Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) Information and FAQs
The animals used in a therpeutic setting are often the personal pets of the professional; I did extensive research on breeds and selected a Coton de Tuléar specifically to be my co-therapist. I chose Bella for her breed's known tendency to be gentle, friendly, alert, intelligent, playful, hypoallergenic, and sweet-natured. How could I not choose a breed to help me in therapy that in France (the breed's country of origin) is refered to the "anti-stress dog"?
Bella's Qualifications and Certifications
Bella and I have passed the Professional Therapy Dogs of Colorado test and are a registered team with them. Bella is also an American Kennel Club certified Canine Good Citizen. While we have passed these two tests, Bella continues to have some social anxiety when meeting new people; she may initially run away, bark a couple of times or grumble. With some time (about 1-2 sessions), Bella is very much a social dog.
What is AAT?
AAT, as defined by Pet Partners (formerly, Delta Society), is "a goal-directed intervention directed and/or delivered by a health/human service professional with specialized expertise, and within the scope of practice of his/her profession. AAT is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning." The animals are present to help facilitate progress toward's each client's goals.
Why use animals in therapy?
Rearch has shown that animals can have an incredible influence on the emotional and physical healing of people. The presence or interaction with animals can:
- lower anxiety, stress and blood pressure
- teach caring and gentleness to children
- enhance self esteem
- help children with autism develop more prosocial behavior
- help develop attachment related receptivity
- help develop healthy boundaries
- reduce loneliness
- help increase emotional awareness and regulation
- help improve assertiveness
- help children to be more open and receptive
- facilitate rapport with children and teenagers leading to increased disclosure
- diminish emotional and physical pain in seniors
- help to draw attention outward, thus mitigating anxiety, anger and depression
What do sessions with Bella look like?
In some cases the therapy will look much the same except Bella will be present in the room. Sometimes just the presence of an animal creates and facilitates an environment that is conducive to the counseling process. In other cases I will design specific interventions where the client and Bella are interacting in some way in order to meet a specific therapeutic goal. This happens more often when the client is a child; during these sessions, there is typically more interaction with Bella.
For further information:
Pet Partners (formerly, Delta Society) - www.deltasociety.org , www.deltasociety.org/Page.aspx