Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal Assisted Therapy


Animal Assisted Therapy incorporates different psychology theories by using an animal as a therapeutic process. This is not a pet service but a way for clients to improve their overall self esteem and social ability.Working with them prevents the onset of anxiety and PTSD. This treatment is conducted in varying medical facilities and promotes a relationship with the animal which is used as an example of a healthy relationship. The client will soon understand that the interaction between the patient and therapy model is an act of giving and loving which is also a social interaction that promotes safety and acceptance.

Goals of Animal Assisted Therapy

The focus of Animal Assisted Therapy is to provide the client with positive energy through unbiased relationships. It aims toward creating a nonjudgmental area to work out their internal issues. Simply petting the animal releases tension and lets the clients forget about a traumatic event or medical condition. Bringing this relationship to the patient shows them that they can be loved, regardless of their flaws. Because the animal provides the client with consistent behavior it is a short term therapy session that offers exposure and relaxation.

When is Animal Assisted Therapy Used?

An animal relationship is used when the client is in need of a social model. The interaction between the counselor and the therapy animals can show the patient how to build and maintain communication based on trust. The client may be in need of a session that is soothing and calm. This relationship helps to build rapport between the counselor and client as well. Animal Assisted Therapy is used when the patients need to be aware of their own behavior. Being that the pets can pick up on social cues they'll be able to see how their behavior is affecting others immediately. They'll see whether or not the animal acts toward them immediately in a positive or negative manner. If the animal acts negatively because of an action they may become more aware of their own expression and understand how much it affects people and loved ones.

How Animal Assisted Therapy Works

Animal Assisted Therapy improves the cognitive, spiritual and physical functioning of the client by experiencing an open and honest relationship. Each patient will have different needs and various types of pets can be used during therapy. The session may take place in environments such as schools, nursing homes, mental health care facilities and prisons. It may be one-on-one or in a group form which is led by a specialized health care professional. The specialist will create goals and strategies in order to measure the patient and their ability to interact. Some of these experiences may consist of touching the animals, brushing them or achieving a personal goal. There is a strong relationship between the two that promotes acceptance and nonbiased judgment. This makes it much easier for the client to open up and understand some things about themselves without feeling pressured in communicating it to the therapist.

The counselor creates treatments that improve the patient's motor skills, balance and attention. They may begin to experience an increased self esteem and less anxiety. Blood pressure will be reduced and the individual's ability to involve themselves in social interactions will improve. Throughout the one-on-one or group session the counselor will monitor trust and self control toward the animals and others. There are many adults and children who enjoy spending time with pets, which is why therapy is most advantageous toward those who may have some resistance toward traditional treatment. During the session the counselor is going to monitor the patients who are accessing their own emotions and expression. Friends and family members of the patient may be present during the session and also feel better after they've witnessed the interaction.

Being that it is used in medical and nonmedical settings it helps to reduce depression and anxiety to a degree of patients. It may be used toward children who undergo surgery, those who suffer from heart conditions and also veterans who have PTSD. By helping with a wide range of health problems the interaction exposes information to the therapist and the patient for awareness and progressive purposes.

Criticism of Animal Assisted Therapy

The only concern toward Animal Assisted Therapy is the safety and the cautionary behavior during pet interactions. While most of these facilities enforce rules toward cleanliness and safety the conductor of the sessions ensures that the animals have been screened appropriately for behavior and health conditions.


Animal-assisted activities/therapy 101. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Animal assisted therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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