Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Rosemary McCaslin


Animal‑Assisted Intervention (AAI) is used to significantly reduce pain, lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety, and help ease depression in people with a range of health problems; however, it is not readily used in the hospital setting. Research involving the Human‑Animal Bond (HAB) is well established, yet most social workers receive no special training or coursework about this topic as it applies to working with patients or consumers. This study sought to understand the beliefs about AAI among medical social workers in healthcare settings in order to gauge what knowledge and degree of exposure they may have had to AAI. Eighteen randomly selected social workers, holding MSW, ASW, LMSW or LCSW credentials, employed from 6 months to 26 years in hospital or cancer clinic settings across the United States were interviewed by phone, recorded, and their comments transcribed. Nine specific themes were identified. Fifteen of the 18 medical social workers had no formal training, workshop or class discussion during undergraduate or graduate school training. No one had any on the job training, unless they purposefully sought it out, as three did. All participants agreed that they would like to know more about AAI to incorporate into their workplace in order to better inform patients, doctors, nurses and staff about the benefits of animals as a natural healing modality.