Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a goal directed intervention in which an animal meets specific criteria and is an integral part of the treatment process. This intervention will include the professional working within their scope of competency. (Delta, 2013)
According to Delta Society, “AAT is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive functioning.” It is a type of therapy based on the human animal companion bond. The animal serves as an agent through which the therapist can build and gain trust with the client. (Christina Strayer, 2017)
Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy
Although every individual is different, some people who have participated in AAT have experienced the following benefits:
- Animals help improve motivation and engagement in therapy.
- Animals help build trust and provide a sense of security.
- Animals offer unconditional acceptance.
- Animals acts as symbols and metaphors in the client’s life.
- Animals help in the areas of focus and attention.
- Animals acts as agents of de-arousal as they help clients learn calming skills.
- Animals can be a source of social and emotional support.
- Animals can act as objects of attachment.
- Animals can be instruments of learning.
- Animals offer humor and fun in the session as they help facilitate play
Olive is a chocolate lab mental health therapy dog who works alongside of Julie to support their client’s therapeutic process.
She was trained through Professional Therapy Dogs of Colorado Training and Testing Program in 2016. Olive worked in a program at Summit Middle School for 3 years and now works in private practice.
Olive’s presence is a benefit to clients as she can support the therapeutic process and creates a sense of safety. She offers comfort and reassurance, as well as support in grounding the client to look externally when they are feeling overwhelmed by their internal processes in the moment.
“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born.” Mary Oliver