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

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
 

When utilizing in-person therapy, I work closely with my therapy dog, Koda, to help individuals feel safe and connected during the therapy process. Animal assisted therapy can also be extremely helpful in helping a person stay grounded when going through emotionally charged topics that are often brought up in the therapy session.

— Betsy Jones, Licensed Professional Counselor

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
 

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

Spending time with a therapy dog can produce a number of mental health benefits, from enhanced relaxation to reduced stress and anxiety. Therapy dogs are carefully selected dogs that undergo intense, individualized training. Research has shown that spending just 12 minutes with a therapy dog can lower anxiety by 24% and reduce levels of the stress hormone epinephrine by 17%. I have personally experienced the benefits a therapy dog can provide. As a result, I chose to certify my mixed breed dog.

— Lani Chin, Clinical Psychologist in Monterey, CA
 

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 utilize animal assisted therapy for clients who want to experience another level of connection and comfort during their sessions. It’s a powerful addition to the therapy process to have the love and support of a therapy dog. Animal Assisted Therapy is only offered to those who feel comfortable with dogs and wish to have this type of treatment.

— Catherine Boyce, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Evanston, IL
 

I have a 5 year old Weimarainer that accompanies me to work. He is trained as a Therapy Animal with Pets for Life. He is also trained as a Certified Service Dog with Canine Speciality Training, LLC. He has been working with me for over 3 years. He spent over a year working with me at CAPA (Child Abuse Prevention Agency) in Independence, MO, before coming with me into private practice. Come in and say "hi" to Fynn anytime! He will welcome you with lots of kisses.

— Kay Hamilton, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Overland Park, KS

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
 

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

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 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