Carl Jung once said “I am not what happened to me, I am what | choose to become”. One can infer that this means people are in charge of their destiny, their choice regarding the events in their life defines who they are as a person. Individuals are consistently experiencing a plethora of events. These events are on a spectrum that ranges from traumatic to pleasant. Traumatic events that occur can be natural or man-made. Natural traumatic events include earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, snow storms, and volcanic eruptions.
Man-made events include war, torture, kidnappings, and abuse. Within the world, abuse is often inflicted on children. Child abuse is a social issue that inflicts lasting trauma and can lead to a plethora of issues. These issues can be treated in a plethora of ways, therapy being the best. Some therapies used to treat abuse is Animal-Assisted Therapy can play a huge role in the rehabilitation of abused adolescents. ChildHelp is a National non-profit organization dedicated to the treatment and prevention of child abuse.
They watch the statistics on child abuse and have noticed some interesting facts. ChildHelp has noticed that over three million child abuse reports have been written in the last year (within the United States). This means that over six million children have been abused (Child Abuse Statistics). The children can be abused physically, mentally, and emotionally. Webster’s dictionary defines abuse as “bad or improper treatment; maltreatment” (“Abuse”). It can cause a multitude of issues in adolescents, some of which will continue into their adulthood.
The effects of abuse can vary due to the circumstance, type, and length of the abuse. However, they can usually be categorized based on physical, behavioral, and psychological effects. The physical effects of abuse can include poor physical health, brain trauma, impaired brain development, and difficulty sleeping (Long Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect, 2013). The behavioral effects can include substance abuse, risky sexual decision-making, criminal activity, and self-harm (Long Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect, 2013).
The psychological effects are the most detrimental. Some of the psychological effects include dissociation, anxiety, depression, flashbacks, eating disorders, and discomfort with physical tough (Long Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect, 2013). The psychological effects can lead to re-victimization. This causes the cycle of abuse to continue. The treatment of any disorder or ailment can vary based on the circumstances. Abuse has only two types of treatments, Psychical and psychological treatment.
Physical treatments for abuse include surgery and medication (Dietz, Davis & Pennings, 2012). The surgery is used to heal any broken bones or physical trauma that may have occurred. The medication involved is often medication to deal with the somatic side effects, (i. e. painkillers, anti-emetics, etc. ). The psychological treatments for abuse includes counseling, and therapies. A beneficial therapy used to treat abused adolescents is Animal-Assisted Therapy or AAT. In abuse victims AAT has been shown to cause a significant decrease in trauma symptoms.
These symptoms include anxiety, depression, anger, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociation, and sexual concerns (Dietz, Davis & Pennings, 2012). Animals have been around humans for centuries, overtime scientist have begun to pick up on the unique bond that an animal and human can have. Animal Assisted Therapy officially began in 9th Century Belgium. However, the first recorded use of AAT was in 1792 when the Quakers used animals as adjuncts to treat the mentally ill (Walsh, 2009). The man credited as being the father of AAT is Boris Levinson.
This “birth” was an accident, Levinson was a child psychiatrist who noticed that the children were able to develop trust and rapport when his dog, Jingles, was present (Walsh, 2009). The use of AAT began in the 9th Century, but it is still being used today. Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) one of the many therapies that can be used to treat abused adolescents. It is a type of therapy that involves the use of animals as a form of treatment (Stefanini, Martino, Allori, Galeotti & Tani, 2015).
The goal of AAT is to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning (Sefanini & et. l, 2015). The type of animal that is used during AAT depends on the client and their abilities. Common animals used in AAT include cats, rabbits, dogs, llamas, dolphins, and horses. There is still research being completed in order for those in the psychology field to fully understand how AAT works. However, it is known that this therapy depends on the bond between humans and animals (Lentini & Knox, 2015). This is a bond that has existed for centuries. The bond between humans and animals induces the “feel good” chemicals in the brain (Lentini & Knox, 2015).
