'Therapy dogs' can help college students deal with anxiety, loneliness

A new study has revealed that animal-assisted therapy can reduce symptoms of anxiety and loneliness among college students.

ANI| Updated: Oct 22, 2014, 11:08 AM IST

Washington: A new study has revealed that animal-assisted therapy can reduce symptoms of anxiety and loneliness among college students.

According to researchers at Georgia State University, Idaho State University and Savannah College of Art and Design, there was a 60 percent decrease in self-reported anxiety and loneliness symptoms following animal-assisted therapy, in which a registered therapy dog was under the supervision of a licensed mental health practitioner.

Eighty-four percent of the participants reported their interaction with the therapy dog, Sophie, was the most significant part of the program.

This study suggests animal-assisted therapy could be an effective way for college counseling centers to meet the growing demands of their students. It is one of the first to apply animal-assisted therapy in a group, college setting and use a systematic form of measurement.

Researchers said that dogs can be ideal therapy animals because they have become so domesticated and the seeming ability to read cues between dogs and humans is probably the most pronounced. For instance, a dog can tell when a human is sad. The presence of a therapy dog facilitates a therapeutic connection between the client and the mental health professional.