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

 

Equines are a mirror to our heart and soul. They behave as we do, when we behave in certain ways. How we put ourselves out there to others is directly given back by the horse. This, therefore, shows us how others see us. We cope, gain confidence, and see a tangible explanation of trauma, grief, death and loss, and how to overcome the systems within us that keep us down.

— Jennifer Wolf, Psychotherapist in Colorado Springs, CO

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is an effective treatment for easing depression, soothing anxiety, and improving emotional well-being. It is especially good for people struggling with major changes or stressors in their lives. Benji is a sweet-tempered hound who loves to cuddle and play. When I saw how positively clients responded to him, I decided to earn a certification in AAT and get him formal training. Together we create a warm, playful environment that encourages change and healing.

— Annalisa Smithson, Licensed Professional Counselor in Pottstown, 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.

— Chelsea (Chase) Tucker, Licensed Professional Counselor in Lakewood, 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
 

Bringing therapy animals into therapeutic sessions allows you to explore and engage in the present moment. This approach provides opportunities to participate in relationships where the animals offer an insight and provide feedback to actions, behavior, energy, breathing, and language, both verbal and non-verbal. It deepens your awareness of contact styles and choices and responsibilities within relationships. Intimate moments emerge through non-verbal exchanges; assists in concepts, etc.

— Marcy Tocker, Counselor in Mohrsville, PA

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

Wiggles and Wags will brighten your day. Animals and our relationships with them can, and do, hold special places in our lives and memories. Animals are our playmates, confidants, friends, and family members – they offer comfort, companionships, entertainment, and unconditional love. We currently have seven dogs that are training or are certified in Animal Assisted Play Therapy™ with the International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy.

— Tara Moser, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Cape Coral, FL
 

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

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