Animal-Assisted Interventions and Children with a Trauma History

Kristen Aldous-Traynor, Dr. Leslie Sattler, Department of Social Work, Bridgewater State University, 131 Summer St, Bridgewater, MA 02324

According to the American Psychological Association, more than two-thirds of children have experienced a traumatic event by the age of 16. Traumatic events lead to symptoms such as sleep disturbances, sadness, loss of interest in normal activities, reduced concentration, somatic complaints, decline in schoolwork, anger, separation anxiety, irritability and if untreated in the long term can lead to substance abuse, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other long-lasting adverse effects. One available treatment approach for children with a trauma history is animal-assisted interventions. This study aims to add to the growing literature on the effectiveness of animal-assisted interventions by answering the question: What is the effectiveness of animal-assisted interventions in reducing the symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety for children who have a trauma history as observed by the provider of the intervention?  This ongoing qualitative study is guided by grounded theory methodology and to date, includes interviews with six providers of animal-assisted interventions. Analysis of data collected thus far proposes the following theory. Having control of the interaction leads to a feeling of safety/consistency for the child allowing him or her to form an attachment to the animal. The animal’s intuitive sense of the child’s needs strengthens the bond, fostering a sense of purpose for the child, and the ability to be present in the relationship with the animal. These gains are carried over into improved behavior, mood, and self-expression. 

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Kristen Aldous-Traynor

Institution: Bridgewater State University

Type: Poster

Subject: Social Work & Human Services

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 11
Date/Time: Wed 3:00pm-4:00pm
Session Number: 7119