Dog Therapy Helps Treat Prisoners with Mental Illnesses

March 25, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. therapy /ˈθɛr ə pi/ (n.) – a form of treatment for a physical or mental disease
Example: The music therapy helped Linda become more cheerful.

2. psychiatric /ˌsaɪ kiˈæ trɪk/ (adj.) – referring to mental disorders or their treatment
Example: He keeps a journal as part of his psychiatric therapy.

3. overcrowded /ˌoʊ vərˈkraʊded/ (adj.) – involving too many people
Example: The man complained about how overcrowded the hospital was.

4. resort to /rɪˈzɔrt tu/ (v. phrase) – to choose a less desired option
Example: He resorted to natural treatment because his medicines are very expensive.

5. temperament /ˈtɛmpərəmənt, -prə mənt/ (n.) – the attitude or emotional traits of a human or an animal
Example: I like dogs with a gentle temperament.


Read the text below.
Dog therapy now helps provide cheap and effective treatment to prisoners suffering from mental illnesses.

According to a 2014 study from the Treatment Advocacy Center, the number of mentally ill people is 10 times higher in prisons than in state psychiatric hospitals. The Utah Department of Corrections also said the mental health program has become overcrowded. Because of this, the authorities resorted to the inexpensive animal-assisted therapy (AAT) to maintain the treatment services for inmates.

The AAT program proved to be an effective treatment for inmates. A volunteer from the program shared that the presence of dogs helped prisoners feel calmer. The dogs can also ease tension among inmates when talking with a therapist. Moreover, a dog can provide emotional support through physical contact such as lying down on an inmate’s lap or touching a person with its paws.

Researchers claim that human-animal interaction gives positive health effects to a person. Among the mental illnesses that can be treated in the AAT program include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychotic disorders.

Before it can become a co-therapist, a dog must pass medical tests, temperament tests, and trainings. Animal handlers should also make sure that the therapy dogs remain clean and properly vaccinated. Aside from prisons, hospitals, schools, and community groups utilize AAT programs.

The use of animals as co-therapists began in the 18th century. Reports showed that animals like dogs help improve a patient’s recovery process. In the 19th century, doctors used dogs and other pets to help with the psychiatric treatment of patients in a Washington hospital. Other animals like dolphins, horses, and rabbits are also used for AAT programs.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What breed of dog do you think is best for dog therapy? Kindly discuss.
·         In your opinion, can animal-assisted therapy be useful in your country? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         What animal do you consider most helpful? Please explain your answer.
·         What are the other advantages of owning a pet?

March 25, 2015