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Dolphin therapy is a healing practice that can also be known as dolphin-assisted therapy. It usually involves swimming and interacting with one or more dolphins as a means of spurring healing of a variety of problems. Usually, the therapy is recommended by a doctor, often a psychologist or physical therapist, alongside traditional medical treatment for the problem. Proponents of this practice cite instances showing increased learning function and recovery progress for people with mental disorders. Some people disagree with the use of his method for its unproven effectiveness and for ethical and safety problems.
Dolphin therapy is a form of aquatic therapy. Generally considered to be a form of alternative therapy, it is most often discussed in connection with autism or other cognitive developmental disorders. During this type of therapy, the patient swims in a pool with dolphins with the assistance of his dolphin therapist. This therapy is performed alongside other types of healing therapy, like massage and psychotherapy. It is most often administered to children with mental or physical ailments, but it is also used as therapy for adults, particularly those with injuries, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Despite the apparent cuteness of the practice, dolphin therapy is somewhat controversial among animal rights activists, safety advocates and therapists. Animal rights activists believe it places the dolphin at an unnecessary risk of injury or infection. Even with precautions, dolphins' delicate skin can be injured by fingernails or by jewelry worn by the patient, or if a patient's behavior gets out of control.
Another animal rights problem is concern for how the dolphins end up at the therapy facilities. In some cases, dolphins are captured from the wild for use in dolphin experience attractions, and many are hurt or killed in the process. Since captive dolphins can become unstable and lash out, injuries to the person receiving dolphin therapy can also be a concern. In the past, some people swimming with dolphins have sustained injuries ranging from mild lacerations to broken ribs.
Some therapists believe dolphin healing is a waste of money. Though a select few therapists perform the therapy for free, a session with dolphins can be expensive. Though many therapists believe dolphin therapy is beneficial to patients, others disagree. Research on the effectiveness of dolphin therapy has shown benefits for children with disabilities, but dissenting researchers argue that the existing studies are out of date, inconclusive, or flawed.