Monday, 26 May 2008

A contribution to the science of Dolphin-Assisted Therapy

A few days ago we were finally able to send off a packet in the mail that we had long hoped to send. After a year and a half of work, we finished our latest research paper and submitted it to a respected, peer-reviewed journal in England. We look forward to seeing it published.

Swimming with dolphins:measuring mood change and the durability of change, it is a carefully done study of the mood state of our guests before and after swimming with dolphins. We also look at how the emotional response to our wellness program and the dolphin experience has affected their lives over time.

Each guest filled out a simple form three times. Once before any dolphin contact, once after the second dolphin swim, and at a date later on. We have our guests fill out the same questionnaire used pre-swim and post-swim at a later date to see how the mood state that they have from the dolphin experience has lasted. Each guest is assigned a random number that determines when their final, third questionnaire is sent to them, so that we can see how their mood state is at 1, 2, 4, 8, or 12 weeks post-swim.

By using a well-recognised psychological "testing instrument" (the Positive And Negative Affect Survey, PANAS-X), we have been able to take advantage of many years of research into moods and their changes. Using statistical analysis, we have been able to look closely at many aspects of mood change, energy levels, positive and negative feelings...and the results are very interesting.

Until the paper is published, we are not able to share our findings. We can say that we have finally found a way to substantiate what many people have experienced, which is to say that dolphins have a wonderful effect on our emotions, and the effect does last. The amazing parts are in the details. Stay tuned...

There has been little research done over the years into how Dolphin-Assisted Therapy works and what effects one can expect.
We are proud to have begun making a contribution to this neglected field.

DAT is a health-promoting and successful form of therapy when done in a careful and realistic way. There are many forms of DAT, from clinical-style programs with multiple sessions, to programs such as ours, that allow each person to seek their own well-being in a supportive environment among dolphins. The field of DAT is getting closer to becoming a fully defined style of therapy, and we are delighted to be adding to the strength of it.

We have had so many guests who have had life-changing moments during their dolphin encounters, we know there is something to this, something that enables change. We call it a movement toward Wellness.

Following on from our recent project, we have been gathering data from our latest swim season to do a more in-depth research project, using the same instrument, and adding gender and age to the mix of factors. Our first paper was based on surveys of 53 people, with 37 returning the final questionnaire. Our next paper will be based on around 100 people, and we are anticipating at least 75 returning the final questionnaire. This will be a much larger sample, further strengthening our research.

DAT deserves to be solidly supported by research. Research should be done well, so that the "ineffable" experience we have when around dolphins can be understood. Toward this goal, we have made some progress.

We are very proud to be working on these research projects with our Research Fellow at the Cetacean Studies Institute, psychologist Hunter Handley. His good humour, steady hand, and excellent analysis has made this project come to life. Of course, we can not overlook the data gathering and processing and mailing work done by Amanda and me. Many thanks must also go to our guests who have been gracious enough to participate.

Scott and Amanda

A fantastic season, a fond (temporary) farewell

We just finished Dolphin EDventures Wellness Program for 2007-08. What a wonderful season we many fine folks came to join us in the water with the Coffs Harbour Four, swimming, playing, sharing time with a wonderful group of friendly ambassador dolphins.

Calamity, the rescued female, whose tail is not strong enough to survive the rigours of ocean life, is pregnant, again. She is due to deliver sometime around the end of November, and we are all very happy about this. How wonderful, to imagine Bella with a new baby brother or sister.

However, this means we will be unable to have our normal Wellness Program during the upcoming Australian summer. We have begun the search for another facility where we can do our Wellness Program, and are hoping to have arrangements made in time to begin a program in March of 2009. We will return to Coffs Harbour and the wonderful Pet Porpoise Pool in October of 2009 to resume our work here. Until then, we will be searching, visiting facilities in various parts of the world, and making arrangements.

Stay tuned to our blog and our website to see what we are planning. It is exciting, to begin a long-held dream of having more than one facility that allows visitors to have the deeper, quieter, more intimate kind of encounter that we encourage, where both human and dolphin can gain from the time together. We like to dream of many places in the coming years where this is possible, to satisfy the many people who want a more "authentic" time with the dolphins, not having trainers asking the dolphins for specific behaviours.

We have found that, working with the wonderful staff at the Pet Porpoise Pool, that it is not only possible, but actually easy to arrange this kind of program. It requires a facility and a training staff that trusts the dolphins, treats them with all due respect, and where there is as little stress as possible upon everyone --dolphins and trainers alike, so that everyone can be at ease. In an environment where everyone is comfortable, the feeling of joy and the fun of life can easily be shared. This is where some of the wellness that so many of our guests have found comes from, the harmonious experience of several species simply enjoying the wonder of life and sharing it. To know that another being, one who is so different, is enjoying you and your companions, and that you are able to share their enjoyment -- well, that is precious.

In the present moment, when we are not trying to redo the past, or attempting to live in the future, we are capable of touching the joy that exists in life. Dolphins, because they are so adept at being themselves, at being graceful in the water, so beautifully aware of all that is going on around them, show us a brilliant minded being who is present, attuned, and very aware. As one of our guests once said, "Dolphins know your story, and they don't BUY your story." They see the tensions and issues we carry, but they have no need to interact with that, only the fact that we are there, and capable of aware interaction. It is a refreshing thing to find oneself playing with someone who cares nothing about your past, or what you will do tomorrow, but is only here, only now, at ease.

Our search for another home for our work will take us into a new era, and we are looking forward to it. And enjoying each moment, here and now.

Stay tuned.

Scott and Amanda
The Ambassadors