This research project focused on the influence of animal-assisted play therapy on the self-esteem of adolescents with special needs. The goal of this study was to ascertain whether principles of animal-assisted play therapy from the gestalt approach would enhance the self-esteem of adolescents with special needs. In order to achieve this goal, the following objectives were set out: to create a theoretical knowledge base through a literature study and consultation with experts, to conduct an empirical study in order to obtain qualitative and quantitative data and to formulate conclusions and recommendations with regard to the use of animal-assisted play therapy with adolescents with special needs. A combination of the quantitative and qualitative approaches was utilized, and applied research was done, as the focus was on practical solutions that is suitable for practice. A research hypothesis was posed, namely: If animal-assisted therapy from the gestalt approach is used with adolescents with special needs, their self-esteem will be enhanced. Two adolescents were selected as respondents through purposive sampling as sub-type of non-probability sampling. An empirical study was conducted through the use of questionnaires and interviewing as data-collection methods. The quantitative data was gathered through the use of self-constructed questionnaires and the Psychosocial Functioning Inventory for High School Children (PFI – HIGH – C) from Perspective College. The researcher utilized the A-B-A research design to conduct a pre-test and a post-test. Qualitative data was gathered through interviewing using the combined animal-assisted and gestalt play therapy techniques Empirical data was gathered and indicated improvement in the self-esteem of both the respondents who were exposed to the play therapy techniques. The research has thus shown that the use of animal-assisted play therapy does enhance the self-esteem of adolescents with special needs, and has benefits for future practice. The hypothesis of the study is thus proven to be true.
Dissertation (MSD (Play Therapy))--University of Pretoria, 2005.