Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name



Occupational Therapy

Faculty Mentor

Leslie Davidson, PhD, OTR/L


PURPOSE. To understand the attitudes and perceptions of therapists towards animal assisted therapy (AAT) and towards the barriers and facilitators of implementing AAT into practice. METHOD. This descriptive qualitative studied consisted of ten semi-structured interviews with rehabilitation therapists that were coded for common themes. Data from two Likert-scale questions were analyzed using descriptive statistics. RESULTS. Eight themes emerged from the data including therapists’ attitudes towards animal assisted therapy and their own competence, three core benefits of animal assisted therapy that they identified (increased patient participation, positive emotional/social influence, and contribution to patient-centered goals), and three main barriers towards implementation (scheduling/operations, facility policy and environment, and identification of appropriate patients). CONCLUSION. Rehabilitation therapists appear to have a positive view of animal assisted therapy and appreciate the potential benefits of using such an intervention. The barriers towards implementation were primarily extrinsic, involving logistics and the facility policies and environment in which they worked. Intrinsic factors such as perceived competency was also a concern. All of the therapists indicated that they would be more likely to implement animal assisted therapy into practice if the barriers they identified were addressed. Future research should explore whether addressing these barriers impacts actual implementation of animal assisted therapy in rehabilitation settings. Findings could also be used to construct a readiness survey to aid implementation of a new program.

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© 2019 Karen Vizaniaris.