People suffering from chronic mental or physical disabilities should not resort to a dolphin "healing" experience, warn two researchers from Emory University. Lori Marino, senior lecturer in the Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Program, has teamed with Scott Lilienfeld, professor in the Department of Psychology, to launch an educational campaign countering claims made by purveyors of what is known as dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT).
"Dolphin-assisted therapy is not a valid treatment for any disorder," says Marino, a leading dolphin and whale researcher. "We want to get the word out that it's a lose-lose situation for people and for dolphins."
While swimming with dolphins may be a fun, novel experience, no scientific evidence exists for any long-term benefit from DAT, Marino says. She adds that people who spend thousands of dollars for DAT don't just lose out financially they put themselves, and the dolphin, at risk of injury or infection. And they are supporting an industry that outside of the United States takes dolphins from the wild in a brutal process that often leaves several dolphins dead for every surviving captive.
Marino and Lilienfeld reviewed five studies published during the past eight years and found that the claims for efficacy for DAT were invalid. Their conclusions were published recently in Anthrozos, the journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology, in a paper entitled "Dolphin-Assisted Therapy: More Flawed Data and More Flawed Conclusions."
"We found that all five studies were methodologically flawed and plagued by several threats to both internal and construct validity," wrote Marino and Lilienfeld, who conducted a similar review in 1998. "We conclude that nearly a decade following our initial review, there remains no compelling evidence that DAT is a legitimate therapy, or that it affords any more than fleeting improvements in mood."
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