Animals like horses, dogs, cats, and birds are incorporated into the treatment plan as part of animal-assisted therapy. Together, the client, therapist, and animal engage in therapeutic activities that are specified in a treatment plan, which has specific aims for change, quantifiable outcomes, and the anticipation of discernible progress toward those objectives. Depending on the patient, the animal, and the intended treatment outcomes, the therapy may take many different forms. The advantages of conventional therapy are complemented and enhanced by the use of animals in therapy.
AAT, or animal-assisted therapy, is a type of therapy in which animals participate in the healing process. A therapist directs the relationship between the animal and client during goal-directed AAT. AAT is dependent on the special relationship that exists between people and animals, especially those that have been raised and trained as therapy animals. This method of therapy may make someone receiving treatment for a mental health illness feel more at ease, secure, and supported.
Types of Animal-Assisted Therapy
Working with a therapist and a certified therapy animal is part of AAT. AAT may employ a wide variety of animals, including:
- Dogs \Horses
- Rats and mice
AAT can be organized as individual or group sessions in a variety of contexts, such as:
- Care facilities
- Correctional establishments
- Rehabilitative facilities
- Therapy facilities
Although there is considerable debate among mental healthcare specialists over this terminology, some animal-assisted activities may also be regarded as a type of AAT. 3 Although animals are still utilized in these activities, they might not have received the same training as those used in AAT. Several instances of activities involving animals include:
- Studying dog training
- Maintaining farm animals
- Grooming pets for companionship
- Playtime with animals
Therapy dogs and psychiatric service dogs are not the same thing. Service animals live in households with people who have mental illnesses and other impairments to assist them with daily tasks like remembering to take their medication or learning the warning signs of an impending anxiety attack. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with disabilities and their service animals (ADA).
Animals utilized for emotional support are different from those in AAT. Pets that offer their owners individualized companionship are known as emotional support animals. They don’t need specialized training, and the ADA does not apply to them.
Techniques of Animal Assisted Therapy
AAT does not adhere to a particular form of therapy. For instance, everything from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to psychodynamic psychotherapy may involve the use of animals. The animal is present to support the therapeutic process rather than to be the centre of it.
The therapy animal and the AAT therapist typically have a close relationship, with the therapist envisioning a particular function for the animal to play. This position could be:
- Assisting you to feel more secure and at ease throughout therapy
- Keeping you centered on the here and now
- Providing possibilities for comfort and physical contact that a therapist might not provide
- Bridging the gap between you and the therapist, making it simpler to establish a positive therapeutic relationship
- I will love you without conditions or judgments
- Giving you a chance to practice social and communication skills
- Improving group therapy participants’ interactions
- Revealing information about your emotional state to your therapist
When animal assisted therapy is used?
- Substance use
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Social isolation
- Emotion regulation
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Alzheimer’s disease
Benefits of Animal assisted therapy
- Enhanced self-esteem and higher levels of self-efficacy
- Reductions in anxiety and sadness
- Enhanced social and interpersonal skills
- Improved standard of living
- Reduced levels of distress as one processes traumatic feelings
Advantages and disadvantages of animal assisted therapy
The following advantages of animal-assisted therapy:
- Directing your focus away from your issues and toward the animal
- Fostering compassion and caring abilities, instilling a sense of acceptance or fulfillment, and producing a relaxing impact
The risks associated with handling or being around animals are also associated with animal-assisted therapy. One of these is the chance of an allergic reaction or attack. For exercise and therapeutic settings, both the animals and their handlers need to be trained.
Animal-assisted therapy can help people feel accepted and companioned, which can help them fight depression and feelings of loneliness. A person’s life has a purpose when they are given something to take care of, and this is satisfying and meaningful. If you believe that you might benefit from animal-assisted therapy, speak with your physician or therapist. When utilizing this therapy, it’s crucial to establish goals. Make sure you visit your doctor or therapist frequently so they can keep track of your development.