“HOP ON THE COUCH & LET ME TAKE SOME NOTES!”
Animal-Assisted Activities/Therapy visits have many proven benefits. In fact, petting a animal has been known to lower blood pressure and calm that heart rate right down. Ever have a bad day, felt angry, afraid or depressed? All you have to do is pet an animal, for those feelings will slowly begin to dissipate and you will no longer be focusing on the problems of the day.
Many people recovering in hospitals want a chance to socialize and be out of that sterile environment. Having a therapy visit gives people an opportunity to become interest in something, fulfill that need to have a positive, reassuring touch, and better yet, incorporate some fun physical therapy, such as grooming, playing fetch or walking the animal. With this interaction, people tend to focus on the animal and not the pain their mind or body is feeling that day.
Also, Animals have that amazing ability to open up a channel of communication that might not be forth coming between parents and children or patient and doctors, etc. It is an emotionally safe, non-threatening communication that is filled with mutual trust. It is almost an instant bonding. Plus, animals have a way of accepting people without prejudice. They don’t care what you look like or what you say.
What is Animal-Assisted Activities/Therapy?
“Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) provides opportunities for motivation, educational, recreational and/or therapeutic benefits to enhance quality of life. AAA are delivered in a variety of environments by specially trained professionals, paraprofessionals, and/or volunteers, in association with animals that meet specific criteria.” (from Standards of Practice for Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy) Basically, Animal-Assisted Activities are the casual “meet and greet” activities that involve pets visiting people. They don’t require any set treatment goals and the visit is usually spontaneous one.
“Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a goal directed intervention in which an animal that meets specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is directed and/or delivered by a health/human service professional with specialized expertise, and within the scope of practice of his/her profession. AAT is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive function [cognitive functioning refers to thinking and intellectual skills]. AAT is provided in a variety of settings and may be group or individual in nature. This process is documented and evaluated.” (from Standards of Practice for Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy) This visit is a scheduled and directed by health/human service professionals that have specific goals, such as improving fine motor skills (get the brush out of the bag), increase verbal interactions (telling a dog to “stay”), and improving the willingness to be involved in an activity along with increasing self-esteem.
If you have a friend, a hospital or group that you feel would benefit from a visit, please email email@example.com.