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Animal-Assisted Therapy Ameliorates Anhedonia in Schizophrenia Patients

A Controlled Pilot Study

Nathans-Barel I.a,b · Feldman P.c · Berger B.b · Modai I.c,d · Silver H.a,c,d
aBrain Behavior Laboratory,Sha’ar Menashe Mental Health Center, Mobile Post Hefer, bDepartment of Psychology, Haifa University, Haifa, cSha’ar Menashe Mental Health Center, Mobile Post Hefer, and dRappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel Psychother Psychosom 2005;74:31–35 (DOI:10.1159/000082024)


Background: Anhedonia, a component of the negative symptom dimension and a core phenomenon in schizophrenia, is associated with poor social functioning and is resistant to treatment. We tested the hypothesis that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) may improve anhedonia. Objective: To compare the effect of psychosocial treatment sessions in which a dog was an active participant (AAT) with comparable sessions without a dog, using a controlled protocol. Method: The hedonic tone of 10 chronic schizophrenia patients who participated in 10 weekly interactive sessions of AAT was compared to a control group treated without animal assistance. The hedonic tone was measured with the Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale. Subjective quality of life variables and clinical symptoms were also assessed. Results: The AAT group showed a significant improvement in the hedonic tone compared to controls. They also showed an improvement in the use of leisure time and a trend towards improvement in motivation. Conclusion: AAT may contribute to the psychosocial rehabilitation and quality of life of chronic schizophrenia patients.


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