Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

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


Social Work

First Advisor

Katharine Hill


Social Work


Colleges are facing increasing levels of distressed students and need a wide variety of tools to assist them. One such modality is animal-assisted interaction; an integrative practice with minimal side effects. This study attempted to demonstrate that spending time with animals will decrease a college student’s stress level. It was based on a 2004 study by Charnetski, Brennan and Riggers which studied the effect of a dog on college students’ immune systems. This study consisted of four groups: the control group, a group that experienced explicit observation of a therapy rabbit, a group that experienced implicit observation of the therapy rabbit, and a group that stroked a stuffed rabbit. The 32 participants in this study were all female, primarily baccalaureate students between 18–20 years old, from a small, private, Midwestern university. Before and after the experience, students indicated their stress and arousal level using the Stress Arousal Checklist (MacKay, Cox, Burrows & Lazzerini, 1978). All four groups demonstrated a statistically significant decrease in stress level after their experience. An interesting pattern occurred in their arousal levels; the control groups’ arousal level decreased, the stuffed rabbit group experienced no change, and both of the groups who were exposed to the rabbit had an increase in their arousal level. The enthusiasm college students demonstrate toward animals may mitigate some of the excuses students use for not engaging in traditional mental health techniques. Incorporating registered therapy animals for this work offers an effective way to assist students who are experiencing stress.

Included in

Social Work Commons