16 Feb The Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy
By Kara Ferreira
Animal assisted therapy (AAT) is a growing field of mental health treatment that has shown to be effective in aiding recovery from trauma, anxiety, and depression. AAT provides an opportunity for patients to interact with therapy animals in a safe and controlled environment, which can help reduce stress and improve overall mood. Interacting with animals has also been shown to boost self-esteem and confidence, two important factors in the therapeutic process.
Dogs make especially good therapy animals and according to a recent article in Counseling Today, more and more therapists are having their personal pets trained and certified so that they can act as “co-therapists”.
- Dogs provide companionship and comfort
- They can help reduce anxiety and stress levels
- Dogs provide a place to focus during tense moments
The presence of a dog in a therapy session can help reduce tension. Clients can pet the dog during the session, which generates a release of endorphins. Therapists report that when a therapy dog is included in a session, it can act as a sort of icebreaker, helping both individuals and couples in therapy get comfortable as they put their attention on the dog.
Dogs often pay close attention to body language and voice intonation making them sensitive to emotional needs. Trained therapy dogs can comfort humans by putting their heads in their laps or moving their bodies closer to them.
Therapists in Counseling Today article report that clients tend to relax and feel more comfortable opening up when they are petting a dog. Clients who have a hard time showing their softer side and being vulnerable may also find it easier to show emotions with a dog in the space instead of the therapist alone.
How dogs become credentialed as therapy animals
Credentialing therapy animals is a process that involves testing the animal’s temperament and health, as well as completing obedience training. The animal must also be comfortable around people of all ages, sizes, and abilities. Once these requirements are met, the animal can officially be considered a therapy dog.
Galvin Growth Group’s therapy dog Lexie is certified by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
Kara Ferreira is a G3 Contributing Writer.
Counseling Today, “The Walls Come Right Down: The Clinical Benefits of Therapy Dogs”