The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay

The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay

Humans have had many uses for domesticated animals in the entire history of animal domestication. Domesticated animals are important sources of food for human beings. Other animals like donkeys and horses serve animals with their energy. Dogs have traditionally served as security guards. Other animals yet serve as pets. Pets may not offer any advantages to the human being save for their ability to provide their owners with companionship. Companionship adds to the social circles of owners of these pets. In general, people with adequate amounts of companionship have better outlooks to life. The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay. In other words, the ownership of pets can enhance one’s outlook on life.

One of the many aspects of a person’s outlook on life is their health. To enhance their owners’ outlooks to life, pets do so partially by enhancing the person’s health. While health is a complex status that included physical, mental, emotional, and psychosocial parameters, the perception of health is predominantly related to mental factors. All the other parameters have to alter one’s mental parameters for them to alter a person’s perception of health. More often than not, a person’s perception of their health is correlated to the objective determination of their health. Mental health is the predominant aspect of health that pets alter in their owners. By altering mental health parameters, pets eventually affect the overall health of the person.. The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay.


However, “pet” is a narrow term. The vast majority of people would contemplate of cats or dogs at the mention of the word pets. However, considering the width of the current topic, these animals are best referred to as service or assistance animals. Dietz classifies assistance animals into three categories (41). The first category is service animals; this category comprises animals that humans domesticate for the various functional assistance that they offer like pottery or security. The second category is the emotional support animals; this category comprises of pets that humans keep for companionship to aid them emotionally and avert loneliness. The last category is therapy animals; therapy animals are emotional support animals that health care workers and other specialists specifically prescribe to aid in the management of various psychiatric conditions.

Although the use of assistance animals in the improvement of people’s emotional states and the therapy of various psychiatric conditions is not a new subject, the actual effectiveness of this approach is doubtful. As such, the utilization of assistance animals as a non-pharmacological approach in mainstream psychiatry or a major therapeutic approach is complementary and alternative psychiatry has remained largely theoretical rather than practical (Goddard and Jo Gilmer 68). The lack of data has been the major limiting factor to the adoption of the use of assistance animals as a major therapeutic approach. The current study looks to solve this problem by providing useful data.

In the current study, the author looks to conduct a revolutionary study that would provide objective and accurate data confirming the effectiveness of service animals in the therapy of various psychiatric illnesses. The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay. The study will look to enhance the objectivity of the study findings by looking to add the expert views of healthcare professionals to the researcher’s objective judgment of patient responses. In other words, this study will assess the situations of psychiatric patients with an assortment of psychiatric illnesses and attempt to establish the positive impacts of service animals on these patients. However, although the researcher appreciates the need to follow these patients over time to enhance the objectivity of the data and to establish causal relationships, the availability of limited time prompted the researcher into conducting a cross-sectional study. This survey will provide an important basis for further studies in the subject area.


            While previous research has demonstrated that service animals have benefits to many symptomatic and psychosocial parameters in people with mental illnesses, the exact extent of these benefits is unclear. Service animals are known to be of great aid to people living with disability. Service animals are also useful in the stabilization of individuals’ emotions and in improving the moods of people around them.The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay.  Research has even demonstrated the fact that these animals could have positive impacts on some distressing symptoms of psychiatric illnesses. This study will look to clarify the extent of the usefulness of service animals in the management of psychiatric illnesses.

