Healing and Caring in Dolphin-Assisted Therapy: Criticisms of Effectiveness and Ethical Issues

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Since the 1970s, new therapeutic practices, involving the interaction between humans and dolphins - Tursiops truncatus in particular, have developed. Such practices are known as dolphin-assisted therapies (DAT), a specific case of a more heterogeneous set of experiences with dolphins called dolphin-assisted activities (DAA): these include programmes of dolphin watching and swimming in high seas, as well as shows in dolphinariums and marine parks. DAT has grown rapidly as a highly attractive form of therapy, due to the well-liked animals used in an aquatic, and often exotic, environment. This kind of co-therapy seems to testify the enchantement that dolphins - in myths and chronicles often reported in rescue at sea, perceived as especially charismatic - exert on people; the human attempt of bonding with them, possibly in response to the need of building a human-animal bodily intersubjectivity.

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