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Assessing the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy on alleviation of anxiety in pre-school children: A randomized controlled trial

By M. Tahan, T. Saleem, A. Sadeghifar, E. Ahangri

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OBJECTIVE & BACKGROUND: Human-animal interactions are considered as being valuable and beneficial for the psychological health. Recently Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) has been included for client-therapist interaction. The purpose of the present study was to assess the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy in alleviation of anxiety in pre-school children. METHOD: The study was carried out as a randomized controlled trail with pre-test and post-test design and control group. The trial was registered in the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry with the registration id of ChiCTR2000034145. The study consisted of 33 anxious 5-7years old children (participated in a welfare anxiety screening plan held by Counseling Center, Tehran-Iran) between 2018 and 2019. The participants took part in the study voluntarily. The subjects were randomly divided into experimental and control groups (10 in each group). The experimental group was exposed to 8 sessions of animal therapy. The research instrument used in the present study was Spence Preschool Anxiety Scale (Parent Form) and the data were analyzed on SPSS 21 software. RESULTS: The results showed that animal therapy had a significant effect on general anxiety after adjusting for post-test assessments (f = 32.49 and p = 0.001) with the effect equal to 0.70. In addition, the effect of animal therapy on anxiety of separation (f = 5.63, p = 0.03), generalized anxiety disorder (f = 8.56, p = 0.01), social phobia (f = 14.58, p = 0.002) and specific anxiety (f = 11.63, p = 0.005) was significant with effects equal to 0.30, 0.40, 0.53, and 0.47, respectively. The results also showed that the effect of animal therapy on obsession was not significant (p > 0.05). CONCLUSION: Therefore, it can be concluded that Animal therapy is effective in alleviating anxiety in children. It supports for the inclusion of AAT in therapeutic practice with children having anxiety.

Publication Title Contemp Clin Trials Commun
Volume 28
Pages 100947
ISBN/ISSN 2451-8654
DOI 10.1016/j.conctc.2022.100947
Author Address Department of Psychology, Qaenat Branch, Islamic Azad University, Qaenat, Iran.Department of Clinical Psychology, Shifa Tameer-e-Millat University, Islamabad, Pakistan.Department of Psychology, Tehran Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran.Department of Psychology, Payame Noor University, Tehran, Iran.
Additional Language English
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Anxiety
  3. Children
  4. open access
  1. open access