Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

James Simon


Untreated trauma can have significant lifelong negative impacts on children including poor emotional and mental health, social difficulties, poor physical health, juvenile delinquency, adult criminality, and substance abuse. Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) utilizes animals, typically dogs or horses, in goal-oriented treatment plans, and AAT has been found to be an effective treatment for trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder, especially in children. Social workers working with children who have child welfare involvement are often responsible for services referrals, treatment plans, case plans, and direct provision of services. Current research does not address if the social workers responsible for referring children to services are receptive to utilizing AAT. Thus, this study assessed the attitudes and perceptions of social workers towards AAT and its use with children in foster care with trauma histories by gathering qualitative data through face-to-face interviews. Participants were identified through a purposive chain sampling method, which resulted in ten participants. Conventional content analysis was used to analyze the transcribed interviews to identify themes and subthemes of knowledge of AAT and trauma, identification of therapeutic factors, positive reception, barriers, and inaccurate knowledge. The study found that while the general knowledge base of AAT among social workers is considerably small, there is a high positive regard for AAT and a willingness to utilize it. Implications of this research include greater insight into the current knowledge base of social workers in regards to AAT, current utilization of AAT, acceptance and resistance to AAT, and possible barriers towards utilization.

Included in

Social Work Commons