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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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 Greenville, SC

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

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 am the founder of the American Association of Animal-Assisted Therapy and love working with my dogs.

— Martin Wesley, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) incorporates the presence of animals into therapy as an added source of connection and healing. The non-judging acceptance and affection of a therapy animal offers a profoundly restorative experience of love and understanding that can deepen and at times transcend the cerebral process of talk therapy.

— Natasha Laumei, Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR

AAT can provide benefits to anyone, whether you're living with anxiety, depression, trauma-related concerns, or attachment. With the help of my trained professional therapy canine, I facilitate relationship-building, teamwork, confidence, self-awareness, mindfulness, and playfulness. Who doesn't love having a furry friend to comfort and support you? My dog and I have been a therapy team for one year and he loves it. Please ask me questions about this!

— Mackenzie Howshar, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Fort Collins, CO

Animal therapists can team up with human clinicians to maximize the effectiveness of therapy. I utilize animal assisted therapy with clients who are comfortable with it on a regular basis as both an anxiety reduction technique and an engaging way to help clients relax and connect. Animal assisted therapy is not a required part of sessions, but is always offered.

— Taylor Spoltore, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Greenville, SC

I utilize a certified facility dog from Canine Companions for Independence. You can learn more about him by visiting my website

— Dr. Nancie Spector, Clinical Psychologist in NEW CANAAN, CT

Laurel Gray works with several therapy dog “co-therapists” (non-shedding Labradoodles) to provide Animal-Assisted Therapy. This is a form of ecotherapy that they have training in (and is an evidenced practice that is beneficial to the therapeutic process for many clients). The canine co-therapists also have completed training and are certified therapy dogs.

— Laurel Gray Robbins, Clinical Social Worker in Burlington, VT

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

Alpha is my AAT. He is a third generation therapy dog and a pure bred King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. He wants nothing more than to play or comfort you. Just let him know.

— Grace Nyblade, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Olney, MD

I have been doing therapy for 2 years with my therapy dog, a 50lb nonshedding goldendoodle named Hannah. She can help demonstrate relaxation techniques, learning new strategies, and provide a calming presence in the office when needed.

— Kimberly Trainor, Educational Psychologist in West Boylston, MA