Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is an experiential treatment method that involves clients interacting with animals, which could include dogs, horses, cats, or birds, among others. AAT has been used to treat issues including ADD, abuse, depression, anxiety, drug abuse, eating disorders, and more. AAT can take different forms. Depending on the animal, in animal assisted therapy, a client might keep a dog, cat, or other pet at home for emotional support. If you are staying in a residential treatment facility, such as a hospital or a rehab center, a trained therapy animal might visit you. Or, during a session, a client may groom, feed or walk the horse while the therapist observes the clients' reactions to the horse's behavior (known as equine assisted therapy). Therapists that utilize AAT often believe that animals provide comfort and calm as well as instant and accurate feedback of a client's thoughts and feelings, which can help both the therapist and client become more aware of these emotions. Animals are nonjudgmental, which can help clients connect with another living being that accepts them – making it easier to learn to trust, and easing the path into having trusting relationships with other people. Think this approach might be right for you? Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s AAT specialists today.

Meet the specialists

I offer Animal Assisted Play Therapy to children to help with a variety of issues, including low self esteem, depression, anxiety, attention and learning difficulties, and poor social skills, to name a few. It primarily focuses on the child's strengths while also addressing his or her life challenges. While all of my therapy during the Covid-19 crisis is provided online, this particular form of therapy needs to be done in the office. I will resume offering it once it is safe to do so.

— Lisabeth Wotherspoon, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Rochester, NH

For several years, I have worked with clients/patients using Animal Assisted Therapy as an adjunct to the therapeutic process.

— Dr. Vicki D. Coleman, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Las Vegas, NV

My therapy dog, Lilly, LOVES her job. A sweet and gentle Cavanese, Lilly greets patients with great enthusiasm, enjoys giving kisses, and knows when it's time to offer comfort or lay quietly in her bed. She is hypoallergenic and weighs about 18 pounds. She sometimes snores loudly during sessions, but more often wants to sit next to patients as a warm and comforting presence during therapy.

— Lauren Bartholomew, Psychologist in King of Prussia, PA

When doing therapy, I often relate back to animals and how they function in their own world. Do animals have anxiety and to what extent do they have anxiety? Why is anxiety chronic in humans but not in wild animals? When it comes down to it, humans are animals and if we look at animals behavior, we can often help explain our own behavior and get back to our natural instincts.

— Chase Tucker, Licensed Professional Counselor in Lakewood, CO

Krista is currently pursuing her Postgraduate Veterinary Social Work Certificate from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Wyatt works with Krista in providing Animal Assisted Therapy. A Lab/Doberman mix rescued from the Greenville Humane Society, Wyatt enjoys helping others, volunteering in the community, time spent with his family, naps, and TREATS!

— Krista Martin, Clinical Social Worker in Greeenville, SC

I have experience using client's pets (primarily dogs) to help client's facilitate change in their lives by learning about themselves, better understanding principles/application of behavior change and modification, increasing emotional awareness, improving communication skills, etc. I have attended several clinics with animal behaviorists and am a volunteer with the Penn Working Dog Center. Additionally, I learned a lot about myself through my own four-legged family members.

— Doven Brezner, Clinical Social Worker

Many of us seek social support to help us adapt to difficult situations. However, when faced with traumatic situations, it can be challenging to foster trust within a relationship. This can leave us feeling isolated, afraid and unsure of where to turn for help. Introducing a trained, nurturing animal into therapy can be a helpful first step. Through this unique connection, we learn to develop trust and find comfort in addressing the burdens that led us to seek therapy initially.

— Katherine Chiasson, Mental Health Counselor in Boca Raton, FL

Sometimes we need a little extra comfort during a therapy session and Bernie is just the helper you need. Bernie is a Dogue De Bordeaux (French Mastiff) and is a gentle giant who will comfort you when you need it or sleep (sometimes snoring) in his bed when he's not. Bernie is dually trained as my personal Allergen Alert Service Dog and as your Therapy Dog (while he is in the office helping clients).

— Jennifer Burton, Counselor in Maitland, FL

I have a therapy dog in training, Franklin, a large Labradoodle, who is frequently with me in session to provide comfort and support. Franklin loves pets, especially if you sit on the floor with him, and clients enjoy having him lay with them while processing feelings. Franklin is also in training, so he loves to do tricks and tasks for treats. This helps clients develop problem solving, planning and frustration tolerance skills along with having fun.

— Courtney Hart, Clinical Social Worker in Bel Air, MD

I have completed Animal Assisted Therapy training, and am in process of finding the right rescue dog to train as a therapy dog to bring to my practice!

— Stephanie Carlin, Licensed Professional Counselor in Fort Collins, CO

Stacy Schoolfield, LSCW, AASW, CAIS, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who holds certificates in Animal Assisted Social Work and Canine Assisted Intervention Specialist from the University of Denver’s Institute for Human Animal Connection. Stacy has worked in mental health in the western slope community along with her four legged co-therapists, for the past nine years in schools, non profits, residential facilities and juvenile facilities.

— Stacy Schoolfield Mendell, Counselor in Grand Junction, CO