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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My training is in Human-Animal-Environment Interaction in Social Work. This includes training on how the human-animal bond can assist in healing, learning life skills, and developing secure attachments.

— Esha Mehta, Social Worker in Greenwood Village, CO

In 2017 I completed a post-graduate training program in Animals and Human Health through the University of Denver School of Social Work. I incorporate Animal Assisted Interventions into my clinical work whenever it is indicated for best treatment. Most recently I have been including my Canine Animal Partner, Eben in sessions focused on anxiety, mindfulness, or PTSD. Both feline partners are now retired. Animals only join clients who are interested.

— Jennifer Wolfe-Hagstrom, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Nashua, NH
 

I have completed levels 1 and 2 training from the International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy and received supervision in AAPT. My therapy dog, Rogue, is registered with Pet Partners and she is an eager and active co-facilitator of therapy sessions.

— Rachel Narrow, Clinical Social Worker in Chevy Chase, MD

For the past 9 years I have incorporated pet therapy in my practice with the help of my yellow lab, Jolie. Pet therapy has been shown to reduce stress, increase rapport and help clients become more cognizant of emotional reactions and support resiliency in individual and group sessions. Jolie is certified as a Canine Good Citizen. She is calm, kind and very loving but if you are allergic or prefer for her to not be part of your session we can discuss those options.

— Gloria Hatfield, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Austin, TX
 

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

For the past 9 years I have incorporated pet therapy in my practice with the help of my yellow lab, Jolie. Pet therapy has been shown to reduce stress, increase rapport and help clients become more cognizant of emotional reactions and support resiliency in individual and group sessions. Jolie is certified as a Canine Good Citizen. She is calm, kind and very loving but if you are allergic or prefer for her to not be part of your session we can discuss those options.

— Gloria Hatfield, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Austin, TX
 

We may talk about ways people can use relationships with the animals they have at home as a healing resource.

— Jo Bauer, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner in Tacoma, WA

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 am currently getting certified in Veterinary Social Work and use my dog, Oliver, in therapy.

— Jamie King, Clinical Social Worker in Andover, MA

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) plays a significant role in aiding individuals to cope with anxiety and depression. By offering unconditional love and support, animals — often dogs, — help decrease levels of stress and anxiety in patients. The presence of an animal can increase the levels of oxytocin in the brain, which is a hormone associated with happiness and relaxation, thereby promoting a sense of calm.

— janet Yager, Mental Health Practitioner in Troy, NY