Dog Assisted Therapy

The focus of AAT involves setting up ground activities involving the animal which require the client or group to apply certain skills.  

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Dog Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy can take place in almost any setting that best suits the patient's needs, including hospitals, schools, and even prisons. However, it is a much deeper and more complex process than spending time with an animal, and should follow a treatment plan and a set of goals as determined by an experienced professional.

The focus of AAT involves setting up ground activities involving the animal which require the client or group to apply certain skills.  

 

Non-verbal communication, assertiveness, creative thinking, problem solving, leadership, taking responsibility, teamwork, relationships, confidence, and attitude are examples of the tools utilized and developed by AAT.

AAT is a powerful and effective therapeutic approach that has an incredible impact on individuals, youth, families, and groups.  

AAT addresses a variety of mental health and human development needs including behavioral challenges, Attention Deficit Disorder, PTSD, substance use and misuse, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, relationship challenges and communication needs.

Rehabilitation and Therapy

Focus is on the use and participation of meaningful activities to improve the quality of life of an individual in AAT intervention.

 

For these purposes, it is aimed to develop correct posture and walking pattern, mobility of the pelvis and hip region, head and trunk control, muscle tone and strength, sense regulation, social communication, self-confidence and empathy, motor and cognitive skills.

 

It is thought that the ability of individuals to improve their skills, function, and quality of life can be improved by pet ownership, care of animals, and regular dog interaction during sessions.

AAT may involve adopting a pet to live at home, taking part in a community therapy animal program, or visiting a facility in which therapy animals live. this can also often provide an opportunity for patients to get out and about, socialise with peers, and even take part in gentle exercise. 

Counselling Process
  • An animal can be a wonderful tool to help a client engage in the counselling process:

Example: 

  • Animal Assisted Therapy (Counselling & Mental Health Services including Therapy Animal Sessions)

  • A Therapy Animal can be used to assist in the changes. You may find comfort and calm when you touch and are physically close to an animal. The animal also helps divert your attention temporarily onto something other than your problems. animals provide unconditional, non-judgemental love and affection. Touching and petting an animal can help elicit conversations more readily as the soothing and relaxing effects of stroking an animal become an antidote to stressful or depressive feelings. Animals can also help you shift to feel connected to a larger, more welcoming world. There are numerous benefits from having animals beside us or touching us. These benefits include developing an outward focus on life and living, physical contact, reduced stress, and self-nurturing.

Benefits

Animal-assisted therapy boasts many proven benefits, including:

  • Improved fine motor skills, strength, and balance

  • Increased self-esteem and self-worth

  • Reduced anxiety and depression

  • Reducing experience of loneliness and isolation

  • Reduced risk of a heart attack or stroke

  • Improved interpersonal and communication skills

  • Improved sense of purpose and motivation

Benefits of Dogs in Counselling

 

  • Physical Contact Touching: It is well established that touch is very important for nourishing our mind and spirit. For some people, touch from another person is not acceptable, but the warm, furry touch of a dog can be seen as safe, non-threatening, and calming.

  • Empathy: A heightened ability to empathize with dogs may carry over into positive experiences with people.

  • Outward focus: If you have depressive symptoms, anxiety, or low self-esteem you tend to focus on yourself. Dogs can help create a focus on your environment. You can watch and talk to and about dogs and then start to broaden your thinking and feelings.

  • Nurturing: Nurturing skills can be learned by connecting with a dog. Psychologically, when you nurture a dog by petting, it also helps fulfil your need to be nurtured.

  • Rapport: Dogs can help open a channel of emotionally safe, non-threatening communication between you and your therapist. The dog's presence may open a path so that you can feel more comfortable quickly. Feeling at ease makes it easier to talk initially, especially if you have never been to counselling before. Children are especially likely to project their feelings and experiences onto a dog.

  • Acceptance: Dogs don't care how a person looks or what they say, they accept you for the way you are. A dog's acceptance is non-judgemental, forgiving, and uncomplicated.

  • Social Connections: when a dog is being petted or hugged, these activities create action in you and a feeling of movement that can develop into feeling positive and hopeful, and even create laughter and joy. These positive feelings can then help decrease your feelings of loneliness, isolation or alienation, stress, and overall this enhances the counselling process.

  • Physiological Benefits: Tests have shown that being with a pet can cause a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, which reduces feelings of negative stress. Physiological tests have shown that stroking and petting animals can improve general health, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and produce a reduction in stress levels. We are starting to understand how stress becomes a silent killer.