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
 

Meet my rescue Gracie! She takes her job very seriously and enjoys meeting and greeting new clients!

— Marci Orr, Licensed Professional Counselor in Dallas, TX

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
 

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 Tucker, Licensed Professional Counselor in Lakewood, CO

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 Havre de Grace, MD
 

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

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

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

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, Therapist in Exton, PA