IAHAIO 2021 Conference

  • Day two: Sunday 26 September

Symposium: Mechanisms underlying AAI, Marie-Jose Enders-Slegers, Richard Griffioen, Karin Hediger, and Steffi van der Steen

Several theories are used to hypothesize the changes in physical, social and emotional wellbeing as effects of Animal Assisted Interventions: Attachment theory, Social Support Theory, Social Learning Theory. No theory has been identified so far to explain the mechanisms of the changes.
The main aim of this presentation is to shed light on the underlying mechanism supposed to (partially) explain the effects of Animal Assisted Interventions and to take a first step in looking if the theoretical construct of synchrony can be identified in an Animal Assisted Therapy setting
Synchrony can be considered as a rhythmic pattern of behavior that is mutually regulated, reciprocal, and harmonious. Synchrony is a pattern created by two interaction partners, and can be expressed as a temporal match between their behaviors. Importantly, synchrony in human interactions facilitates the development of social emotional skills (such as between mother and child). It has therefore been hypothesized that animal-assisted interventions may contribute to client’s ability to synchronize by offering a training context, in which they learn to synchronize with the animal. To illustrate we will present some results from different recently conducted studies in the Netherlands.

Marie-Jose Enders-Slegers

Marie-Jose Enders-Slegers, PhD has been Professor in Anthrozoology at the Faculty of Psychology at the Open University in Heerlen, the Netherlands, since June 2013. She successively obtained her Doctoral Diploma Psychology (1990) at the University of Utrecht; a Doctorate (PhD) in Psychology (2000); a Diploma Health Care Psychologist (2001), Certificates Basic- and Senior Lecturer (2003) at the Utrecht University and until now numerous post doctorate courses for further qualifications in research and clinical psychology. She specializes in human-animal interactions. Her research is focused on the development of human-animal relations and the meaning of human-animal interactions for vulnerable people (e.g. elderly, demented elderly, traumatized children, mentally handicapped people, children with psychiatric disorders, autistic children, and psychiatric patients) and on the link between domestic violence and animal abuse. Furthermore, she was founder and is nowadays adviser of AAIZOO (Animal Assisted Interventions in Zorg (Care), Onderzoek (Research), Onderwijs (Education); is Fellow at the Denver University; has been member of the Expert Advisory Group Sociology of the CALLISTO project of the European Union (until 2016), is founder and board member of IVA, (Institute for Anthrozoology in the Netherlands), is board member ( ex officio) of ISAZ (International Society of Anthrozoology), is on the advisory council of Green Chimneys, Brewster, N.Y. and at HABRI Central Management Advisory Board, U.S.A. She is President of the International Association of Human-Animal Interactions (IAHAIO).

Richard Griffioen

Richard Griffioen is an experienced health professional, coach and trainer, previously at Medical Center IBIS and The Human academy. In 1997 he started Stichting SAM, a foundation for animal-assisted interventions, and started his research into the development of children with Down and autism. In 2015, this resulted in a PhD at the Open University, which he successfully completed in 2020. From 2013 to 2016 he was a member of the board (including as chairman, currently he is still connected as an advisor) of AAIZOO, Animal Assisted Interventions in care, education and research. Since 2020 he has been a member of the board of the global umbrella organization IAHAIO (International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organizations). Currently he works as a professor of Animal Assisted Interventions at AERES University of Applied Sciences.

Karin Hediger

Dr Karin Hediger is a psychotherapist and researcher at the University of Basel, Switzerland, at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and a neurorehabilitation clinic, investigating effects of animal-assisted interventions. After studying psychology at University of Zürich, Switzerland, she did her PhD in Rostock, Germany, in the field of human-animal interaction. She has a certificate in animal-assisted therapy, a diploma in equine-assisted therapy and recently founded a centre for animal-assisted psychotherapy.
Karin Hediger is president of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Human-Animal Relationship (IEMT Switzerland), secretary of the International Society for Animal Assisted Therapy (ISAAT) and gives courses on animal-assisted interventions in many different institutes. Karin also holds the positions of Professor of Anthrozoology at the Open University, The Netherlands and Assistant Professor in Psychology at the University of Basel, Switzerland.

Steffie van der Steen

Steffie van der Steen is an Associate professor at the Department of Special Needs Education and Youth Care of the University of Groningen. Her research focuses on interactions that children with special needs have, including interactions during animal-assisted interventions. Steffie is currently involved in several studies on animal-assisted interventions, often with a focus on human-animal synchrony. Among the research methods she uses, are systematic observations, time-serial analyses and movement registrations.