What is animal assisted therapy?
Animal assisted therapy is not a standalone therapy although animal contact alone can enhance wellbeing. The animal assists an individual to engage in therapeutic activities that have specific goals in mind; it could be physiotherapy or psychotherapy. The presence of the animal acts as a bridge or motivator for the individual to participate in therapy.
What are the benefits of animal assisted therapy?
Animals engage and relax people
– stroking an animal can reduce blood
pressure in both human and animal!
Dogs may be seen as empathic listener (Bardhill and Hutchinson).
Animals bring spontaneity, energy and humour to therapy – laughter is the best medicine.
Touch from an animal can be therapeutic and appropriate especially for abused clients.
Animals act as a social lubricant and reduce isolation.
Enhancing and caring for an animal can boost self-esteem and self-worth.
Behavioural and Social
Animals enhance communication and social skills. Conversations about animals and time at Noah's A.R.T. can be stimulated by client work books and pictures to take home.
Shared interest in animals may lead to a sense of belonging within a group and a common area of interest within which friendships can flourish.
Training by positive reinforcement is a powerful message for human interactions
Pride in caring for a rescue animal can motivate a client to take responsibility for tasks. It may even lead to a client talking to others, and helping new clients to understand the tasks involved in their animals care.
Promotes self-expression using creativity. .
Behavioural and social
Memory and concentration can be enhanced by providing care and support for the animals.
Animals will provide immediate feedback if they dislike a behaviour providing opportunity to discuss problem behaviours.
Animals can enhance therapy and provide a bridge to trusting the therapist.
Developing stimulating environments for the rabbits and guinea pigs encourages creativity and innovation as well as empathy for others.
Animals live in the moment and can be role models for mindfulness and relaxation.
New ways of thinking about problems can be facilitated by observing the animals.
Animals may improve attendance and increase motivation for exercising e.g walking, running, playing football with dogs.
Feeding an animal in sessions can stimulate discussions about healthy eating.
Personal hygiene discussions can be based around grooming the animals.
Supporting animals with health problems can support clients to understand the important role of medication in supporting health.