Animalia

An Anthrozoology Journal


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The Use of Animal-Assisted Interventions in Social Services: A Literature Synthesis

The field of Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI’s) is emerging and developing steadily, however the available literature which addresses this field is limited. This literature synthesis includes 27 articles from this limited pool and addresses what AAI programs exist, how they are being studied, and what the results of these studies are. This synthesis identifies characteristics of current AAI programs, and the methods being used to assess them, and groups findings from all 27 articles thematically. Findings suggest that AAI’s help participants in developing life skills, improve their desire to attend and participate in the intervention, support feelings of non-judgement and the generation of trust within the therapeutic relationship, help to alleviate a variety of symptoms, and are typically cost efficient. Findings also indicate the potential for AAI’s to improve participants levels of sociability and self-esteem but these findings are not consistent across studies. Finally, a number of questions and areas for further research are identified, which will support continued development, and improve effectiveness of these interventions.

By Rebecca Sheluk

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A Narrative Review of Qualitative and Quantitative Research in Equine-assisted Social Work or Therapy – Addressing Gaps and Contradictory Results

This article reviews the published literature narrative about equine-assisted or equine-facilitated social work or therapy, a growing area of interventions. The purpose is to shed light on gaps and contradictory results in previous studies between 2000-2014. The goal is to assist practitioners and researchers, identifying and providing perspectives on complicated issues when results of interventions are pointing in different directions. In total, 55 published articles and 15 dissertations were analyzed thematically. Excluded are studies focused on therapeutic riding for the physically disabled or hippotherapy benefiting from equine movement, as well as studies focused on individuals’ riding goals or horsemanship skills. The implications for further research address gaps in the literature on the process in equine assisted or facilitated work. The process need to be described from professional affiliation, the purpose of the intervention, theoretical perspective, the intended role of the horse, ethical approach both concerning the client and the horse, plan to prevent risks as well as describe risks in relation to possible outcomes both for the client and the horse and finally a description about how the intervention are evaluated. Standardization of terminology and language used to communicate interventions, methods, and theories is recommended. The analysis suggests a need to use a variety of research methods in interdisciplinary research groups. This allows different paradigms of participatory, as well as constructivism or post-positivism, to capture the complexity of social work or therapy facilitated or assisted by horses. This article does not critically review each specific investigation, but focuses on how the process has been presented in previous research.

By Catharina Carlsson

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Photo by G. Hjortryd