Development & Validation of a Research Instrument to Assess the Effectiveness of Animal-Assisted Therapy
Formal animal-assisted therapy (AAT) programs currently have few or no scientific tools widely available to help guide the course of AAT and measure its overall effectiveness on patients; thus, AAT is in need of more documentation and evaluation. The purpose of this study was to thoughtfully construct a worthwhile, scientifically sound AAT effectiveness evaluation tool for use by health professionals and volunteers who utilize and deliver AAT. A review of literature provides a comprehensive background on how AAT evolved as an alternative clinical therapy and examines many past AAT-related studies. As part of the planning and construction phase, the new tool was first circulated among a group of reviewers in the AAT profession for suggestions on improvement. The tool was then utilized in daily practice by a group of AAT volunteer therapists and animal handlers to evaluate its validity and reliability. Subsequent to implementation, key informant interviews were held with the volunteers in order to solicit further modifications and revisions to the tool. Brief follow-up surveys were also distributed to the same group of volunteers to capture further logistics for data analysis. Data from this study suggest that AAT programs throughout the western US are providing a worthwhile and quality health and rehabilitation service to sick and/or injured patients. Patients in this study had positive attitudes toward AAT, which commonly resulted in enhanced therapeutic effects regardless of age, gender or diagnosis. Throughout implementation, therapists and animal handlers considered the newly developed AAT evaluation instrument a useful guide in helping them accomplish goal-oriented AAT deliverables. The utilization of this particular tool in daily practice initially resulted in a wide array of proposed improvements and modifications which were integrated into a final AAT guidance and evaluation template to formulate a more prolific, universal and scientifically sound evaluation instrument for therapists and handlers to use in a much larger capacity. Further research is warranted.
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School Location:USA - California
Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation
Keywords:animal-assisted therapy, animal-assisted activities, pets, qualify of life
Date of Publication:06/22/2005