Psychiatric illnesses are an important public health concern. The fact that mental illnesses are often a neglected aspect of public health further increases their importance as public health concerns. Despite their high and ever-increasing prevalence, mental illnesses still receive the least funding of all diseases. The management of psychiatric consumes a significant part of the federal budget owing to their increasing burden. Since the largest proportion of this money goes into purchasing medication, the use of alternative non-pharmacological therapies that prove to be effective can not only reduce the cost of managing mental illness but also improve the state of patients. Unlike medication, these alternative therapies are largely devoid of adverse effects; therefore, in case these therapies are effective, their overall outcomes would be superior to the outcomes of medications. One therapeutic alternative that has shown great promise is the use of service animals. However, the absence of objective data demonstrating their usefulness is the major confounding factor precluding the applicability of service animals in mainstream psychiatry. This research, therefore, looks to provide that data. In other words, this study is justified since it aims at providing objective data that will vindicate the applicability of a novel and highly effective approach in the management of psychiatric illnesses. The application of this novel modality will both enhance patient outcomes and reduce expenditure on the management of psychiatric illnesses.

Going into this study, the researcher hypothesized that proximity to assistance animals could help in limiting the symptomatology and medication need for patients with psychiatric illness. As such, the hypothesis forms the basis for the research question and the main objective of this study – the determination of the effectiveness of assistance animals in the management of psychiatric illnesses. The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay. Specifically, the author considered a wide range of psychiatric illnesses. Among these illnesses will be mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and anger problems. The researcher chose these disorders due to their high prevalence and the fact that they were more likely to be influenced by extrinsic factors like the presence of pets when compared to illnesses where patients have major distortions of reality like schizophrenia. Regarding the various illnesses, the researcher looked to establish impact of the service animals on the symptomatology of the disease and on the necessity of drugs in the management of the patients. Service animals are more effective where they negatively correlate with symptomatology and reduce the patient’s dependence on medication. The study also attempted to compare the effectiveness of various types of animals, especially the difference between pet cats and dogs. The research also looked to demonstrate the effectiveness of service animals as adjuncts to psychotropic medication and to compare the effectiveness of the two modalities against each other.

To achieve their study objectives, the researcher developed an effective theoretical framework for the study. The researcher theorized that a cross-sectional survey involving various past literature in the study area would suffice. The literature synthesis would reveal both statistical and qualitative thematic concerns regarding the use of assistance animals as a therapeutic option in psychiatry.


            The researcher used a largely qualitative study approach. A qualitative literature review was the chosen study design. For the review, the author selected six studies. Considering little amount of past literature on the subject matter, the researcher chose relatively lenient inclusion criteria. The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay. For a study to be included in this review, it had to have been published in the last twenty years. The study also needed to be one addressing key aspects on the utilization of animals either in therapy or in assisting persons. The chosen studies all had to be English publications. The studies also had to be part of publications in authentic journals. The researcher did not consider whether the studies were experimental or not. Other methodological details of the studies were also not put in consideration. The presence of the articles in reputable journals was enough to demonstrate their validity and reliability; hence, their usefulness for this study. The researcher analyzed the studies using a thematic analysis. This way, they established the major themes in the articles and noted the number of articles in which the themes appeared.


Although the specifications of this study require a statistical quantitative approach, this section of the study aims at triangulating the available literature and analyzing the emergent themes. A thematic analysis of the six articles of review demonstrates seven major themes. All the themes relate to the usefulness of pet therapy in the management of various psychiatric illnesses. The seven themes relate to different possible applications of assistance animals in therapy. These themes include: applicability to pediatric populations; ability of assistance animals to improve the quality of life; use of pet therapy as adjunctive therapy for psychiatric illness; ability of pets to provide emotional and social support; inadequacy of evidence on the usefulness of pet therapy; acceptability and cost implications of assistance animals; ability of assistance animals to enhance employability of various people with disabilities. The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay.

A theme relating to the applicability of pets therapy in children emerges in three of the sic studies. Dietz considers the usefulness of pets in enhancing the psychosocial situations of children in foster care (42). The author notes that the presence of pets enhances emotional outcomes of children in foster care, despite significant difficulties in foster situations. Similarly, Jones et al. examine the usefulness of canine-assisted psychotherapy (CAP) in adolescents. The authors determined that CAP greatly improved the results of psychotherapy sessions in adolescents as they were more attentive and interested in the sessions (Jones et al. 15). Goddard and Jo Gilmer also appreciate the important role of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) in the management of various psychiatric disorders in children (68). The authors asserted that the affiliation of children to assistance animals easily enhanced the therapeutic relationship in mainstream psychiatry but could also be effective as a major therapeutic option in complementary and alternative psychiatry.

