Date of Paper

5-2014

Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Department

Social Work

First Advisor

Andrea A. Nesmith

Abstract

Animal-assisted therapy could be used in schools as a supportive intervention provided by school social workers. The purpose of this project was to explore how animal-assisted therapy in schools, specifically using dogs, could be a complimentary and supportive form of intervention provided by social workers in a school setting. Using a qualitative design, five school social workers and three therapy dog handlers were interviewed regarding their perceptions on using therapy dogs in schools and how the therapy dogs may impact students. The data was analyzed using the content analysis method in which themes were developed from participant responses, integrating the perceptions of the school social workers and the therapy dog handlers, and then were linked to previous literature. The findings indicated that using therapy dogs in schools could benefit students by serving as an intervention and helping students learn skills that result in better connection and relationships, and skills that can assist with self-regulation and self-control. In addition, objections to using therapy dogs in schools were addressed and countered in participants’ responses. These findings emphasize the potential benefit of using therapy dogs in school social work practice as a supportive intervention.

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