Date of Award

8-15-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Derek Hatfield, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Beverly Goodwin, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Mary Jalongo, Ph.D.

Abstract

It has been well-documented that the therapeutic use of companion animals has the potential to provide physiological and psychological benefits to humans; however, very little research has been conducted to examine the use of animal-assisted interventions on the process of psychotherapy. The current study utilized a sample of 71 college-student men and women to explore the impact of a companion animal's presence (viz., a dog) on several aspects of the therapeutic alliance. Primary findings of the study determined that the presence of a companion animal did not influence participants' overall perceptions of the interviewer, willingness to self-disclose to the interviewer, and perceptions of the interviewer's level of empathic understanding. Analyses also did not reveal significant findings when controlling for participants' levels of exposure to animals (current and past). Analyses revealed marginally significant findings when participants' attitudes toward pets were examined as a moderating variable; specifically, positive attitudes toward pets were associated with a greater willingness to self-disclose. Overall, the results imply that the presence of a companion animal during the initial stages of psychotherapy does not influence aspects of the therapeutic alliance examined in this study. Although there is some evidence to suggest that positive attitudes toward pets may enhance client willingness to self-disclose to a therapist, no solid conclusions can be drawn. The need for future research is discussed.

Share

COinS