Animal-Assisted Intervention and Trauma

There are several different therapeutic approaches available to trauma victims. One of which is called animal-assisted intervention (AAI). AAI is defined as “the utilization of various species of animals in diverse manners beneficial to humans” (American Veterinary Medical Association, 2023). The most common form of this approach seen in everyday life is through the use of service dogs. Psychiatric service dogs are specially trained to assist their handlers in the areas where assistance is needed, especially if the handler is incapacitated (Rousseau, 2023). However, service dogs go far beyond providing physical assistance. They also provide mental and emotional assistance as well. Studies prove that the use of AAI has proved to be beneficial in a number of populations such as trauma victims suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), individuals with dementia and children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (O’Haire, et al., 2015).

In regards to individuals suffering from PTSD, researchers found that emotional numbness and isolation are common symptoms. AAI has proven to be beneficial to individuals with PTSD because the presence of an animal such as a dog encourages positive emotions and warmth (O’Haire, et al., 2015).  Further, animals have been demonstrated to be social facilitators, which connect and unite people thus reducing loneliness and ultimately isolation (O’Haire, et al., 2015). Animals also require routine care, which can mean daily walks, a trip to the store for food, and bathroom breaks. All of which encourages an individual with PTSD to get out of the house and socialize with the world.

As such, animal-assisted intervention is an effective therapeutic approach worth considering for trauma victims.


American Veterinary Medical Association. (2023). Animal-assisted interventions: Guidelines. American Veterinary Medical Association.,types%20of%20animal%2Dassisted%20intervention.

O’Haire, M. E., Guérin, N. A., & Kirkham, A. C. (2015). Animal-Assisted Intervention for trauma: a systematic literature review. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 1121.

Rousseau, D. 2023. Module 4: Pathways to Recovery: Understanding approaches to trauma treatment. Boston University.

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One comment

  1. Animal-assisted intervention has so many benefits, and not just for people living with PTSD. In prisons, AAI programs have been studied, and a review found that “inmates who participated in dog-bases AAI needed less medication, were less violent to others, were less depressed, improved their social behaviors, and had fewer infractions at the same time that their self-esteem was increased and their stress levels were decreased.” Including the link to this review here so you can give it a read:,levels%20were%20decreased%20%5B39%5D.

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