How Do Animals Assist in Treatment?

How Do Animals Assist in Treatment?

By  Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

Does the presence of animals help with medical outcomes?  The clear answer is yes, when the outcome being considered involves pain, anxiety, and distress.  This is true with both children and adults as patients in hospital settings.

This review ( ) involved 22 different studies, 13 with children, 9 with adults.  Comparisons were made between groups with animal assistance and those without, and between pre-treatment and post-treatment conditions.  These studies did not employ the same methods, so it is recommended that more studies done with the same methods be completed, to produce results that will be more reliable and consistent.

It has long been known that the presence of pets is a help to seniors, especially when they are in an assisted living facility, or even when they reside in their own private residence.  The interaction between a senior and his/her pet is stimulating, and emotionally comforting to relieve isolation, and potential depression or anxiety.

Similarly, individuals with significant anxiety and/or depression are often helped by the presence of calm, nurturing animals.  Some therapists have a therapy dog in their office, often credentialed as such (both animal and therapist), to assist in psychotherapy.  This is often benefits patients dealing with anxiety, depression, or trauma.

More simply, most individuals with house pets of many kinds will freely express how much comfort and pleasure they derive out of their relationship with their non-human family member.  This really is a therapeutic option for many individuals experiencing emotional distress.

Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA. A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at 310  539-2772 or

Copyright 2018 by  Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

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