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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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 Sugar Land, TX

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

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

I have completed levels 1 and 2 training from the International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy and received supervision in AAPT. My therapy dog, Rogue, is registered with Pet Partners and she is an eager and active co-facilitator of therapy sessions.

— Rachel Narrow, Clinical Social Worker in Chevy Chase, MD

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 20 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

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

The human-animal bond is a powerful therapeutic relationship! At Animal Talk, you may work with horses or my therapy dog, Saint!

— Macie Dominique, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in Aurora, CO

I have been working with my Golden Retriever, Leo, for four years. He comes with me to sessions in which my clients have chosen Pet Therapy. This includes adults, as well as adolescents/teens. Pet Therapy helps with anxiety, depressions, grief, and so much more. The meme says, "You can't not smile when you pet a dog"! My training was acquired through Pet Partners, which included AAT training from a program offered from The University of North Texas, Dr. Cynthia Chandler.

— Holly Patterson, Counselor in Grand Prairie, TX

Sailor is a lab rescue that is certified and works with Melissa in the office.

— Melissa Engle, Counselor in ROYAL OAK, MI

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

Being in an AAT certification program, I continue to build upon my knowledge of the subtle yet powerful healing benefits of bonding with animals. Having experienced it myself, I incorporate themes related to animal care and training to provide insight into human difficulties like boundaries and emotional regulation. In the near future, I plan to bring in a canine partner to facilitate the therapeutic process with clients who feel animals could be helpful in healing.

— Kerry Murphy, Student Therapist in Denver, CO

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

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

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

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

I have a therapy dog named Bear. He is very intuitive and available for comfort at every session.

— Alicia Norris, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Natchez, MS