Animal Assisted Therapy

What is AAT?

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a therapeutic approach that incorporates animals into the treatment process to improve emotional, cognitive, social, and physical well-being. This intervention is provided by trained professionals, often psychologists, counselors, or therapists, in various settings such as hospitals, schools, private counseling offices, and equine training facilities. AAT utilizes the unique bond between humans and animals to achieve therapeutic goals and enhance the quality of life for individuals of all ages.

Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy:

 

  • Emotional Support: Animals offer unconditional love and companionship, which can help individuals feel comforted and reduce feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
  • Physical Health Improvement: Interacting with animals can lead to decreased blood pressure, reduced heart rate, and increased levels of endorphins, contributing to overall physical well-being.
  • Social Connection: Animals can serve as a bridge for social interaction, helping individuals build rapport, trust, and communication skills, particularly beneficial for those struggling with social isolation or developmental disorders.
  • Stress Reduction: Petting or playing with animals has been shown to lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress, leading to relaxation and a sense of calm.
  • Mental Stimulation: Engaging with animals through activities like grooming, training, or playing can stimulate cognitive functions and improve focus and attention.

Dogs in Animal Assisted Therapy:

Dogs are among the most commonly used animals in AAT due to their sociable nature, trainability, and ability to form strong bonds with humans. They are versatile in their roles, capable of providing emotional support, assisting with physical rehabilitation, and even serving as service animals for individuals with disabilities.

Key Benefits of Dogs in AAT:

  • Companionship: Dogs offer constant companionship and emotional support, which can be particularly comforting for individuals experiencing trauma, grief, or depression.
  • Motivation: The presence of dogs can motivate individuals to engage in physical activities, such as walking or playing fetch, which can be beneficial for those undergoing rehabilitation or struggling with mobility issues.
  • Nonjudgmental Interaction: Dogs provide a nonjudgmental and accepting presence, creating a safe space for individuals to express themselves without fear of criticism or rejection.
  • Therapeutic Bond: The bond between dogs and humans is mutually beneficial, fostering trust, empathy, and a sense of responsibility in both parties.

 

Equines in Animal Assisted Therapy:

Equines, including horses and ponies, are increasingly being utilized in AAT programs due to their gentle nature, sensitivity to human emotions, and ability to provide unique sensory experiences. Equine-assisted therapy often takes place in outdoor settings, such as farms or ranches, allowing individuals to connect with nature while engaging with these majestic animals.

Key Benefits of Equines in AAT:

  • Empowerment: Interacting with equines, particularly through activities like grooming, leading, or riding, can empower individuals by providing them with a sense of control and mastery over their environment.
  • Emotional Regulation: Equines are highly attuned to human emotions and can mirror the emotional state of individuals, providing valuable feedback and opportunities for emotional regulation and self-awareness.
  • Physical Exercise: Engaging in activities such as horseback riding or grooming requires physical effort and coordination, promoting strength, balance, and motor skills development.
  • Mindfulness: Working with equines encourages individuals to be present in the moment, fostering mindfulness and relaxation as they connect with the rhythmic movements of the horse or the peaceful surroundings of the farm.

Transformative Growth Counseling, offers unique opportunities in which clients can benefit from animal assisted therapy and emotional support animals in our offices, schools, and in our remote site.

Additionally, we offer evaluation and documentation for emotional support, animals and a service animals.

If you’re interested in how connecting with animals can help your counseling journey, or need an evaluation for an ESA, contact us for more information!