Furthermore, a theme relating to the ability of assistance animals to improve the quality of life of various populations also emerges strongly in the selected literature. One study posits that assistance animals can greatly increase the quality of life for people living with various disabilities (Duncan and Allen 314). However, this study relates more to the people with physical disability rather than those with disability secondary to psychiatric illness. In terms of psychiatry, Norris et al. posited that the presence pets generally improve the quality of life of retirees (71). Although the presence of pets did not alter their satisfaction with their incomes, it enhanced their satisfaction with their personal safety, their ability to travel, and their perceived health.The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay. Increased satisfaction, in turn, enhanced the mental health of the retirees. In a different view, the presence of pets in a home directly relates to the quality of life in the home. In a study on foster care, Dietz determined that children were more likely to live higher quality lives in homes with pets (41).

Moreover, this literature synthesis demonstrates adequately that the presence of assistance animals can enhance emotional and social support. The presence of pet animals can elevate one’s emotions and help them in coping with various social issues (Tedeschi, Fine and Helgeson 429). Norris et al. add on to this view by relating it to retirees; the authors posited that the presence of pet helped retirees to beat loneliness (77). Pets also enhanced the emotions of retirees by ensuring they were highly satisfied with their life situation. Jones et al. further added that pets helped to stabilize the emotions of emotionally-unstable adolescent psychiatric patients, hence, reducing their symptomatology and enhancing the effectiveness of psychotherapy sessions (13). Similarly, pets enhance the emotional states of children facing difficulties in foster care (Dietz 42).

For people with physical and psychiatric disabilities, pet therapy can enhance their employability in the long term. Duncan and Allen proposed that pet therapy had the ability to enhance the overall functioning of people with disabilities, hence, increasing their ability to acquire and retain employment (321). Assistance animals also offer opportunities for great innovations that can enhance people with various difficulties to create novel employment opportunities for themselves and others (Tedeschi et al. 428). The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay.

Because of its ability to offer adequate emotional and social support, most of the studies in this review propose the use assistance animals as adjuncts in mainstream psychiatry. Jones et al. examined the usefulness of canine assistance in enhancing the effectiveness of psychotherapy – a major therapeutic approach in mainstream psychiatry (4). The authors determined that CAP was highly effective as it enhanced the ability of the therapeutic meeting to impact on the patient and even reduced the patients’ symptomatology. Goddard and Jo Gilmer also appreciate the effectiveness of AAT but question its ability to suffice as a stand-alone therapy (69). They, thus, propose the use of AAT as adjunctive in mainstream psychiatry. Similarly, Tedeschi et al. find assistance animals as important adjuncts in psychiatry because of their potential to positively influence emotional and psychosocial variables (434).

The major advantages of applying assistance animals in mainstream psychiatry relate to their cost their cost implications and acceptability. Pets are readily acceptable among psychiatric patients and other populations, hence, the feasibility of using them in therapy (Jones et al. 19). Most retirees are also not averse to keeping pets (Norris et al. 78). Similarly, most children like pets and long to live near pets (Dietz 42). Tedeschi et al. also report high acceptability of pets in their study population (430). In assessing the feasibility of pet therapy, Jones et al. demonstrate the fact that pet therapy can be cheap in the long-term (20).

Despite its advantages, the literature search demonstrates the fact that the inadequacy of evidence is the main factor precluding the incorporation of this strategy in conventional psychiatry. Two of the six studies conclude that assistance animals could be highly useful in psychiatry but the inadequacy of experimental evidence is derailing the implementation of this strategy (Goddard and Jo Gilmer 66) (Tedeschi et al. 423).The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay.  Jones et al. also allude to this aspect of inadequate evidence in setting the background for their study which focuses on CAP as adjunctive to conventional therapeutic approaches (6).


