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Exploring School Staff Perceptions Relating to Animals and Their Involvement in Interventions to Support Mental Health

By R. A. Leos, P. M. Cuccaro, J. R. Herbold, B. F. Hernandez

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Abstract

Given the growing awareness of the health benefits of human-animal interactions, the use of animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) in educational settings has increased over the years. While many school districts are now considering or utilizing AAIs, the literature investigating AAI-related perceptions among school stakeholders is limited with previous studies focusing on evaluating specific programs. To address this gap, a qualitative exploratory study was conducted using semi-structured interviews with school staff in the San Antonio, TX community. A total of 11 interviews were completed with staff serving preschool and elementary school age children. Data collected from interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis. Findings demonstrated that participating staff had some knowledge of the potential benefits of human-animal interactions and perceived the involvement of animals in interventions to be beneficial to children's emotions and social-emotional skills. While perceptions of AAIs were generally positive, concerns around children's safety and well-being were expressed as potential barriers in the adoption of AAIs in schools. These findings are preliminary and provide a segue to future research that can help expand our understanding of how school staff perceive AAIs, their impact on children's mental health, their compatibility with school values, and their advantage relative to other interventions.

Date 2022
Publication Title International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume 19
Issue 12
ISBN/ISSN 1661-7827 (Print)1660-4601
Publisher MDPI
DOI 10.3390/ijerph19127126
Author Address School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX 77030, USA.
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal-assisted interventions
  2. Animals
  3. Mental health and well-being
  4. open access
  5. Qualitative Research
  6. Schools
  7. trauma
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  1. open access