Author: James Anderson

What is Animal Therapy? All You Need to Know

how does animal therapy work

Would-be volunteers who wish to share their animals for the benefit of their communities can get the requisite training to qualify for the program. Among its myriad reported benefits, AAT for people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may improve fine motor skills. It can also promote socialization skills by fostering behaviors such as sharing and cooperation. Adults may also benefit from animal-assisted therapy in various environments. For example, many therapists may bring their own pet to therapy for clients to hold or pet while they talk to their therapist. Some therapists may have a therapy cat or another animal for clients to play with or talk to.

  1. The practitioner creates a formal treatment plan complete with therapeutic animal activities, patient goals, and ways to track the progress and effectiveness of the treatment.
  2. Young children may learn social interactions after spending time with horses and other animals.
  3. They might benefit those who cannot care for or adopt another animal later in life but love animals and their company.
  4. Many studies suggest that animals can provide myriad psychological benefits to individuals.

While we all know that pets can trigger a smile or a sense of calmness within most people, it may surprise you that a pet can actually reduce pain. A study examined dog-assisted therapy in a public nursing home, where participants spent 50 minutes per week with a dog for a period of nine months. At the conclusion of the study, the researchers noted that AAT contributed to improving the participants’ quality of life. In another study, nursing home residents were also found to engage more with each other when a dog was present. Those who fear or are allergic to the different animals used in a particular course of treatment may choose to refrain from engaging in that treatment.

Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy.

There is extensive research on whether animal-assisted therapy works, and compelling data shows that pets have the ability to relieve stress, anxiety, and provide comfort to patients. However, it has been shown that the positive effects of playing and petting an animal are also measurable in people without underlying clinical conditions. In general, the interaction with a pet decreases distress and improves mood.

For example, Maggie O’Haire of Purdue University reviewed 14 clinical trials on the effects of AAT on children suffering from autism spectrum disorders (here). Indeed, children with autism who underwent AAT showed, in stat-speak, “statistically significant” improvements on 27 of the 30 outcomes measures. Eligibility for animal-assisted therapy depends on your condition, your insurance coverage or other support for therapy, and connecting with an available program. Requirements for animals depend on the facility or location, as therapy dogs do not have the same legal status as service dogs.

how does animal therapy work

However, due to their condition, they may not be able to care for one safely. An animal can visit the individual in these cases to provide support, play, and enjoyment. The individual may feel that they are caring for the pet and that it is their responsibility while it is still under its handler’s supervision. They can also be owner-trained, trained by a behaviorist, or purchased from a program. Service dogs do not require registration, identification, or specific unique licensing in the US.

The animals represent a distraction from other upsetting thoughts, whereas the plush toys don’t. Researchers showed with this experiment that the animal-human bond was important to get the positive effects, and not only the fact of petting something fluffy or soft, or animal-looking. I immediately felt jealous that such program was not implemented in my days as a grad student there. But I was happy to read that students’ mental health was being acknowledged and supported in this way. In other words, avoid kissing the pets and be diligent about washing your hands thoroughly after contact with an animal.

She found that participation in equine-assisted therapy had no impact on the children’s self-esteem or frustration tolerance. Indeed, children who were highly attached to the therapy horses had higher levels of depression and anxiety. There are many benefits of animal therapy that go well beyond feelings of comfort and emotional support. After all, we know that social interactions have great benefits on the overall mental health. In a 2018 study, a group of 24 children diagnosed with leukemia and solid tumors participated in animal-assisted therapy sessions with a Labrador retriever and a golden retriever.

This feeling could lead to possessiveness or actually decrease a person’s satisfaction with therapy. The handler must generally pass an instructional course on how to interact with people and perform the types of therapies that they may provide. Although it’s still being studied, there are already reports of the amazing benefits of puppy dog love – and all animal love, for that matter. There is also research suggesting that animals may be able to predict migraines, seizures, low glucose levels, and even cancer, possibly through their keen sense of smell.

Animal-Assisted Therapy Research Deficiencies

During three 30-minute sessions, the children did activities with the dogs, such as brushing their fur, playing fetch, feeding them, and walking with them. Some adults with ADHD have trained service dogs to help offset the effects of their symptoms. Service dogs for ADHD can help their owners stay on track with important tasks, take medications on time, and do other tasks to help improve the quality of life for their owners. A review in Current Pain and Headache Reports indicates the pain-relief benefits of AAT, including pain relief and an increase in endorphins following a visit from service dogs. Therapists may also use small therapy animals like rodents to support their clients.

Dr. Elizabeth Ruegg is a licensed clinical social worker and a certified animal-assisted psychotherapist in Port Richey, Florida. She is also a full-time faculty member in the MSW department at Saint Leo University. In therapy, he practiced social skills with Lucy, working cooperatively to teach her new tricks and skills.

Service animals may enter any public space with their owner under the ADA, are safe under housing laws through the FHA, and can enter aircraft. Service dogs must undergo strict obedience training and health screening to ensure that they can safely assist the needs of their owner. Animal-assisted therapy may be utilized for any individual of any age, gender, or background. Animal therapies can be beneficial therapeutic activities for children and the elderly in particular. Young children may learn social interactions after spending time with horses and other animals. Some children may have difficulty expressing themselves or forming a close bond with another person, so an animal can allow them to express themselves freely.

Physical health

Therapy sessions with horses may last an hour or more, as saddling and gearing up a horse may take a while. The most common type of animal used for animal therapy is a dog but other animals can be a therapy animal, too. Some types of animals are used more often because they’re compatibile with services provided.

Service dogs may come from animal shelters or be raised in selective breeding programs, but they must undergo formal training to be certified. You can find information and groups that provide trained service dogs in your area through Assistance Dogs International. A professional mental health care provider who is familiar with animal-assisted therapies can help you get certification for your own pet or locate a program or animal that is right for you.

Keep reading to learn more, including how it works, who it may benefit, and more. Animals can divert a patient’s attention to something ‘feel good’ to take the edge off of therapy. His psychiatrist finally settled on major depressive disorder and PTSD due to his history of abuse and neglect.