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.

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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

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. Eliot is our therapy dog in training. Born on May 6, 2022 at Carolina Goldens, Eliot is an English Cream Golden Retriever who comes from a long line of therapy dogs.

— Krista Martin, Clinical Social Worker in Greenville, SC

I am trained in animal assisted therapy. Our office does have a feline co-therapist, who is available upon request.

— Amanda Trost, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in Houston, TX
 

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

I utilize Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Interventions. During COVID-19, since I am seeing clients entirely through telehealth, I welcome your pets into session to help you cope. I also use many metaphors involving the animal world to help you see different perspectives. When it is again safe to return to in-person sessions, my animals (golden retriever and kenyan sandboas) look forward to greeting you.

— BRIANA MESSERSCHMIDT, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Alamitos, CA
 

I often bring my two parrots into the office when doing in person therapy. I've been bring them in for years. I originally brought them in for a young boy on the spectrum and my other clients met them. Other's began demanding I bring them in and it grew from there. They connect in a way that humans do not and often help people get over their anxiety. Plus, they are just fun!

— Jeffrey LiCalzi, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate in Wake Forest, NC

Currently I practice equine facilitated therapy with individuals, groups and families. I have trained extensively over the past two years completing both a year long master class in equine learning and a 6 month facilitation skills class. I currently teach others how to do this work offering an introductory level class in equine counseling, facilitation skills class and trauma focused class.

— Amy Andra, Licensed Professional Counselor in Midlothian, TX
 

Currently completing a post graduate certificate in veterinary social work

— Tricia Stehle, Clinical Social Worker in Mount Clemens, MI

I utilize the Natural Lifemanship Institute's model of animal assisted therapy.

— Lauren Ellis Robinson, Therapist in Nesbit, MS
 

My passion is Animal-Assisted Therapy. In the past, I have been a horseback riding instructor, Emotional Support Animal Consultant, and currently, I utilize dogs to provide an enthusiastic partner in our therapy session. My Bachelor's degree in Animal Science provides a basis of animal understanding that I utilize in my therapeutic practice to help clients understand how animals can be beneficial in our understanding of ourselves.

— Courtney Spaulding, Mental Health Practitioner in Waitsfield, VT

On a more personal note, my passion is, and always has been, animals! I believe in the magical healing power of pets of all kinds and am working toward a specialization in Animal Assisted Therapy. Emotional Support Animals have also become popular in the past few years, and can increase the quality of life for many people. I would love to help clients harness the benefits of human-animal interactions by providing ESA letters and Animal Assisted Therapy.

— Natalie Kilpatrick, Licensed Professional Counselor in Chicago, IL
 

I have 6 dogs so when I say having a animal around to talk to helps it is the truth.

— Kaylissa Butrum, Psychiatrist in danville, IN

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 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

For the past 9 years I have incorporated pet therapy in my practice with the help of my yellow lab, Jolie. Pet therapy has been shown to reduce stress, increase rapport and help clients become more cognizant of emotional reactions and support resiliency in individual and group sessions. Jolie is certified as a Canine Good Citizen. She is calm, kind and very loving but if you are allergic or prefer for her to not be part of your session we can discuss those options.

— Gloria Hatfield, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Austin, TX
 

Animals can provide a sense of calm, comfort, or safety and divert attention away from a stressful situation and toward one that provides pleasure. Advocates of animal-assisted therapy say that developing a bond with an animal can help people develop a better sense of self-worth and trust, stabilize their emotions, and improve their communication, self-regulation, and socialization skills.

— Lisa Stull, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Parker, CO