Exploring best practices in animal–assisted therapy with children in the Western Cape
Thompson, Jennifer Anne
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This dissertation serves as a report on the qualitative exploration of best practices in animal-assisted therapy (AAT) with children. The aim of the study was to explore and describe best practices in the field of AAT with children in the Western Cape. The research made use of the case study design, which offered the researcher the opportunity to interact with a small number of individuals and look for patterns in the research participants’ words and experiences. Four participants, who were trained mental health professionals and had offered AAT to children, were selected to participate in the research. A literature review of animal-assisted therapy and best practice provided a theoretical basis for the research. The history of AAT, the uses and benefits of AAT and the animals incorporated in AAT were explored. The term “best practice” and its application in mental health and AAT were also discussed. The verbatim transcriptions of the audiotaped data were analysed and interpreted using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) and an AAT conceptual framework (brought about by the literature review). Themes were developed from the empirical data and substantiated by the literature review. Five main themes emerged as a result of the analysis. The first theme, Training of the animal-assisted therapist, focused on both the mental health training and the AAT training of the therapist. The second theme, Training of animals incorporated in animal-assisted therapy, revealed the importance of training the animal to be included in AAT. The third theme, Different client populations in animal-assisted therapy, looked at which populations should be included, excluded or included and carefully managed during AAT. The fourth theme, Ethical considerations in animal-assisted therapy, revealed the importance of considering both the child’s and the animal’s welfare. The fifth theme, Regulation of animal-assisted therapy, gave a more in-depth description of the current regulation of AAT in the Western Cape and provided suggestions for the regulation of AAT. Based on the findings of the five themes, recommendations were made for best practice in AAT with children in the Western Cape.
- Humanities