Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal Assisted Therapy

  •          What is Animal Assisted Therapy?

AAT is considered as an adjunct to the therapeutic process where a credentialed therapist, working within the scope of a professional practice, sets therapeutic goals, guides the interaction between clients and animals, measures progress towards therapeutic goals, and documents these tasks. AAT has been shown to increase verbal interactions among group members, increase attention skills (i.e. paying attention, staying on task), develop leisure/recreation skills, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety, reduce loneliness, improve willingness to be involved in a group activity, improve interactions with others, increase vocabulary, aid in long- or short-term memory, and improve knowledge of concepts such as size, color, etc.

 Chloe is a canine pug whom has been an integral part of my mental health practice as a therapy dog now for over 5 years.  Chloe has had extensive training in obedience. She has had to sit for several examinations and has successfully passed both the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program and The Therapy Dog International Evaluation.  The Canine Good Citizen Program is a two-part program that stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs. Chloe passed the 10-step CGC test in October of 2008 and received a certificate from the American Kennel Club.  In April 2010, Chloe passed The Therapy Dog International Evaluation for Suitability to Become a Therapy dog.  Membership with Therapy Dog International now allows Chloe to volunteer her time in the community.

I firmly believe that incorporating AAT into my practice has been the best decision I have made in my career thus far. Having Chloe as part of my professional life has enhanced my work with clients to a level I never could have anticipated. It has been incredibly rewarding — in my mind, to both of us. I truly believe Chloe looks forward to her role as a therapy dog, and many of my clients are amazed when they see how seriously she takes her job. She is very much attuned to people’s emotional needs and instinctively acclimates to them. It’s almost as if she has a sixth sense because there is no training I have encountered that could teach a canine the empathetic behavior that I have observed in her. It is an honor to have her as my pet and as my colleague.

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