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Thematic Analysis: Exploring Practitioners' Perspectives of Delivering Animal Assisted Therapy

By Kwun Fu Chan

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Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a psychotherapeutic approach that uses animals in a therapeutic capacity and can be used as an adjunct with a range of practices such as different psychotherapeutic modalities. Despite its relatively long history, more robust research is needed to increase AAT’s evidence-base. There is a relative lack of research in AAT practice from a practitioners’ perspectives. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore how practitioners use AAT in their clinical practice.
Ten participants were interviewed about their experiences of using AAT in their clinical practice. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Three main themes emerged from the analysis: The Psychotherapeutic Encounter, Multi-Faceted Relational Process, and Challenges and Opportunities in AAT.
The findings revealed that practitioners who used AAT utilised features of the therapy animal, with elements of nature and incorporated it into working in the moment. In addition, the findings revealed the relational dynamics between the client-animal, practitioner-animal, and that AAT is more than a dual therapeutic relationship. The findings also revealed the challenges and opportunities of using AAT within psychotherapy. The study has implications in the areas of better understanding and enhancing the therapeutic relationship in AAT, integrating AAT into counselling psychology practice and identifying potential areas for future research.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2021
Pages 177
Department School of Psychology
Degree Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology
DOI 10.15123/uel.89w32
Language English
University University of East London
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. open access
  3. perspective
  4. Practitioners
  1. open access