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Dolphin-assisted therapy: more flawed data and more flawed conclusions

By L. Marino, S. O. Lilienfeld

Category Journal Articles

Dolphin-Assisted Therapy (DAT) is an increasingly popular choice of treatment for illness and developmental disabilities by providing participants with the opportunity to swim or interact with live captive dolphins. Two reviews of DAT (Marino and Lilienfeld [1998] and Humphries [2003]) concluded that there is no credible scientific evidence for the effectiveness of this intervention. In this paper, we offer an update of the methodological status of DAT by reviewing five peer-reviewed DAT studies published in the last eight years. We found that all five studies were methodologically flawed and plagued by several threats to both internal and construct validity. We conclude that nearly a decade following our initial review, there remains no compelling evidence that DAT is a legitimate therapy or that it affords any more than fleeting improvements in mood.

Date 2007
Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 20
Issue 3
Pages 239-249
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Language English
Author Address Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Program, Emory University, 1462 Clifton Road, Suite 304, Atlanta, GA 30322,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Anthrozoology
  3. Anxiety
  4. Aquacultural and fisheries
  5. Aquatic organisms
  6. Atopy
  7. Autism
  8. Depression
  9. Dermatitis
  10. Diseases
  11. Humans
  12. Mammals
  13. Marine animals
  14. Marine mammals
  15. Mental deficiency
  16. Mental disorders
  17. Mental health and well-being
  18. Mental illness
  19. Mentally disabled persons
  20. Pets and companion animals
  21. Primates
  22. psychiatric disorders
  23. Reviews
  24. therapeutics
  25. therapy