What is Animal Assisted Therapy?
Animal assisted therapy (AAT) uses trained animals to enhance an individual’s physical, emotional and social well-being, thus improving self-esteem, reducing anxiety and facilitating healing. By harnessing the power of the human-animal bond, therapy dogs are playing an increasingly larger part in the treatment of both physical and emotional difficulties. Many people suffering from a range of concerns like daily stressors to severe trauma find comfort and reduction in their symptoms by spending time with therapy dogs and other pets.
What are the Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy?
There is a strong bond between animals and people. Animals are accepting, non-threatening and non-judgmental, making it easier for people to open up. Some of the benefits of animal-assisted therapy include:
- Increased self-reliance, sociability, and sharing of experiences and emotions
- Increased coping skills and daily living
- Prevention and reduction in symptoms of depression
- Reduced anxiety, grief and isolation
- Aiding in the treatment of trauma
- Reduced blood pressure, depression and risk of heart attack or stroke
- Increased relaxation aided by petting
- Decreased heart rate and blood pressure from calming effect
- Increased focus and attention
- Reduced need for medication
- Enhanced problem-solving skills
- Increased hopefulness
- Greater self-control
- Building healthy boundaries
- Comforting, appropriate physical contact and touch
- Increased feelings of acceptance
- Growth in trust, empathy and teamwork
- Increased self-esteem and ability to care for oneself
- Improved willingness to be involved in a therapeutic program or group activity
Cori utilizes her dog, Bauer, as co-therapist for those who are comfortable allowing him to participate in sessions. Many of her clients have shown improvements in mood and affect regulation and have been able to practice having appropriate boundaries and authority with him that they have adopted in their daily life. Clients often report feeling more comfortable, safe, and secure throughout their appointment with Bauer present, as he is able to provide touch, affection, and reassurance in a way that a therapist cannot. He is extremely effective in promoting mindfulness and relaxation to clients who experience anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder, sadness, and depression. He is a living, breathing example of the benefits of mindfulness. Though Bauer is a happy muppet, he is also sensitive and intuitive; he will gently join you at your request, allow you to pet him when you are upset or anxious, and he will give you space when you’d like it. Bauer is a Bernese Mountain Dog mixed with a Poodle, making him hypo-allergenic so he can provide support even to people with allergies.