Therapy in practice
There is much we can learn from the pets, as clearly
demonstrated by the quotes of many pet owners who interact with their animals daily.
Now that you know how beneficial it is to own a pet, it’s
time to take a closer look at animal assisted therapy in practice. Remember, you don’t have to actually “own” a
pet to benefit from pet therapy. Many pet therapists volunteer or use their pets as a formal or informal part of
their traditional therapy sessions with patients.
AAT is an “untraditional” approach to therapy that stimulates
rehabilitation in ailing patients and can provide physical support to patients with physical disabilities. It
involves the use of animals to facilitate hearing in some patients, to facilitate greater mobility, to establish
greater socialization and interaction, and to enable faster recovery and less pain in some instances for
patients with chronic diseases. These are just a few of the benefits associated with animal assisted
Animal Assisted Activities
AAT and AAA are two separate but related concepts. AAA stands
for “animal assisted activities” and involves any activities delivered to individuals through trained
professionals or centres that encourage education, recreation and work to enhance the quality of life for
patients working with animals as part of their therapy goals. AAA is worthy of mention because some
practitioners use the two words interchangeably to describe the process of “pet therapy.”
Most people want proof something works before they try it.
The good news is there is plenty of evidence supporting the use of animals in therapy. The use of animals as
part of our lives is not anything new. For centuries people have used pets as companions, as aids in labour and
as instruments that often contribute to a person’s perception of the quality of their life.
Psychologists realized early on that introducing dogs into
therapy sessions often resulted in a friendlier, more relaxed and trusting environment.
Obviously, this environment is much more conducive to
psychological counselling than an aggressive or tension filled session. Researchers now define “pet therapy” as
an official tool therapists and other healthcare providers can use in the “human services” field. This field
includes any type of therapeutic environment that addresses physical or psychological symptoms in
Pet therapy did not start out as a formal form of therapy.
Typically, pet owners or other volunteers would visit healthcare facilities, like long-term health care centres
routinely to meet with patients or residents. The purpose of informal therapeutic sessions like this is merely
to improve a patient or resident’s outlook on life or feelings for the day.
Anyone can acknowledge the benefits a scruffy, friendly and
loving dog can introduce into an otherwise bleak setting.
With time, researchers began realizing that pet visits could
assist patients, young and old alike, in various ways, whether they suffered from emotional problems, physical
disabilities, chronic health problems or whether they lived in an isolated environment or assisted living
facility. Because of this, they gradually began to formalize the method of delivery used when introducing pets
into therapy sessions.
Much of early pet therapy also focused on improving the
quality of life for elderly patients that felt lonely. A visit by a child might prove just as endearing and
life-promoting as a visit by an unconditionally loving dog or other pet.