Evaluating animal-assisted therapy in group treatment for child sexual abuse

J Child Sex Abus. 2012;21(6):665-83. doi: 10.1080/10538712.2012.726700.


This study evaluates and compares the effectiveness of three group interventions on trauma symptoms for children who have been sexually abused. All of the groups followed the same treatment protocol, with two of them incorporating variations of animal-assisted therapy. A total of 153 children ages 7 to 17 who were in group therapy at a Child Advocacy Center participated in the study. Results indicate that children in the groups that included therapy dogs showed significant decreases in trauma symptoms including anxiety, depression, anger, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociation, and sexual concerns. In addition, results show that children who participated in the group with therapeutic stories showed significantly more change than the other groups. Implications and suggestions for further research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Animal Assisted Therapy / methods*
  • Animals
  • Bonding, Human-Pet*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / therapy*
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States