These chemicals are a result of interactions between the neurotransmitters involved include dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine and oxytocin (Lentini & Knox, 2015). Petting an animal, releases endorphins, which suppress pain. It also promotes relaxation and calmness. In order to be treated, it is necessary for a patient to meet with a professional. Common patients of AAT include the elderly, veterans, children, stroke victims, patients undergoing chemo, mental health patients and abuse victims (Balluerka, Muela, Amiano &Caldentey, 2015).
There is a common underlying factor with all of these patents. Each of them has a psychological side effect. These often experience anxiety, depression, or anther ailment due to their vulnerable mental status. All of which can benefit from the “feel good” chemicals in the brain. The therapy animal that an abuse victim encounters often depends on their abilities. Horses, are a common animal for abuse victims (Kemp, Signal, Botros, Taylor & Prentice, 2014). This is because they are “gentle giants”. Abused children often gain a fear of those bigger than them because of the pain they experienced.
Caring for a horse, teaches the children that not all “giants” will hurt them (Kemp et. al, 2014). It also gives the children power over the horse and allows them to control the situation (Kemp et. al, 2014). Although Animal Assisted Therapy is not conventional it still goes through a view process before being implemented. This includes weighing the risks and benefits of the therapy. There are four important risks when it comes to the use of AAT. The first risk is the lack of sanitation (Kamioka, Okada, Tsutani, Park, Okuizumi, Handa & Mutoh, 2014).
Sanitation can be an issue with animal-assisted therapy. This is because animals are consistently shedding and releasing their dead skin cells. The shedding can be an issue in the hospital due to the amount of patients who can be immune-compromised; including cancer patients (Kamioka et. al, 2014). The second risk to Animal- Assisted therapy is safety. This can be an issue with AAT due to the large animals that may be used. Even though the animals go through an intense amount of training, it is still a risk to allow a patient around an animal (Kamioka et. al, 2014).
This is due to the simple fact that animals are still animals. Although trained animals are less likely to become spooked or scared, it can still occur. The third risk to Animal Assisted Therapy is possessiveness. This is a risk that occurs due to the patient. If a patient becomes possessive of an animal, it can lead to a lower self-esteem (Kamioka et. al, 2014). The fourth risk to Animal- Assisted Therapy is grief. This is a risk that occurs due to the attachment to the animal. The possibility of grief can occur when an animal passes (Kamioka et. al, 2014).
This is a possibility because animals have a shorter life span than humans. It is also a possibility because sudden accidents can never be anticipated. The benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy far out-weigh the risks. These benefits can also be categorized into physical and psychological benefits. The physical benefits of this therapy include; improved motor skills and balance, increased focus and attention, enhanced problem-solving skills, a reduced need for medication and reduced blood pressure, depression and risk of myocardial infarctions (Krause-Parello & Friedmann, 2014).
This occurs due to the endorphins that are released while interacting with an animal. The psychological benefits include improved social skills, increased trust, empathy, and teamwork, increased self-esteem and self-control, reduced anxiety, grief and isolation (O’haire, 2010). This therapy also facilitates the therapeutic bond between the client and the practitioner (O’haire, 2010). These benefits begin the moment a client touches a welcoming animal. The response of the animal to the commands of the client encourages communication, whereas taking care of the animal develops fine motor skills (Brandt, 2013).
These are only a few of the benefits from Animal Assisted Therapy. There a many more than can occur but these benefits are essential to the rehabilitation of an abused adolescent. Child abuse is a social issue that continues to plague the world. The best way to treat it, is to prevent it. Anyone witnessing abuse, not just child abuse, should step in and notify the authorities. Although people will try to help, there is still the possibility of negative side-effects do to the abuse done to the children that can affect their adulthood.
There a number of ways to help, one of which is Animal-Assisted Therapy. One of the goals to this therapy is to help re-socialize the children. This is a goal that is incredibly important to help their future and avoid re-victimization, a side effect that continues the cycle of abuse. More patients should undergo this therapy due to the multitude of benefits. As Marty Becker (the resident veterinarian for Good Morning America) once said, “It is the intuitive power of animals that can help us heal hurts, lessen stress, feel needed, and express our caring side. “