Who is Interested in Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)? Features of Future Psychotherapists and Psychologists

Noga Lutzky-Cohen & Margaret Schneider
Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development,
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto

Previous research has established benefits to incorporating AAT in psychotherapy (e.g., Chandler, 2012). A growing interest in animal-assisted therapy (AAT) among mental healthcare practitioners (Rossetti & King, 2010) warrants a deeper investigation into the features of future psychotherapists who are interested in AAT and how they differ from those who are not interested in AAT. Responses were obtained from 224 counselling and clinical psychology graduate students from across Canada (mean age 29.9; 88% females). The online survey revealed that participants with higher motivation to use AAT were more likely to be female, older, counselling students, live with companion animals, and have experience with AAT. Participants recognized many advantages of using AAT, such as improving health and reducing stress in clients. However, participants also identified important barriers to using AAT, such as clients’ allergies or fears of animals. Exploring the profiles of those interested in AAT, what interests them and how they perceive AAT, can help AAT training programs attract potential clients and tailor materials appropriately. Furthermore, it can increase future psychotherapists’ awareness of this therapy.

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