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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Meet the specialists

 

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

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
 

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

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
 

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

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
 

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

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) incorporates the presence of animals into therapy as an added source of connection and healing. The non-judging acceptance and affection of a therapy animal offers a profoundly restorative experience of love and understanding that can deepen and at times transcend the cerebral process of talk therapy.

— Natasha Laumei, Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR
 

I have been doing therapy for 2 years with my therapy dog, a 50lb nonshedding goldendoodle named Hannah. She can help demonstrate relaxation techniques, learning new strategies, and provide a calming presence in the office when needed.

— Kimberly Trainor, Educational Psychologist in West Boylston, MA

I have a 5 year old Weimarainer that has been trained as a Therapy Dog by Pets for Life. He has also been trained as a Certified Therapy Dog by Canine Speciality Training, LLC. He has worked with me of over 3 years. He spent over a year at CAPA (Child Abuse Prevention Agency) in Independence, MO, and loved working with the children and families there before following me into private practice. Feel free to stop by and say "hi" to Fynn and he will give you lots of kisses!

— Kay Hamilton, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Overland Park, KS
 

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

I have experience using client's pets (primarily dogs) to help client's facilitate change in their lives by learning about themselves, better understanding principles/application of behavior change and modification, increasing emotional awareness, improving communication skills, etc. I have attended several clinics with animal behaviorists and am a volunteer with the Penn Working Dog Center. Additionally, I learned a lot about myself through my own four-legged family members.

— Doven Brezner, Clinical Social Worker
 

Sailor is a lab rescue that is certified and works with Melissa in the office.

— Melissa Engle, Counselor in ROYAL OAK, MI

The human-animal bond is a powerful therapeutic relationship! At Animal Talk, you will meet equines (horses, mules, and donkeys), goats, sheep, and my therapy dog: Saint!

— Macie Dominique, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in Brighton, CO