Animal-assisted therapy with farm animals for persons with psychiatric disorders

Department of Animal and Aquacultural Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway.
Annali dell'Istituto superiore di sanita (Impact Factor: 1.11). 01/2011; 47(4):384-90. DOI: 10.4415/ANN_11_04_10
Source: PubMed


Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) with farm animals for humans with psychiatric disorders may reduce depression and state anxiety, and increase self-efficacy, in many participants. Social support by the farmer appears to be important. Positive effects are best documented for persons with affective disorders or clinical depression. Effects may sometimes take a long time to be detectable, but may occur earlier if the participants are encouraged to perform more complex working skills. Progress must however be individually adapted allowing for flexibility, also between days. Therapists involved with mental health show a pronounced belief in the effects of AAT with farm animals, variation being related to type of disorder, therapist's sex and his/her experience with AAT. Research is still scarce and further research is required to optimize and individually adapt the design of farm animal-assisted interventions.

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    • "To the best of our knowledge, there have been no systematic reviews of the Nordic literature on Green Care. Berget and Braastad (2011) published an international review that summarised published studies regarding animal-assisted interventions with farm animals for people with mental disorders. Pedersen (2011) also presents an overview of international literature on Green Care in her doctoral thesis, and in both of these surveys, the searches were limited to scientific articles. "
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    • "The term " care farm " has been used in Europe to refer to the use of commercial farms and agricultural landscapes for the promotion of human health, social inclusion, and educational benefits through farm activity (Berget & Braastad, 2011). The numbers of such farms in Europe is steadily growing. "
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    • "Formalized animal-assisted therapy may involve horses (equine therapy), dogs, or even interactions with mammals such as dolphins. Time spent with farm animals by people with psychiatric disorders may reduce depression and state anxiety, and increase a sense of self-efficacy [138], with a small and methodologically limited study suggesting beneficial effects of pet therapy on mood and perceived quality of life in 21 elderly inpatients affected by dementia, depression and psychosis [139]. No clinical recommendations are possible given the available data. "
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