Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is an experiential treatment method that involves clients interacting with animals, which could include dogs, horses, cats, or birds, among others. AAT has been used to treat issues including ADD, abuse, depression, anxiety, drug abuse, eating disorders, and more. AAT can take different forms. Depending on the animal, in animal assisted therapy, a client might keep a dog, cat, or other pet at home for emotional support. If you are staying in a residential treatment facility, such as a hospital or a rehab center, a trained therapy animal might visit you. Or, during a session, a client may groom, feed or walk the horse while the therapist observes the clients' reactions to the horse's behavior (known as equine assisted therapy). Therapists that utilize AAT often believe that animals provide comfort and calm as well as instant and accurate feedback of a client's thoughts and feelings, which can help both the therapist and client become more aware of these emotions. Animals are nonjudgmental, which can help clients connect with another living being that accepts them – making it easier to learn to trust, and easing the path into having trusting relationships with other people. Think this approach might be right for you? Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s AAT specialists today.

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I often bring my two parrots into the office when doing in person therapy. I've been bring them in for years. I originally brought them in for a young boy on the spectrum and my other clients met them. Other's began demanding I bring them in and it grew from there. They connect in a way that humans do not and often help people get over their anxiety. Plus, they are just fun!

— Jeffrey LiCalzi, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate in Wake Forest, NC

I am trained in animal assisted therapy. Our office does have a feline co-therapist, who is available upon request.

— Amanda Trost, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in Houston, TX

Krista is currently pursuing her Postgraduate Veterinary Social Work Certificate from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Eliot is our therapy dog in training. Born on May 6, 2022 at Carolina Goldens, Eliot is an English Cream Golden Retriever who comes from a long line of therapy dogs.

— Krista Martin, Clinical Social Worker in Greenville, SC

When doing therapy, I often relate back to animals and how they function in their own world. Do animals have anxiety and to what extent do they have anxiety? Why is anxiety chronic in humans but not in wild animals? When it comes down to it, humans are animals and if we look at animals behavior, we can often help explain our own behavior and get back to our natural instincts.

— Chase Tucker, Licensed Professional Counselor in Lakewood, CO

My therapy dog, Lilly, LOVES her job. A sweet and gentle Cavanese, Lilly greets patients with great enthusiasm, enjoys giving kisses, and knows when it's time to offer comfort or lay quietly in her bed. She is hypoallergenic and weighs about 18 pounds. She sometimes snores loudly during sessions, but more often wants to sit next to patients as a warm and comforting presence during therapy.

— Lauren Bartholomew, Psychologist in King of Prussia, PA

I offer Animal Assisted Play Therapy to children to help with a variety of issues, including low self esteem, depression, anxiety, attention and learning difficulties, and poor social skills, to name a few. It primarily focuses on the child's strengths while also addressing his or her life challenges. While all of my therapy during the Covid-19 crisis is provided online, this particular form of therapy needs to be done in the office. I will resume offering it once it is safe to do so.

— Lisabeth Wotherspoon, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Rochester, NH

I utilize Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Interventions. During COVID-19, since I am seeing clients entirely through telehealth, I welcome your pets into session to help you cope. I also use many metaphors involving the animal world to help you see different perspectives. When it is again safe to return to in-person sessions, my animals (golden retriever and kenyan sandboas) look forward to greeting you.

— BRIANA MESSERSCHMIDT, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Alamitos, CA

My certified therapy dog, Cascade, and I partner for many sessions. Studies have shown that interacting with a familiar animal can lower stress levels, decrease heart rate and blood pressure, and increase oxytocin. I harness this power by including Cascade in sessions to help clients regulate, practice mindfulness and frustration tolerance, and build family skills.

— Mandy Dorsett, Therapist in Denver, CO

Got Your Six Counseling Services, PLLC welcomes Cammi, our therapy dog, to the team! Cammi is a Boxer who loves to help clients work through difficult situations with love and snuggles.

— Christina Rock, Counselor in Dumfries, VA

Everyone needs a safe space, somewhere they don’t have to armor themselves against the world. And sometimes, it can be difficult to create that space on your own. Benji and Annalisa can help you create that space, to give you room to work on yourself. Research has demonstrated that Animal-assisted therapy is an effective treatment for easing depression, soothing anxiety, and improving emotional well-being. It is especially good for people struggling with major stressors in their lives.

— Annalisa Smithson, Licensed Professional Counselor in Pottstown, PA

I received a certificate in Animal Assisted Therapy from University fo Denver in 2018. When clinically indicated and mutually agreed upon, we may incorporate Jaya, my canine co-therapist, in our work together.

— Naomi Krajewski, Clinical Social Worker in Denver, CO

I have completed Animal Assisted Therapy training, and am in process of finding the right rescue dog to train as a therapy dog to bring to my practice!

— Stephanie Carlin, Licensed Professional Counselor in Fort Collins, CO

I utilize animal assisted therapy for clients who want to experience another level of connection and comfort during their sessions. It’s a powerful addition to the therapy process to have the love and support of a therapy dog. Animal Assisted Therapy is only offered to those who feel comfortable with dogs and wish to have this type of treatment.

— Catherine Boyce, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Evanston, IL

Currently I practice equine facilitated therapy with individuals, groups and families. I have trained extensively over the past two years completing both a year long master class in equine learning and a 6 month facilitation skills class. I currently teach others how to do this work offering an introductory level class in equine counseling, facilitation skills class and trauma focused class.

— Amy Andra, Licensed Professional Counselor in Midlothian, TX

Animal Assisted Therapy is when animals are used in goal directed treatment sessions. These goals can be physical, mental, emotional and/or social. A visitation program is when animals accompany their owners to a facility and visit with the patients or residents. Regardless of the type of program, all animals should be temperament tested, given a complete veterinary screening, and receive obedience training before beginning to work with patients.

— Allyson (Ally) Ridling, Social Worker in Beaverton, OR