Dolphin Therapy

What is it?

For the last decade dolphin therapy has been largely publicised by the media, who reported several successful case stories. Dolphin therapy was started in the early seventies by Dr Betsy Smith, an educational anthropologist who noticed the therapeutical effects of dolphins on her disabled brother. A few years later dolphin therapy was developed by Dr Nathanson at the Dolphin Human Therapy centre in Florida, America. Dr Nathanson studied the interaction between dolphins and children with Down's syndrome and as he obtained good results more centres opened world wide.

The aim of the therapy is to increase sensory activities, programmes take place in a pool with captive or semi-captive dolphins and therapists who assist the children, children are asked to swim, touch, feed or pat the animals. Therapists work on specific areas such as speech, behaviours and motor skills, they customise programmes to the needs of the children.

Dolphin therapy is not a cure but it can help alleviate some symptoms associated with children conditions by enhancing their healing process. Samples of blood were analysed before and after the therapy, results showed that after swimming with dolphins there is a change of hormones, endorphins and enzymes as well as T-cells, how this is possible is still not well understood. There is ongoing research in universities and dolphin research centres but the evidence that dolphin therapy works remains anecdotal. Several theories have been hypothesised:

Therapy in a pleasant environment:
Encounters with dolphins evoke a deep emotional response and trigger the release of deep feelings and emotions. It is believed that children are more responsive to the therapy because they play in a pleasant environment, they are motivated to complete the tasks, they are happy and therefore they pay greater attention to the therapists' work. It has also been suggested that dolphins can sense areas of disability and physical trauma in the human body, they motivate children to use these parts.

For others, the healing principle is similar to that of sound therapy: rhythm and vibrational sound facilitate an altered mood. According to Dr Cole, Chairman of the Aquathought Foundation, swimming with dolphins can create physiological cell and tissue change in the body, he explains that dolphins have a natural sonar, they emit ultrasound waves to localise things and to communicate, this process is called "echolocation". Sounds emitted by the dolphins are so intense that that they can cause "cavitations": they create holes in the molecular structure of fluids and soft tissues. Cole believes that the dolphins' signal frequencies can have a profound effect on the human brain by modifying the brainwave activity. Results of EEG tests carried out on people who experienced the echolocation showed that the dominant human brain frequency drops from beta to alpha.

It was also noted that both sides of the brain enter into synchronisation which means there is a far better communication between the left and right sides of the brain, this is an uncommon neurological state, which is typically associated with heightened awareness and increased learning ability.

Results noticed
· Strong emotional change
· Children calm down
· Improved communication
· Increased attention span
· Increased confidence and self esteem
· Improved gross or fine motor skills
· Better co-ordination
· Better eye contact, smiling, laughing, touching
· Better immune system.

Conditions that may respond to dolphin therapy
Neurological disorders, autism, Down's syndrome, global developmental delay, ADHD, pain relief for spinal injuries, muscular paralysis, and depression.

Dolphin therapy is expensive and it is important not too expect dramatic results.

For updated prices contact the centres directly.


Dolphin Human Therapy (DHT)
13605 South Dixie
Highway #523
Florida 33176-7252
Tel: (001) 305 378 8670
Dr Nathanson is the president of the DHT.

Island Dolphin Care, Inc
Dolphins Plus
31 Corrine Place
Key Largo
Florida 33037
Tel: (001) 305 451 5884
Cost: $2000 per week

Dolphin Reef Eilat
Southern Beach
P.O Box 104
Eilat 88100
Tel: (00 972) 8 637 1846
Children are enrolled for 1year programme

The Alexander Trust
Richard Conibear
14 Ashford Road
Tel: 01225 337178
The Alexander Trust is a charity run by the parents of a child with special needs. The charity has issued a report dolphin therapy centres with some information on accommodation and transport. The Trust hopes to fund treatments for children with special needs in the future.

Lei Aloha Centre Dolphins and You
PO Box 4277
Hawaii 96792-1932
Tel: (00 808) 696 4414

Dolphin Research Center
58901 Overseas Highway
Grassy Key
Florida 33050-6019
Tel: (001) 305 289 0002

Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Full Circle Programs
249 Windward Passage
Florida 33767
Tel: (001) 727 441 1790
A one hour session costs $100.00 per hour

Research centres
The Aquathought Foundation
15921 McGregor Blvd.
Suite 2C
FT Myers Florida
33908 Tel: (001) 941 437 2958
Dr Cole is the Director of Aquathought

Operation Sunflower
Dr Horace Dobbs
International Dolphin Watch
10 Melton Road
North Ferriby
East Yorks
HU14 3ET
Tel: 01482 645789
Dr Dobbs believes that dolphin therapy is beneficial in the treatment of depression.

Interspecies Research and Development
P.O. Box
198 Gardenvale
3185 VIC

The Dolphin Society
PO Box 2052
Sydney NSW 2052


These are some of the references that have been passed to us; the list is not exhaustive. We have not necessarily read the books, and cannot say how easy it will be to get them.

- Nathanson D, De Castro D, Friend, Mc Mahon, H Effectiveness of Short-Term Dolphin-Assisted Therapy for Children with Severe Disabilities
- De Bergerac O (1998). The Dolphin Within. Simon & Schuster. Australia. ISBN: 0684868504
- Callen K, Cochrane A (1992), Dolphins and Their Power to Heal, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont, USA. ISBN: 0892814764
- Dobbs, H. Cape J. (1990). Dance to a dolphin's song. London ISBN: 0224030760
- Smith B. (1996), Dolphin Assisted Therapy. Tokyo: Kodansha Publishers.

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