            The trends emerging in the result section demonstrate the high potential of pet therapy as a future therapeutic strategy. The usefulness of pet therapy in children is particularly impressive. Pets are useful both in caring for children with mental disturbances and enhancing the growth of children. The therapeutic relationship can take advantage of children’s love for pets to both improve their ability to concentrate on therapeutic activities and to decrease their symptoms (Jones et al. 22). Pets can also help children develop by giving them a sense of responsibility.

Pets also both improve the quality of life and one’s perception of their quality of life. Assistance animals directly enhance the quality of life by improving one’s overall functioning. Enhanced functioning and less dependence on others improves one’s self-esteem and their perception of their quality of life. Improve functioning also enhances one’s employability (Duncan and Allen 321). Assistance animals also enhance the quality of life by improving the social and emotional states of their owners. The presence of animals averts loneliness and gives one a sense of responsibility. Proximity to animals also enhances neurochemical changes in the brain that enhance mood. This knowledge is highly useful for managing psychiatric disorders which mainly present with psychosocial and emotional disturbances.The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay.

Ultimately, this study demonstrates that assistance animals are a sound therapeutic option for the management of a wide range of psychiatric disorders in multiple populations. The study has adequately demonstrated that assistance animals effectively reduce the symptomatology of many psychiatric illnesses. The study also demonstrated the fact that assistance animals can improve general mental health of different groups of people. While Norris et al. focused on retirees and Dietz focused on children in foster care, both studies demonstrated that the presence of pets was positively related to better psychological states, thus, a decreased likelihood of mental illnesses. The research also reveals that the assistance animals can have good cost implications in the long-term. Their use in psychiatry is feasible and they can reduce expenditure on mental illness by decreasing the incidence of mental illness. However, the study does not explicitly demonstrate the impact of these form of therapy on medication use. The study also fails to demonstrate the differences in the effectiveness of various types of pets.


Nonetheless, the research was effective. The research achieved its broad and specific objectives. The study demonstrated that pet therapy was an effective adjunctive strategy in the management of psychiatric illness. The research also demonstrated that pet therapy was relatively cheap and feasible. Thus, based on the study findings, it sensible to recommend the incorporation of pet therapy in mainstream psychiatry. Pet therapy should be included in the protocols for the management of various psychiatric disorders. The author also recommends that families should look to keep pets as a financially feasible strategy of enhancing the overall mental health of the nation.The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay.

Works Cited

Dietz, Matthew W. “Assistance Animals in Foster Care.” Florida Bar Journal, vol. 91, no. 8, Sept. 2017, pp. 40–43. EBSCOhost.

Duncan, S. L., & Allen, K. (2006). Service animals and their roles in enhancing      independence, quality of life, and employment for people with disabilities. In Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy (pp. 303-323). Academic Press.

Jones, Melanie G., et al. “Incorporating Animal-Assisted Therapy in Mental Health Treatments for Adolescents: A Systematic Review of Canine Assisted Psychotherapy.” PLoS ONE, vol. 14, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 1–27. EBSCOhost.

Norris, Patricia A., et al. “Retirement, Life Satisfaction, and Leisure Services: The Pet Connection.” Journal of Park & Recreation Administration, vol. 17, no. 2, Summer 1999, pp. 65–83. EBSCOhost

Goddard, Anna Tielsch, and Mary Jo Gilmer. “The Role and Impact of Animals with Pediatric Patients.” Pediatric Nursing, vol. 41, no. 2, Mar. 2015, pp. 65–71. EBSCOhost.

Tedeschi, P., Fine, A. H., & Helgeson, J. I. (2010). Assistance animals: Their evolving role in psychiatric service applications. In Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy (pp.             421-438). Academic Press. The Effectiveness of Assistance Animals in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders Essay.