Animal Assisted Therapy

Therapy Dogs and Animal Assisted Therapy

The usefulness of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) has been illustrated in numerous case studies, research studies and peer-reviewed publications (McCardle, McCune, Griffin, Esposito & Freund, 2010). The research has indicated that our connection with animals, particularly dogs, is historical, neurobiological, social and emotional. The research on AAT has shown strong evidence that therapy dogs are helpful for multiple populations in a variety of contexts.

Counselors in an agency setting can utilize trained, insured and registered therapy dogs in individual and group mental health settings. Using these pets in these settings has been shown to reduce stress, increase rapport, help clients to become more cognizant of emotional reactions and support resiliency in individual and group sessions (Perry, Rubinstein & Austin, 2012).

“Animal Assisted Therapy” is NOT a billable service and no additional cost associated with having the therapy dog present will ever be charged.

Meet Brian, our Chief Canine Officer

Unvaled Psychological uses “Brian,” an AKC registered English Black Lab who has already served over 1000 client hours. Brian comes to work every day at Unvaled Psychological and has made an incredible difference in the lives of so many of our clients. Brian’s official title is Chief Canine Officer. He serves at the pleasure of every person he meets.

How We Integrate Animals Into Our Practice

Essentially, dogs can be utilized in counseling in two main ways. First, there can be non-directive approaches where a dog is present within the therapy room, but not the main focus (Perry et al., 2012). In this method, the dog helps to build rapport with the counselor, connects emotionally to the client(s) and impacts the client or group by their presence in the environment. The second way that dogs can be utilized in the counseling environment is to have specifically directed interactions with the dog such as brushing, making to dog do a trick petting the dog while talking about highly emotional issues.

Animal Assisted Therapy dogs (and their owners) go through very specific training before seeing clients. Therapy dogs must have an appropriate demeanor and easy temperament, and they must be trained and tested before achieving therapy dog status. A veterinarian screens the dog and both the owner, and the dog must pass an exam that tests the dog’s skills and aptitude as well as the handler’s ability to control the behaviors of the animal.

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