In a pilot randomized controlled trial a group of researchers of the Technion Institute of Technology (Israel) suggest the usefulness of pet therapy for improving apathy in schizophrenic patients. The paper was published in the January issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.
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. 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. 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. 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. AAT may contribute to the psychosocial rehabilitation and quality of life of chronic schizophrenia patients.
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