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The technical name for this is Dolphin Assisted Therapy (dat) and comes from the root word of “animal assisted therapy”. This is incorporating an animal into a person’s therapeutic process or treatment.
The first systematic use of animals to benefit people seems to have occurred in Belgium in the 9th century (Catanzaro, 2003). This was involving the use of companion type animals, like cats or dogs or even some farm type animals.Incorporating wild or exotic animals into therapy is not as common. Although I have read some accounts of all types of animals even snakes that helped a person through some type of suffering or illness. Capaldo (1989) says the use of wild animals for therapeutic benefit is rare, one exception may be swimming with dolphins though.
Most of the literature on dolphin therapy seems to start in the 1970’s and with Betsy Smith who started using dolphins to help children with developmental disabilities. But even before this time, there has been numerous accounts of people having incredible encounters with dolphins.
How does therapy work?
There are many theories behind how dat works. One of these includes recognizing the dolphin as a highly rewarding reinforcer of behavior. Swimming with dolphins can help to encourage positive growth, or speed up learning processes. Other theorists take the approach of changes in the brain as a part of Dolphin healing which could produce physiological benefits.
The Intelligence of a Dolphin could provide unique benefits that other animals can not, and provides an unconditional acceptance which humans can sometimes have trouble giving. Some people also report benefits of emotional release while swimming with dolphins, even breaking down into tears. The environment where dolphins are found (water) include benefits of Aqua-therapy that are unique to this animal species.
Also there could be the benefit of Dolphin sonar too
And lastly some people may have benefits just because this is a “peak experience”. Just swimming with dolphins can be such an incredible, moving experience that it creates life change.
Who can benefit?
There is wide variety of reports on people who benefit from this therapy. People with non-verbal or communicative disorders have found positive results in working with dolphins. Children with special needs including Autism, asd’s, pdd’s, cerebral palsy, etc., are a unique focus to many programs. There has also has been recent research for people experiencing depression or anxiety. Some programs also provide more of a self-directed approach for anyone looking for healing in their lives. This spans young and old, and a variety of illnesses, sicknesses, or diagnoses.
Where to find locations?
You can find dolphin therapy programs all around the world. Some have multiple focuses and work with a variety of populations, while others focus on specific clients like people experiencing depression, or children with special needs. Some places will also offer encounters, which could also be called therapeutic. Experiencing a swim with dolphin program, or wild dolphin retreat can give people feelings of joy, and the energy of a unique moment that can last a lifetime. But if you are experiencing a certain mental health or physical problem, a specific therapy program focused on your unique needs would be a better fit. But there certainly is something for everyone.