What is Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)
and Animal-assisted activities (aaa)*?
AAT is a goal-directed intervention, in which an animal that meets specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is documented and evaluated. According to Delta Society, “AAT is designed to promote improvements in human physical, social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive functioning.
AAA provides opportunities for motivational, educational, recreational, and therapeutic benefits to enhance quality of life. They are delivered in a variety of environments in association with animals that meet specific criteria.
What are the benefits of AAT/AAA*?
AAT can be effective in counseling with clients of all ages, either as a primary approach or to enhance other approaches. Although every individual is different, some people who have participated in AAT/AAA have experienced the following benefits:
Animals help improve motivation and engagement in therapy.
Animals help build trust and provide a sense of security.
Animals offer unconditional acceptance.
Animals can act as symbols and metaphors in the client’s life.
Animals help in the areas of focus, attention, and self-control.
Animals can be a source of social and emotional support.
Animals can act as objects of attachment (connection to other beings).
Animals act as agents of de-arousal and emotion regulation as they help clients learn soothing and calming skills
Animals can be instruments of learning.
Animals can help clients develop increased understanding of nonverbal communication.
Animals can assist clients in increasing insight into how their behaviors and emotions impact others.
Animals can help facilitate increased compassion, nurturing/caretaking skills, and self-esteem.
Clients may project their own problems onto the animal.
Animals offer humor and fun in session as they help facilitate play and finding levity despite life’s challenges.
*Definitions and benefits adapted from the Professional Therapy Dogs of Colorado training manual.