Children with mental health issues are assisted by therapy with dogs

Disturbed children helped by dogs in therapy/Shutterstock Images

20 February, 2023, Barcelona: Psychiatrists at the Hospital Clinic Instituto de Investigaciones Biomedicas August Pi I Sunyer (IDIBAPS) have the results of a recent study conducted on children with severe mental disorders under 13 years of age, with dogs as part of their therapy.

Dr Astrid Morer, a psychiatrist and researcher in the IDIBAPS Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology group said that, ‘the study indicates to us that the introduction of dogs in therapy is a facilitator, an emotional link between the therapist and the child, and they act as catalysts for the therapy.’

Elias Guillen, mental health nurse specialist and Principal Investigator said, ‘The results observed (with dogs) are very positive: we have seen an improvement in attendance rates, we see that the children are calmer and it is easier to work on the goals we set with them.’

‘We saw that around 75% of the outbursts took place on the days without dog therapy, whilst only 25% occurred on the days with a dog,” Elias described.

The study treated children with autism spectrum disorders, conduct disorders, Tourette Syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric conditions at the Day Hospital. Self-control and social skills improved when dogs were present as reported by the professionals.

The research was carried out with staff from the Canine-Assisted Therapy Centre (CTAC) collaborating with Purina and the La Caixa Foundation through the CaixaBank.

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