The role of connection in the efficacy of animal-assisted therapies: A scoping review

Sharron Beggs, Rob Townsend


INTRODUCTION: There is an undeniable connection between humans and animals, with the relationship between the two being well documented across the centuries of history and storytelling.

METHODS: This article outlines a scoping review of the literature and research exploring the history, efficacy, and currency of animal assisted therapies (AATs) as they have developed in recent decades within human services and social work programmes.

FINDINGS AND IMPLICATIONS: Archaeological research suggests a mutualistic relationship has existed between canines and humans dating back 140,000 years evolving to deepened connections between animals and behaviourally modern humans including 15,000 years of animal domestication. These connections have generated relationships where animals both work for and with humans, assuming diverse roles ranging from service animal to companion pet, from livestock to live entertainment, from symbolic idol to science experiment and, as demonstrated in this article, as co-therapist or therapeutic medium in psychotherapeutic, human services and social work practice processes.


Animal assisted therapies; connection; efficacy; psychotherapies; human services; social work

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