Author: Norbert Trompisch
Dolphin Assisted Therapy (DAT) is a therapeutic discipline of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) that uses dolphins in the treatment process. Encounters with dolphins are reported since ancient times, however dolphins as a partner at therapeutic interventions represent a rather young and emerging field. In scientific literature experiments with human/dolphin interaction were first published by John Lilly in the 70s (Lilly, 1967, 1978). Dolphins have personalities and attitudes (Highfill, Kuczaj, 2007) and modulate their behavior depending on whom they interact with (Fritsch, Trompisch, 2008). Due to this competence dolphins are able to provide the client with adequate feedback in each moment, which enables social learning processes (Breitenbach 2006). Following the results of David Cole’s preliminary research (Cole, 1996, 1997) the dolphins SONAR plays a role as an effectual factor of DAT as well.
DAT first appeared in the 80s, with studies of Betsy Smith (Smith, 1981) and Dave Nathanson (Nathanson, 1989). Their definition of DAT as a behavioral therapy with the aid of dolphins has been tightly associated with the term of DAT. For some time past various other DAT-centers came to existence and developed alternative ways of employing dolphins in therapeutic processes than as for reinforcement of behavioral modification. Norbert Trompisch founded one of them and established as one of the first Europeans a Dolphin Therapy Center in Egypt, which offered a DAT-program called “Alpha-Therapy”. That was in year 2000. In the approach of Alpha-Therapy dolphins were not primarily employed as assistants and reinforcement, but are actually playing the central role of stimulators within a multimodal therapy setting – the dolphintherapist takes the part of a moderator than a commander of the therapy process. Within the last decade this program moved around several places, starting from Nuweiba, Egypt (until 2003) to Eilat, Israel (2003) and from there to Ukraine and finally to Antalya/Turkey. In 2005 Norbert Trompisch finished a two-year research project with the title “Alpha-Therapy, Evaluation of holistic Dolphin therapy concept” as a part of his master thesis in Psychology at the University of Vienna, Prof. Thomas Slunecko supervised this project. Since then Norbert Trompisch´s objective as the director of DOLPHINSWIM has become to establish an interdisciplinary therapy and research center for DAT in cooperation with universities and other research institutes worldwide.