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New Research to Study Impacts of Animal-Assisted Interventions for Youth in Residential Treatment Program

HABRI awards grant to Institute for Human-Animal Connection, University of Denver.

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(PRESS RELEASE) WASHINGTON, DC – The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced it has awarded a grant to the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver for a new study, Exploring the impacts of animal-assisted interventions on positive youth development for adolescents in residential treatment. The study aims to better understand the clinical, behavioral and educational impacts of the Animal-Assisted Intervention (AAI) programs at Green Chimneys, a therapeutic school and treatment center for children facing social, emotional, and behavioral challenges.

“In conducting this study, we hope to better understand the impacts of the Green Chimneys AAI programs on student outcomes from the perspectives of the students who regularly participate in them,” explained the study’s Principal Investigator, Kevin Morris, PhD, director of Research of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, University of Denver. “The findings from this project will be combined with an array of other qualitative and quantitative studies underway at Green Chimneys, which we hope will create a more detailed understanding of the impacts of these programs.”

The research team, led by Dr. Morris and Dr. Megan Mueller, co-director of the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction, and including Erin Flynn, MSW, and Jaci Gandenberger, MSW, both from the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver, will conduct semi-structured interviews with 20 5th-7th grade Green Chimneys students across both residential and day programs. After conducting the interviews, key themes will be identified and reviewed for common meanings and then grouped together via identified constitutive content that links the themes to one another. These student themes will be combined with the findings of previous qualitative studies conducted with Green Chimneys teaching, clinical and animal program staff to create a nuanced understanding of the mechanisms by which the animal-assisted interventions impact specific clinical and educational goals. Researchers will also identify gaps in perceptions between student and staff groups that can be used to inform and optimize how the programs are utilized and studied. The goal of the study is to gather contextually rich information from multiple, unique perspectives on how the AAIs impact student self-regulation skills and positive youth development.

“Green Chimneys has a long history of being a model for therapeutic human-animal bond programs,” said HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman. “In studying Green Chimneys, we hope to help inform the wider field of AAI by identifying potential clinical outcomes for positive youth development that can be applied in other youth development programs that incorporate companion animals.”

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