Pet therapy is a good natural remedy for homesickness

Harold Mandel's picture
A young woman and her dog

A University of British Columbia study shows that animal-assisted therapy can help students combat homesickness.

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Homesickness can be a terrible problem which interrupts the academic careers of young men and women just starting out as university students. A good natural intervention of pet therapy can help these students cope with this problem.

Drop out rates may be lowered with pet therapy

According to a study at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus the idea of a dog being man's best friend gains a lot of meaning when considering first year university students who are suffering from being homesick. It has been shown in this study that university students with therapy assisted by pets may have a lower drop out rate.

Assistant Professor John Tyler Binfet of University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus says that the transition from high school to a university may be a very big challenge for many students during their first year. In consideration that students suffering from being homesick are more likely to drop out of school than other students who do not suffer from homesickness there is a great deal of interest in offering students support during their transition the first year.

Students who were given pet therapy experienced less homesickness

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This study included 44 freshman university students who identified themselves as being homesick. Half of these students were given eight weeks of dog therapy and the other half were told their therapy would start in eight weeks. The dog therapy consisted of weekly sessions which were 45 minutes long wherein there were interactions between students and dogs with handlers. There was also engagement with other students who were taking part in this study.

It was determined via a survey given before and after the dog therapy that the students who completed the eight-week program suffered from significantly less homesickness. These students also experienced a greater increase in their satisfaction with their lives. It was reported by the students that during the pet therapy sessions they felt as if they were at home chatting with friends who brought their puppies with them. There was an increase in feelings of being homesick in the group of students that weren't treated.

It has been determined that students who were happy with being university students were significantly more likely to have felt a sense of belonging in comparison to students who left feeling unhappy. The students who left unhappy with university life were found to be almost twice as likely to express feelings that they lacked a sense of belonging on the campus.

Pet therapy nurtures a sense of purpose

Many of the students who dropped out have said if they had more interactions and friendships with other students they may have decided to stay longer. Pet assisted therapy sessions offer homesick students a sense of purpose and may nurture feelings of enthusiasm about life.

This study has been published in the journal Anthrozoos. Intervention programs which offer opportunities for interactions between students and animals have been increasingly popular as a way of increasing the well-being of students. Students who have taken part in pet therapy have experienced less homesickness along with greater satisfaction with life and more connectedness to campus. Pet therapy may really offer a great natural remedy for homesickness.

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