Lindsay Crago and Jenny Leeder describe an innovative pilot project designed to help alleviate student exam stress
Animal assisted intervention (AAI), a broad term which includes ‘animal assisted activity’, ‘animal assisted therapy’, and ‘pet therapy’, is defined as ‘any intervention that intentionally includes or incorporates animals as part of a therapeutic or ameliorative process or milieu’2. Despite the physiological and psychological benefits of the human-animal bond having long been recognised3 and having become established in the US as an effective clinical intervention for a wide range of issues4, as a modality in the UK, AAI still remains relatively new5. During the past few years, AAIs have emerged in various forms as a growing trend across campuses of leading universities and colleges in the US and Canada. From the resident therapy dog at Yale University’s Law School, that can be ‘checked out’ for 30-minute sessions, to Dalhousie University’s ‘puppy room’, these specially selected canines have been brought onto campuses to offer students a unique break from the stress and pressures of academic life.
It was the anecdotal success of these North American programmes, coupled with the 60 per cent increase in service demand, which we at the University of Edinburgh Student Counselling Service (SCS) have experienced over the past two years, that prompted Paws Against Stress (PAS). Our vision was to hold a number of short events on campus which would provide students with access to therapeutic canines, offering both a fun break from revision and an intervention to help manage stress levels in the run-up to summer exams.
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This publication is the copyright of BACP: 'This article first appeared in the February 2014 issue of University & College Counselling, published by the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy(c).