Does Dolphin Therapy Really Work?

Dolphin therapy began in the 1970s when Betsy Smith, an anthropologist, noticed the therapeutic effect dolphins had on her mentally disabled brother. Dolphin therapy has been used for years to help children who suffer from autism. Other areas where dolphin therapy has been beneficial include children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The best treatment centers for depression include dolphin therapy as part of their treatment for depression and anxiety.

Why Dolphins?

Dolphins are intelligent animals. The size of their brains in comparison to their bodies is second only to humans. They respond to hand signals and motions. They have empathy and been known to help humans to safety. Like humans, they mourn their dead. They’re gentle and friendly. Therapists work to foster the social interaction between humans and dolphins.

Benefits of Therapy

What benefits have researchers and therapists seen with dolphin therapy?

• People become calmer
• People become more focused and increase their attention spans
• Children with autism communicate better
• Children with autism improve eye contact and laugh and smile more
• People gain confidence


Critics of dolphin therapy point to a lack of scientific evidence. Much of the support for dolphin therapy is anecdotal, but researchers are studying the effect dolphin encounters have on the brain wave patterns of humans and the healing potential of the dolphin’s ultrasound emissions. Critics say the “magical” feeling a person gets from dolphin therapy is merely a reaction to the whole experience of being in the water with the dolphins and not necessarily from the dolphins themselves. However, there have been countless patients who have improved due to dolphin therapy.

The Experience

There’s debate among scientists as to the value of dolphin therapy. It may not be the “miracle cure” some people seek, but success can come in small doses. There’s a reason more and more parents are signing up their children with special needs for dolphin therapy. A person who attends one of the best depression treatment facilities benefits from dolphin therapy. The person enjoys a moment with an animal that doesn’t demand anything in return.

Why not include dolphin therapy as part of your treatment for depression or anxiety? Contact Kinder in the Keys and learn more.


Author Bio

Dr. Laura Tanzini, DrPh, MA, MFT

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a highly educated and accomplished professional with a background in biology and psychology. She received a BS in Biology from UC Riverside, an MA in psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute, and a Doctorate in Public Health with a specialty in Lifestyle Medicine from Loma Linda University.

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a Board Certified Professional Counselor, Integrative Medicine Clinician, and PTSD Clinician. She has worked in multiple medical hospitals, mental health institutions, and inpatient eating disorder clinics. Also, Dr. Tanzini has written scholarly papers and spoken on various topics related to nutrition, stress, menopause, obesity, depression, anxiety, and human development.