Can cuddling your pooch prevent depression? Will playing with your cat resolve anxiety? Can swimming with the dolphins really relieve stress and improve your quality of life? The answer is: I don’t have a clue. And despite sensationalized headlines, it seems that the scientific community isn’t too sure, either.
Animal assisted therapy is a trending subject, but what it actually looks like – and whether or not there’s any scientific evidence to support it – isn’t as simple as the media would have us believe. From studies with notable methodological flaws to our preconceived biases influencing our personal or anecdotal experiences, sorting out the role animals can play in our treatment is a little more complex than it would appear.
One scientist examining the available evidence is Dr. Hal Herzog, a professor emeritus of psychology at Western Carolina University, popular writer of the Animals and Us blog at PsychologyToday.com, and author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat. Reviewing studies, challenging notions about animal assisted therapy, and putting me in my place for my misconceptions about the pharmaceutical industry is what Dr. Herzog enjoys – and that’s what he did during an in-depth interview with The Everyday Fray Podcast.