Assessing Attitudes Towards Animal Assisted Therapy among Students and Faculty in American Psychological Association Accredited Programs

Kendra Thew, Lindsey Marco, Phyllis Erdman, and Blanca Idalia Caro

Washington State University

Research on animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is rapidly growing. However, there is little research on the attitudes and knowledge held by helping professionals regarding its practice, benefits, and limitations. The authors aim to understand how students and faculty members in the clinical and counseling psychology programs of the American Psychological Association (APA) perceive AAT and its role in psychological settings. Participants (n=267) were recruited from APA accredited clinical and counseling psychology programs to complete an online survey. Results revealed a majority of participants (41.2%) know very little about AAT, yet most (79.4%) view it as a legitimate adjunct to treatment. Further, 39% of participants reported being somewhat likely to very likely to practice AAT if properly trained. Additionally, participants reported viewing AAT as beneficial in expediting rapport and aiding in client retention. Participants reported that barriers to the practice of AAT include stigma from the psychological community, lack of empirical research, and training accessibility. The survey results suggest that access to training and empirical research may aid in the acceptance and growth of AAT.

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Keywords: Animal-Assisted Therapy, human-animal interaction
Posted in 2015, Volume 3, No. 1