Everything You Need to Know About Animal-Assisted Therapy
7 min read
Did you know animals can play a life-changing role for anyone who suffers from some kind of disability? It’s true. Deep down we all understand that sometimes we simply can’t handle difficult life situations alone. And this is where animal-assistance therapy (AAT) comes into play. Simply put, it’s a special intervention that uses cats, dogs, birds, horses or other animals as companion pets to add up to the effects of the standard ways of treatment. This is especially useful when traditional therapy seems not effective enough or brings no particular benefit to a disabled person.
No doubts, we all feel compassion to the injured or abandoned animals but sometimes animals themselves can show the much-needed compassion to those who seek emotional help. As a result, having a companion animal nearby can help us regain the taste of life and feel happy and joyful once again. And the healing effects of such way of treatment are often simply amazing!
Want to learn more about how the AAT helps patients with serious or chronic conditions? Just keep reading and you’ll find out all you should know about it.
What is AAT and when is it used?
Have you ever heard of a companion dog, cat or maybe dolphin? All these options are possible and even much more than that! Animal-assisted therapy is an effective way of treatment that has long become a common practice.
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What is it exactly? This type of therapy uses different kinds of animals as therapeutic tools and the major purpose of doing it is to improve one’s social, learning, cognitive, physical or emotional wellbeing. And even though it’s true that animals don’t speak human language and cannot say a word of comfort to anyone who needs it, what is also true is that they can help us feel better emotionally. In fact, the AAT is much more than simply spending a good time with your pet – it involves achieving goals and completing certain therapeutic tasks. The therapy itself can take place in all kinds of settings like jails, hospitals, mental health institutions or the patient’s home.
The results of this program prove that even serious medical conditions can be managed and it’s possible to find a way out even in the darkest times of your life. As long as you love animals and have no allergy to them, you are the right candidate for this innovative form of treatment. And who knows, maybe that’s what will really help you fight depression or overcome stress in your life.
How does it work?
Everything is simple – when you get enrolled in the animal-assistance therapy and take a companion animal, the task of this animal would be to give you a feeling of comfort, safety, and emotional stability. Your pet, in this case, will divert your attention from unpleasant thoughts about anything that causes your emotional distress. And this is the very purpose of treatment you want to achieve.
However, although it’s your support animal that is supposed to give you comfort and relief from health problems, you too will have a few duties and responsibilities throughout this program. Taking care of a pet, spending time with your little friend, sharing love and affection with it in return for its loyalty – these are only a few things you should do as part of your therapy. But you’ll most probably find it easy and pleasant to take care of your furry friend simply because you will get a truly amazing reward for your effort – relief from health problems.
How animals can help you?
AAT can help you treat emotional and physical disorders and get more communicative
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The treatment itself will bring many incredible transformations into your life. Let`s count the major benefits you are going to receive:
- Your mood will improve and all the negative feelings will vanish.
- Your therapy animal will probably become your most faithful friend with whom you’ll have a very strong emotional bond and the benefits of such relationships are countless. Some supporters of AAT even claim that an emotional connection with an assistance animal can help you develop a feeling of dignity and self-respect. And this is exactly what will bring your psychological state back to normal.
- You improve communicative skills. Being obliged to communicate with your animal on a daily basis, you become less tense in communication with people.
- Even more than that – those who feel hostile towards other people might also find this therapy beneficial. That’s because, in the process, they will learn how to be attentive to others and how to care for those in need.
- On the other hand, animals can also benefit from AAT. How? Just imagine – they’ll get a caring and loving owner who will be attentive to their needs and won’t ask much in return – only a bit of support. Isn’t that a win-win deal for both of you? No doubts, it is!
What disorders can AAT treat?
