Animal assisted therapy with young people in Aotearoa

Author: Kiritapu Murray

Animal Assisted Therapy with Young People in Aotearoa

Kiritapu Murray
29 June 2018

Murray, K. G. F. (2018). Animal assisted therapy with young people in Aotearoa. (A redacted thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Master of Professional Practice, Otago Polytechnic.) [PDF 9.9MB]

Executive Summary

This Master of Professional Practice project was born from a query on how much the dog impacted the engagement of a young person in the therapy room. Working therapeutically with young people and engaging in the Session Review Scale process, that was mandatory in the workplace, encouraged me to investigate further how the clients experienced me as the therapist but also to understand their appreciation of the co-therapist and to what extent, if any, the dog’s presence had in providing tangible benefits.

The research was undertaken in Christchurch, New Zealand, at my place of work, St John of God Waipuna Community, Youth and Child Services providing specialist services for young people aged 10 to 25 years and their Whanau. The health and wellbeing team provides individual support and case work for young people at risk and their families. The team also offers mental health services including counselling for young people between 10 and 25 years of age.

As a therapeutic mental health practitioner, I rely heavily on the interview process when engaging with clients in the therapeutic settings in which I work, the setting for this research project is with young people aged 14 to 24 years who have displayed mild to moderate mental health symptoms specifically with anxiety and depression, and young people who have issues with alcohol and other drugs. These young people have accessed therapy in either an individual or group setting, have been informed about the research project and have elected, often with parental support, to
engage in the research. 

Clients and their whanau were able to elect to participate in or exclude themselves from the research project without prejudice. Counselling services were offered regardless of participation in the project. Clients were informed about the project before treatment started. Clients were able to choose to have therapy with or without the dog, and to have therapy with or without being involved in the research.

Keywords: counselling, Aotearoa, animal assisted therapy, Māori, youth.

This research was supervised by Jo Kirkwood and Trish Franklin. 


This redacted thesis is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivatives licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International.

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