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Animal Therapy: Embracing the Healing Powers of Connection

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Including animal therapy in psychological treatment is not new, nor is it uncommon. Dogs, cats, horses, and other animals have played a large part in humans’ lives, and the healing benefits and the unique bonds created by interacting with animals have been documented for thousands of years! Today, Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) helps people cope with and recover from some physical and mental health conditions. 

Since the early 1990s, animals have been brought into therapeutic sessions to provide comfort, alert others if there is danger, or even perform actions to help a person’s condition. 

How Does Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) Work?

The therapy looks exactly like a normal session with a counselor, therapist, or psychologist, with the addition of a friendly, calm animal in the room! It is important to note that AAT is not a standalone therapy, rather, it is a complementary or alternative therapy. While AAT can have healing benefits, It should enhance but not replace other forms of treatment. 

This type of unique therapy can benefit conditions such as dementia, depression, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug use disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and schizophrenia.

Embrace the Human-Animal Connection

AAT uses the human-animal bond to reduce boredom during therapy sessions, increase movement and activity, provide companionship, decrease loneliness, encourage social interactions, and improve mood and general well-being! The human-animal bond is special to AAT because “animals are like humans but are not.” This similar type of bond means that “therapy animals can provide certain characteristics and experiences for clients that therapists cannot provide themselves.” 

In addition to therapeutic benefits, AAT can also provide physiological advantages. The presence of therapy animals can have physiological benefits for clients such as lowered heart rate and blood pressure, improved cardiopulmonary pressures, and the release of oxytocin. Additionally, AAT reduces stress and lowers cortisol levels which proves that interacting with animals has an effect on stress responses.

Does Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) Work for Everyone?

While there are many positives about AAT, there are elements of this complementary therapy that should be considered with the client in mind before implementing it in a therapeutic session. The animal must be evaluated to make sure they are a good fit to be a licensed therapy animal. Additionally, they should be tested for potential health and safety concerns. 

Lastly, the therapist should determine if AAT is a good fit for the client and would truly benefit from it. Factors such as allergies, fear of animals, and cultural attitudes towards animals should all be considered before the application of AAT. 

Take Action Today

At A Brighter Day Charity, we offer both short-term and long-term treatment available to you at no charge. Text “BRIGHTER” to 741-741 for free, 24/7, crisis support from trained counselors. If you are looking for consistent support, send us an email at support@abrighterday.info to be connected to three months of complementary therapy through BetterHelp.

References:

https://doi.org/10.1080/15401383.2021.1921646

https://doi.org/10.1080/23761407.2016.1166841

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283087981_Animal-Assisted_Intervention_for_Trauma_Including_Post-Traumatic_Stress_Disorder

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/animal-therapy#what-it-is

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