Counseling Psychology | Master's Theses

Graduation Date

5-2021

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Counseling Psychology

Program Director

Robin Gayle, PhD

First Reader

Carols Molina, EdD, LMFT

Second Reader

Mary McDevitt

Abstract

This study examines the therapeutic benefits of incorporating dogs into the mental health treatment of child victims of sexual abuse in both formal and informal settings. In 1962, Dr. Boris Levinson began incorporating his dog into therapy sessions with his child clients. He noticed that incorporation of dogs into psychotherapeutic treatment encouraged communication in withdrawn children and published his results in 1969, initiating a widespread interest in animal-assisted therapy (AAT). Other variations of AAT soon followed in the form of animal-assisted activities (AAA). The human-animal bond can be a powerful tool that effectively improves mental health and can play a significant role in supporting healthy child development. For children that have been sexually abused who are especially prone to being distrustful of other people, the opportunity to therapeutically work with a dog can feel much safer. The present study provides psychoeducation on the mental health effects commonly seen in child survivors of sexual abuse and a variety of evidence-based animal-assisted treatment options.

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