Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

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


Social Work

First Advisor

Lisa Kiesel, Ph.D., LICSW


Social Work


Trauma has a significant impact not just on the individuals who have experienced it, but on families, communities, and society as a whole. While significant improvements to treatment modalities have been made, there continues to be a need for further research and exploration to establish a range of efficacious and accessible treatment modalities in this area. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a promising intervention with a long history, which may be uniquely suited to treating a broad range of clients with trauma histories and/or diagnoses. The purpose of this study was to gather the practice wisdom of clinicians working in this field to develop a more cohesive understanding of why and how AAT is an effective trauma intervention. Practitioners in the field of AAT were identified via purposive and snowball sampling and a total of eighteen individuals completed an online qualitative survey, via Qualtrics. Findings were consistent with existing literature and expanded upon the unique role that the human-animal bond can play in healing and growth for those who have experienced trauma. Specific themes that emerged from the data were: the non-judgmental nature of the human-animal bond; non-verbal communication; physical and emotional safety; and the experiential and individualized nature of AAT.

Included in

Social Work Commons