in middle-aged and older adults with schizophrenia. Therefore, this study implemented a randomized controlled trial to assess the efficacy of a 12-week AAT psychological intervention with dogs for middle-aged and older patients with chronic schizophrenia in a clinical setting. Method: Patients, age ≥ 40 years, with chronic schizophrenia were allocated randomly to either the AAT group or control group. Patients in the AAT group received an additional hour -long AAT session every week for 12 weeks. Patients in the control group received the usual treatment plus an hour long non-animal related intervention. All patients were assessed based on primary outcome measures before and after the 12-week intervention, including the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), Depression Anxiety Stress Scales Assessment (DASS), and Chinese Happiness Inventory (CHI). Results: Patients who received AAT had greater improvements in the PANSS and DASS-stress subscale scores than the control group (p < 0.05). The effect was small (success ratio different, SRD = 0.25) for the PANSS and the DASS-stress subscale (SRD = 0.15). There were no significant differences in the change scores of the CHI between the AAT and control groups (p = 0.461). Conclusions: AAT seemed to be effective in reducing psychiatric symptoms and stress levels of middle-aged and older patients with schizophrenia. AAT could be considered as a useful adjunctive therapy to the usual treatment programs.

Date 2021
Publication Title Front Psychiatry
Volume 12
Pages 713623
ISBN/ISSN 1664-0640 (Print)1664-0640
DOI 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.713623
Author Address Department of Psychiatry, Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital and Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.School of Occupational Therapy, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.Professional Animal-Assisted Therapy Association of Taiwan, Taipei, Taiwan.Department of Nursing, School of Nursing, National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences, Taipei, Taiwan.
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Aging
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Interests
  4. open access
  5. schizophrenia
  6. Symptoms
  7. therapy
Badges
  1. open access