Ferret Care

Animal Assisted Therapy and counselling  

AAT is now used throughout the world. Historically, pets have been used as “therapeutic” animals for centuries. Animal assisted therapy or AAT and AAA or animal assisted activities are interrelated. They involve the use of pets to provide physical, psychological, emotional or other types of support to children, adults and the elderly. 


Many studies support the use of animals in “pet therapy.” Psychologists are one example of therapists that often use animals to reduce depression or anxiety or to initiate a trusting bond between their patient and the psychotherapist. This can allow for greater socialization and more productive and positive patient outcomes.  


Physical therapists may use animals including dogs or horses to help patients build greater self-confidence or self-esteem, gain control of their mobility or help patients become more mobile generally. Many educators use animals in the classroom to facilitate more attentive learning and to initiate greater socialization in the classroom setting. 


Pets can also be used to improve the quality of life for individuals living in a hospice or in assisted living facilities, by introducing playfulness, love and affection in an otherwise dull environment. 


The type of AAT program one utilizes will depend on many factors, including their goals, expectations and objectives. While anyone can use AAT to improve or enhance their quality of life, it is important one realize that not all animals are appropriate for “pet therapy.” 


As pets are often introduced into anxiety-filled or stressful situations, it is important animals are carefully screened to ensure they are not overly stressed or worse, react negatively when placed in a high-stress or demanding environment. The good news is therapists and pet owners in general have a wide selection of animals readily available to them they can use to enhance the quality of their life, whether through formal AAT programs or informally, as in the case of a dog introduced into a family of children or into a home where a widow requires a loving companion. 


One of the more common uses of pet therapy are in psychological or mental health settings, where patients may experience a vast array of symptoms ranging from fear, anxiety, loneliness, depression or even experience socialization and trust inabilities. 


When used in these environments, a therapist will often work with a patient to outline very specific, measurable and attainable objectives or goals for animal assisted therapy. It may take a bit of coaxing to encourage a patient to be open to the idea of using an animal as part of therapy. But as AAT becomes more commonplace, therapists are likely to experience less resistance at the idea of animal assisted therapy. 


Here are some examples of goals counselling professionals have when using AAT for psychological or mental health therapy:  


Ø  Can help patient develop better socialization skills so they can communicate well with others. 

Ø  May help reduce feelings of isolation and depression. 

Ø  Brightens many patients outlook or encourages feelings of optimism. 

Ø  Helps some patients improve memory. 

Ø  May help patients suffering from loss or grief. 

Ø  May help curb abusive behavior by teaching compassion and humane activity. 

Ø  Can help improve trust between therapist and client, and among client and others.  


Animals used in these settings may provoke greater trust, which in turn will improve patient outcomes and enable the therapist to do what he or she does best when it comes to counselling. 


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