The positive results of animal-assisted therapy are almost endless and the same refers to the number of conditions that can be successfully treated during this form of treatment. What are they? Here are only a few health problems you can manage with the help of it:
- Autism and various behavioral disorders;
- Cardio-vascular diseases;
- Mental disorders like schizophrenia and dementia;
- Developmental problems;
- Emotional disorders;
- Chronic pain;
And this list can be continued. But what you need to understand is that the keyword, in this case, is “manage” but not “completely cure”. Surely, your pet is likely to become your most effective distraction from unhappy thoughts. But you shouldn’t perceive this as a replacement for traditional treatment. Suffice it to say that it’s something that can greatly speed up the recovery time and help you feel much better in the process.
But even though it’s not as simple as it sounds, what no one can deny is that having a companion animal by your side is definitely good for your psychological state. And it will most probably help you live a much happier life despite any health problems or other difficulties in your life.
What types of animals are involved in the program?
AAT therapist will offer you a list of animals that participate in the program
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Depending on your needs, preferences and other factors, various kinds of animals can be involved in the program. Which ones exactly? The whole animal world! And even though there are still some restrictions, we have grounds to admit that you can use almost all sorts of animals for healing purposes.
In fact, you might be really amazed by how wide your choices are. Thus, the role of a therapy pet can be fulfilled by marine species like dolphins, domesticated animals like rabbits, hamsters, and horses, exotic ones like llamas as well as different kinds of birds and, of course, the all-favorites – cats and dogs. And we are not even talking about some truly unusual options such as peacocks and even reptiles just to mention a few. There are even special titles for each type of therapy like canine-assisted therapy, dolphin-assisted therapy, cat-assisted program and others. Each of them may produce a slightly different effect so it’s best to choose the one that suits your needs more than others.
Basically, you are free to choose whatever animal you like most as long as this very type of animal can help you get rid of stress, alleviate anxiety or fight other symptoms of your health disorder. The most important thing here is to achieve the right health effects. And that’s what all companion animals are intended for, right?
What will be the effects of treatment?
Getting a therapy animal can bring you both mental and physical benefits
No one would argue that animals can become our very loyal companions especially because they never accuse us of anything or judge us for our misdeeds. Instead, they are always ready to help us open up and break free from negative thoughts. And that’s the key reason why animal-assisted therapy brings so many psychological and physical health benefits. Let’s dig into details and see in what ways this therapy can improve our health.
Benefits for mental health:
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- Lowering stress levels
- Mitigating hostility, aggression, and anger
- Improving communicative skills and social interaction
- Improving attention and ability to focus in adults and kids
- Increasing self-respect and willingness to care for yourself
- Reducing loneliness and isolation
- Improving problem-solving abilities
- Helping to fight depression.
Benefits for physical health:
- Decreasing blood pressure
- Minimizing the risk of heart attack or cardiovascular disorders
- Decreasing any chronic physical pain
- Enhancing cardiovascular health
- Reducing the time of recovery
- Increasing motivation to stay physically active and move a lot.
No doubt, all these positive changes are a worthy reason to give it a try and get a therapy animal. But perhaps the greatest benefit of animal-assisted therapy for one’s physical and mental state is that it reduces the need for pills and medicines. That’s why this way of treatment is often prescribed to those who are resistant to standard therapeutic measures. And in many cases, this therapy brings much better results than any tablets or other medications.
Now you can see that the unspoken bond between humans and animals can produce miraculous healing effects even if you suffer from serious health disorders. That’s exactly why the use of animals during treatment can decrease the time of recovery and bring loads of fascinating transformations into your life.
Have you ever wondered why animal-assisted therapy keeps getting even more popular all over the country? No doubts, this is happening not without a sound reason. That’s just because animal-assisted therapy allows us to see human-animal relationships from a different angle. And it becomes more and more obvious that the unconditional love and companionship provided by animals can bring our health back to normal and restore our emotional stability. That’s not to mention that having a furry friend close by can help us live a happier and more enjoyable life.
Ready to check if it’s true? Just reach out to a licensed therapist and see how animal-assisted therapy works for you!
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