Reviews of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) research suggest the need for better controlled and designed research studies to supplement the many case studies and anecdotal reports. This study reports the results of such an investigation where sixty-nine male and female psychiatric inpatients were randomized to either an AAT psychiatric rehabilitation group or a similarly conducted control group without AAT, to test if AAT can improve prosocial behaviors. The Social Behavior Scale was scored daily by an independent rater and patients were monitored for four weeks. A two-group by weeks repeated measure analysis of variance was conducted for each outcome measure. There were no baseline differences between the two groups on demographics or any of the measures, but by week four, patients in the AAT group were significantly more interactive with other patients, scored higher on measures of smiles and pleasure, were more sociable and helpful with others, and were more active and responsive to surroundings. These data suggest that AAT plays an important role in enhancing the benefits of conventional therapy, and demonstrates the benefit of including a non-AAT group for comparison. The study also demonstrates the importance of using longitudinal, repeated measure designs. Previous studies may have failed to find significant effects because they were restricted to shorter intervals for measuring outcomes.
|Author Address||Terrell State Hospital, P.O. Box 70, Terrell, TX 75160, USA.firstname.lastname@example.org|
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