For many of us, animals play a significant role in our lives, helping us through difficult times and making the good times even better.
At my practice, I talk to many clients who appreciate the animals in
Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy that involves an animal with specific characteristics becoming a fundamental
part of a person's treatment. Animal-assisted therapy is designed to improve the physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive
functioning of the patient, as well as provide educational and motivational effectiveness for participants.
AAT can be provided on an individual or group basis. During AAT, therapists document records and evaluate the participant's progress.
Many kinds of animals are used in therapy, including dogs, cats, elephants, birds, dolphins, rabbits, lizards, llamas, and
other small animals. Such animals are often referred to as comfort animals. AAT with horses is known specifically as equine-assisted
psychotherapy (EAP), equine-assisted creative living (EACL), equine-assisted personal development (EAPD) or hippotherapy.
Animal-assisted therapy is associated with improving outcomes in autism spectrum symptoms,
medical difficulties, behavioral problems, and emotional well-being.Some of the mental health benefits include:
Increase verbal interactions among group members.
Increase attention skills (i.e., paying attention, staying on task).
Develop leisure/recreation skills.
Learn to trust.
Animal-Assisted Therapy in Practice
Using animals in the therapy process adds another dimension to what can be done during a therapy session. Animals, particularly dogs and horses,
heighten motivation and relaxation and are a great reinforcer. Dogs are an excellent example of the value that an animal adds to therapy.
The benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy lie in its goal-oriented approach, which aims at improvement of a specific individual in social skills,
verbal skills, range of motion, attention span, etc. by using animals or pets. AAT is always supervised by a healthcare professional,
who decides all the specifics of the therapy, including duration of each visit.
Therapy using animals is often utlized in counseling and psychotherapy, with individuals, groups, families, and even couples counseling.
To learn more about my psychotherapy and marriage counseling practice located in San Jose, California. please